It’s 1963 and drag racing in Southern California is gaining momentum fast when three Shelby employees approach Carroll Shelby. As part of the production department assembling the famed Shelby Cobras to race on road courses, they now want to create a new Shelby animal. One to take to the drags where it can slay the competition a quarter mile at a time. Their idea piques Shelby’s interest and after setting a few ground rules (one stipulation is this is an after-hours project, not to be done on company time), the three are greenlighted to begin work on what would become a nearly unbeatable dragster in the early and mid '60s—the Dragonsnake. Only eight were built and just four with the 289 cubic inch small-block Ford V8.
The iconic Dragonsnake would go on to win numerous major championships and set American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) and National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) records. Here it is during a test run at Pomona in late 1964. That’s Leonard Parsons, head of the Shelby production department, behind the wheel. We chose this very shot to feature on our Shelby American Dragonsnake Tee. But it’s the backstory that makes it a classic.