Carroll Shelby, Beetle Owner?

Illustration for article titled Carroll Shelby, Beetle Owner?

While at the New York Auto Show earlier this year covering the release of the Shelby 1000, I was talking to Shelby American VP Gary Patterson about the Big Man. He told me a great anecdote about Carroll Shelby that started with this simple hook: Carroll Shelby owned a 1973 VW Beetle Convertible.


Right there, that says plenty about the man. He loved cars, and not just the high-performance monsters he built– he was interested in everything, hence the Beetle. Apparently, he really enjoyed driving the little Beetle around, but one day after a highway trip in the Bug, he decided to take it to his mechanic. I'm guessing the mechanics at his company just wouldn't know what to do with a Type I VW engine— 1.6 Liters? Is that from a chainsaw?


He took it to the mechanic, and this was his complaint: it ran fine, but on the highway he was only able to get it up to 75 or 80. What the hell's wrong with it?

Of course, there was nothing wrong with the car, except for the fact it's a Beetle and not a fire-belching V8 Cobra. It's pretty great that Shelby expected everything to be fast. I also love that a normal, leisurely trip down the highway in a convertible at around 80 mph for Shelby meant something had to be wrong. I like to picture him thinking, "the speed's only two digits? Am I still moving?"

If anyone has any idea what happened to that Beetle, I'd love to find out.

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I'm surprised he got it up that far. The fastest I could ever get it up to was about 70 (on a downhill). Of course, what I was driving was a 65 or 66 ( think 66) Did they change the engine at all in those years?