Before the Mustangs, before the Cobra and even before driving to victory at Le Mans, Carroll Shelby drove a little MG TC, this very car. He had to start somewhere, after all. In May of 1952, there was a road race held in Norman, Oklahoma. The event featured a race for smaller cars and one for bigger automobiles like Jaguars and Allards. A man named Ed Wilkins planned to drive up from Dallas to the event and enter his TC. He asked a high school friend, a certain 29-year-old Mr. Carroll Shelby, if he might like to join him. Shelby had never raced anything, but convinced Wilkins to give him a go at it.
In Shelby’s own words, “It was my first sports car race and I had no idea what to do but just drive. I won it, and another race there, too. I outran all the Jaguar XK-120s with that MG!” Norman, Oklahoma wasn’t exactly a beacon for the world’s great racing talents, but Shelby’s ability was proven and his career, as we all know, had nowhere to go but up, culminating in Formula One drives and a Le Mans win in 1959 with Aston Martin. From that first race in Oklahoma he went on to a Jaguar XK 120 and then an Allard J2X, but he later recalled that “this 1949 MG TC is the car that got me started in racing…It had a lot to do with changing my life.”
As many T-Series cars were in the ’50s, this one is lightly modified with some engine work on the 1250 cc four, removal of the sides of the hood and windscreen, and a pair of Brooklands-style screens. In 1982, Syd Silverman of Vintage Motorsport magazine acquired the car, had it restored from the ground up and vintage raced it regularly. It is, as you would expect, prepared to be just as Shelby raced it in 1952, although today it is probably in significantly better condition than it was then.
This car, which brought Carroll Shelby the first of many checkered flags, was sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas sale in 2008 to the collection of Ron Pratte for $307,800. Shelby’s passing and general growth in the market since then will undoubtedly create an added interest in what is likely the most desirable T-Series MG in the world.
This ex-Carroll Shelby 1949 MG TC, the oldest car to have such a distinction, will be offered at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale sale, scheduled for January 10-18, 2015 at the WestWorld facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.