AKA, Shelby's English Mechanic
ShelbyGuy's Note: The following was authored by Wallace Wyss and he also contributed the images herein. Wallace has a selection of Cobra & GT 40 art. You can write for a list to email@example.com
During 40 plus years of occasionally writing a book on Shelby and crew, the most colorful figure I met was Charlie Agapiou (pronounced AGA -POO).
He speaks with a cockney accent worse than Michael Caine in Alfie. Charlie is now snow-haired but, back when he moved from London in 1961, he had jet-black hair and an Errol Flynn mustache.
According to an article in the new fancy British magazine Retromotive (issue 12 Summer 2021 issue), Agapiou was a truck mechanic when he moved to the US. At first, he went to Florida but then came out to California. He was walking down the street in Los Angeles and saw a sign for an “English mechanic”. Now I would want to know did they mean English cars? But he went in, met Ken Miles and became a mechanic for Shelby’s most famous driver, only back then Miles hadn't been hired by Shelby yet.
When Miles went to work for Shelby as mechanic and race driver, Charlie was invited to join him soon after, but instead of English buses and lorries he soon found himself working on the fastest cars in the world, such as shoehorning the first big block into the Cobra. He also crewed on the GT40s.
There was, according to the English magazine, what the British call a "spot of bother" with the FBI showing up and asking, in effect, “well, you've been here a good long time, when are you going to register for the draft?” There was a war on, and though he was still a British citizen, Charlie joined up. Luckily, Charlie got out for weekends and managed to be flown to all the important races, even the 24 Heures du Mans to turn wrenches (I can imagine back at the barracks when they asked Charlie where he was last weekend and he said something like “Oh, I went over to France to help Ford win LeMans....”).
After Charlie left Shelby’s team, he and his brother Kerry ran their own team with donated race cars and parts but finally, Charlie started working on Rolls & Bentleys while his brother continued to race. Now 33 years later, he still has a shop on the West side of Los Angeles.
I can't help wondering how many people in show business are bringing him their Roller or Bentley, then recognize him as the character in the movie Ford v. Ferrari? Of course, the movie actor playing Charlie was 40 years younger but the accent’s still the same.
Charlie will most likely be at the Shelby gathering on September 18th in El Segundo, California at the Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum:
which is only a half mile or so from Shelby’s former factory in the '60s (on the grounds of the Los Angeles Airport). The event is from 10:00 AM ~ 3:00 PM at 610 Lairport Street, El Segundo, CA 90245. For more information: