Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Four
A week on, Shelby was back in California at Cotati’s flat farmland airport course near Santa Rosa, re-united with the Edgar 300S. When the car’s clutch broke at the standing start, he had to drive the 30-lap race crash shifting gears—and won! A week later he was in Eagle Mountain, Texas, again with the 300S, where he DNF’d. At Lime Rock, Connecticut, another week into June, he won in the rental 300S once more, then two weeks later was at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin with a DNS for the Maser that was followed by a DNF at Maryland’s Marlboro Motor Raceway in mid-July. Then came Lime Rock, again, this time a non-National regional race. The date was July 28, 1957, an exasperating delay of 127 days after Fangio and Behra won the 12 Hours of Sebring in a 450S that we thought would then be our car.
The July 28th Lime Rock date was significant because it was also the first time Shelby raced the long-awaited Edgar 450S Maserati—not the Sebring winning 450S, but a newer one that had been driven by Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson in that year’s Mille Miglia and again my Moss and Fangio at the ’57 Nürburgring 1000-km, resulting in DNF on both outings. That 450S was then repaired and re-numbered at the factory, and shipped to the States.
Shelby recalled how it all came about. “Maserati screwed us around,” he told me a year or so ago, repeating the story, “and said we were going to get one, and then we didn’t.” Finally, as the summer of ’57 wore on, he told my father, “Let’s just buy it!” Amazing how fast hard cash turns delayed promise into quick delivery. Twenty grand did just that. Shelby’s first drive in the new Edgar-owned 450S Maser at Lime Rock Park was a resounding physical and psychological victory and virtual warm-up for Virginia International Raceway’s inaugural a week later in Danville. By far the fastest car at VIR, Shelby in our 4.5 Maserati shut out Briggs Cunningham’s D-Type Jaguars and the rest of a Ferrari-dotted field in both VIR’s 23-mile Preliminary and 65-mile Main.
Virginia Raceway double-done and won, Joe Landaker was ready to haul the 450S back to Los Angeles as fast as the transporter would go in order to prepare the car for the up-coming Road America “500” at Elkhart Lake on September 8th, and then back to California’s new Riverside International Raceway opening two weeks after the Wisconsin 500-miler. But wait! First there was another race in the east, at Montgomery, New York, where Shelby and the 450S could squeeze in an important showing for car and driver points on August 18th. He grabbed pole there in timed practice, but the main event’s standing start trashed the big Maser’s gearbox and it went nowhere. Landaker suddenly had even more to do to put the 450S in shape for Elkhart and Riverside.
“He lived for horsepower and the road,” Shelby has told me of Landaker, “and he was my best sports car mechanic in the 1950s. Joe could drive that transporter coast-to-coast in two days, living on cheese snacks and soda pop, and never once stopping to sleep.” Landaker, too, had a special way with a race car’s body damage. Not how expensive coachwork on these same sports cars is refurbished today, Joe back then did the job right in the race paddock with mallet and tin snips. Plus he was a whiz with engine and drive train work and applied early-learned truck mechanics for making innovative fixes from scratch. “All-nighters with wrenches and hammers,” said Shelby, “were just regular hours for Joe.”
Repairs and prep done, and back on the road, the whole shebang was at Elkhart Lake and ready for the 500-mile race on September 8th. For the third time, the featured face-off was Shelby and Hill again. Hill arrived straight from Europe with runner-up factory Ferrari finishes at Reims and Kristianstad; his weapon at Elkhart being the ex-works 315S Ferrari in which Piero Taruffi won 1957’s Mille Miglia. Race strategy here caused Shelby some pause. Landaker could unload either the 450S or its back-up sibling 300S. Two Maseratis, which one to pick? Shelby had up-coming races planned for the 450S at Riverside, Palm Springs, Laguna Seca and again at Riverside, and he figured 500 miles on the 450S engine at Elkhart might put at risk the big Maser’s reliability for those close-succession contests yet on his dance card. So—he would do “The 500” in our 300S. Even though Shelby drove the distance with no driver change, Hill, also going solo, won the race in his Ferrari. Shelby’s only consolation was the 450S had remained fresh for Riverside’s inaugural.
Riverside International Motor Raceway, as it was first called, opened September 21, 1957, barely ready for action after my father paid dearly for its construction when initial funding dried up in the track build’s earliest stages. It was a blistering hot race weekend, and Shelby fired up the 450S for practice on the brand new 3.275-mile road circuit. Not through his first lap, he lost traction in a sandy corner and stuffed the big Maser front end first into an embankment. Shelby’s face required 70 stitches and the Maserati’s nose needed much more than Landaker’s mallet. The 450S and Shelby were categorically DNS for the race, but the kicker was Richie Ginther won the opener’s main in none other than the Edgar 410S Ferrari, and Bill Pollack took third in our 300S. If anyone wondered, my father by then was totally ignoring any indenture to Maserati, and freely ran his Ferraris seated with drivers of his choice. After all, the 450S was no contractual freebie as originally anticipated, but rather fully paid for and owned outright by John Edgar.
While the 450S underwent extensive repairs, Shelby healed. Car and driver were ready to race again for the Edgar team at Palm Springs the first weekend in November, with Shelby in the 450S winning both the prelim and main with little effort, while Ginther, again in our 410, finished sixth. From there it was on to Laguna Seca the following week where Shelby elected to drive the more nimble 300S on the twisty new road circuit that for the first time replaced Pebble Beach’s historic but deadly car chase through the Monterey Peninsula forest. Shelby put our little Maser on Laguna’s pole for the track’s initial main. Understeer and brushes with hay bales in the Corkscrew relegated him to only fourth at the finish. Our old 857S was there, too, by then sold to its next owner and driven to fifth place by Ginther. As for our “borrowed” 300S Maser, this Laguna Seca was its last appearance as an Edgar-entry, the car going back to Maserati as we headed south again for Riverside.
And so came our return to Riverside Raceway for November 17th’s SCCA National. Windy and bitterly cold, the 82-mile big-bore feature got underway with Shelby in the 450S taking the lead on Lap 4. On Lap 5 he spun the big Maser and a flock of front runners flew past before, furious at himself, he was back in the combat.
In the next hour of arguably his best driving ever, Shelby mowed down the leaders and won the race. Coming second in the ex-Parravano 375 Plus was a young local no-name known forever after as Dan Gurney. At that moment, though, Carroll Shelby was on top of the world. He’d won an important National in an Edgar car on John Edgar’s track. And, to add even more icing to the big-picture cake, behind Gurney then Gregory’s Maser and Walt Hansgen’s D-Type, Ginther brought my father’s 410 Sport home in fifth spot. That night, the Presidential Bar at Riverside’s Mission Inn was all about celebration.
“Riverside,” Shelby has said, “was a fine European-type circuit, and I think one of the best we had in America in those days.” Then, he told me, “It tickled your father for years that I’d won that race after getting ‘Texas Mad.’”