Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Five
It was back to Nassau in December ’57, where Shelby in our 450S was second in the 5-lap Sprint Race, third in the Governor’s Cup 15-lapper, and tailed the 50-lap Nassau Trophy race-winning Stirling Moss’ Ferrari 290MM to the flag as runner-up and only Maserati to survive the race’s 250 miles among a field of finishers that included a dozen Ferraris. Oh, and our 410 was at Nassau, too, under Ginther again, knocking off a pair of seconds and two fifths during that race-filled week in the Bahamas. Even now, over 54 years later, it’s exhausting to think about.
Into 1958, as Scott Fitzgerald, had he lived to see 62, might have written then and in fact did decades before … “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Truth was, our cars in the Edgar stable were showing their age against an analogous current of new stuff arriving on the sports car racing scene in North America.
The first big deal in ’58 was to go back to Cuba near the end of February. Edgar HQ was for a second time a suite at the Hotel National overlooking the Malecón and Caribbean that included a sighting of Ernest Hemingway with drink in hand on the balcony below. Red race cars were everywhere and forming the grid. It all appeared so festive and bright. Gregory was seated in our 410, and Shelby in the Edgar 450S. But in a bizarre incident to embarrass the Batista regime, Fangio was absent and would not start—he had been kidnapped from his hotel the night before by Fidel Castro-supporting rebels and was being held in a room somewhere. But the worst was yet to come. Five laps into the delayed race, Cuban driver Armando Garcia Cifuentes’ 2.0-liter Ferrari Testa Rossa skidded out of control and tore through spectators crowded at the edge of the race course, killing 7 and injuring more than 30.
The Cuban GP was stopped on Lap-6, only 12 minutes after it began. Even though the Edgar 410 with Gregory was leading when the race was called, he was accredited second—Moss in a 4.1-liter NART Ferrari 335S had passed him under the red flag and consequently was first to cross the Lap-5 finish line. 12 hours later race officials declared Moss the winner—because Gregory had slowed and Moss crossed the line first. Gentlemanly, Stirling and Masten decided among themselves to split their pooled prize money. Shelby in our yellow-nose 450S was third, leaving in his mirrors the illustrious likes of Wolfgang von Trips, Harry Schell, Jo Bonnier, Jean Behra, Maurice Trintignant [substitute driver for Fangio’s 450S], Porfirio Rubirosa, Phil Hill, Bruce Kessler and Jim Kimberly.
Shelby’s 450S strategy at Havana had been to start heavy with full fuel so he wouldn’t have to stop during the 310-mile race, having no idea of the tragedy that would end it after only 20 miles when Cifuentes’ Ferrari slid in oil on the racing surface. Some figured the fluid slick was from support races run earlier. Other believed it was put there by rebels to further disgrace the Batista government, saying that the oil was green, just as it might have been poured fresh from a can rather than spewed from a hot engine. The next day, Fangio was released unharmed near Havana’s Argentine Embassy. By then, most everyone had gone home.
While the Edgar camp re-grouped back in Los Angeles and Shelby was getting himself ready to head for Europe and join the Aston Martin and Centro-Sud teams, our Maser 450S and Ferrari 410 were made fit for the next Palm Springs race in early April. Shelby would drive the four-five Maser, and the four-nine Ferrari would stand ready as back-up.
It was good to return again to the desert classic. The springtime mountains wore snow-tops, the weather was sunny and hot, and Lance Reventlow had brought out his new 5.5-liter Chevy-powered Scarab to play with the predominate foreign sports cars. Of course there were the far-into-night parties all over again, and those beating bongos, but a new period in ‘50s racing seemed to be ushering in on that April ’58 weekend. Would our 450S, already getting tired, be able to hold its own?
In Saturday’s 5-lap Sprint, Shelby proved our Maser V8 could still win, even though the car’s drum brakes were sacrificed. Bob Oker’s 3.0-liter Aston Martin DB35 was second. Reventlow’s third-place Scarab, after wooing everyone with its looks and speed would fail to start Sunday’s main because of a cracked engine block.
Our Maserati’s brakes shot, Shelby on Sunday seated his old Ferrari ride—Enzo said it was the best car he ever built—the Edgar 410 Sport. He had not finished a race with the 410 since his second place behind Fangio at Havana more than a year ago. Now, at Palm Springs, he led the main in it, but not without a mid-race brakes problem. Gurney in the shortened 375 Plus got past Shelby on Lap 20, and young Dan—it was his 27th birthday—came home the winner, 11 seconds ahead of Shelby at the checkered flag. So that was that. Although this would be Shelby’s last drive in our 410, the car would be driven by others—Pete Woods, Bonnier, Gregory, Jim Rathmann, Chuck Daigh—in a few subsequent contests, and even win under Bruce Kessler at Nassau’s Ferrari Race in December 1958.