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Auto Legend Carroll Shelby Passes Away

Carroll Hall Shelby, a man whose vision for performance transformed the automobile industry, has died at age 89. Mr. Shelby passed away yesterday (Thursday 10th May USA time) at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. While probably best known now for the Shelby Cobra and Shelby Mustang, his auto-industry start came as a notable race driver.

Born on Jan. 11, 1923, Carroll Shelby was one of America’s greatest success stories. Championship-winning racecar driver, “flying sergeant” wartime pilot, philanthropist, entrepreneur, car manufacturer and racing team owner, he embodied the ingenuity, tenacity and grit to overcome any obstacle. He is perhaps the only person to have worked at a visible level with all three major American automobile manufacturers.

The Ford Mustang was the car that jumpstarted the pony car revolution and rejuvenated the term ‘High Performance’ in American automobiles. But FoMoCo wanted more! Dearborn had a vision of it’s pony car winning races and even more sales success. So Ford hired Carroll Shelby to repeat his Cobra magic with the Mustang and in 1965 the Shelby Mustang GT350 was born. From it’s debut, both in Street and Race configuration, they humbled all opposition on the road, racetrack and dragstrip.

Read More..
Profile: Carroll Shelby
The car - Shelby GT350
The Shelby GT-R Concept Car
A visit to Shelby American Automobile Club Convention
Kevin Haig's 67 Shelby American prepared Trans Am Race Car


 Carroll Shelby 


The 427 Cobra debuted in 1965, when Shelby took complete charge of Ford's motor sports program.


Shelby loved fast cars even as a kid growing up in east Texas.


Shelby was twice named Sports Illustrated "Driver of the Year."


Shelby turned timid Mustangs into muscle cars at Ford in the 1960s.


Shelby remains a popular figure among car collectors and enthusiasts.

Profile: Carroll Hall Shelby

Carroll Hall Shelby is an East Texan, born on January 11, 1923 in Leesburg, Texas to Eloise Lawrence and Warren Shelby, the latter a rural mail carrier. Shelby’s first taste of speed was when he would ride on the running board of his dad’s Whippet during mail deliveries, yelling “faster Dad.” The family moved to Dallas, where Carroll graduated from high school and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He had developed an interest in flying in high school and served the entire World War II period in Texas, both as a flight instructor to bomber pilots and test pilot, the latter involving testing planes that had been repaired.

During the war Carroll got married and welcomed the first of his three children. Though he did not go to college, during the war they had a special program to make officers of non-commissioned personnel and he finished the war with the rank of Second Lieutenant. After the war, Carroll tried a variety of businesses including running a fleet of dump trucks, working in the oil fields and raising chickens. He made a profit at first but then over 80,000 of his chickens died of Newcastle's disease. While trying to figure out what to do next to put bread on the table, Carroll got involved in car racing. It was just a hobby then because sports car racing didn’t pay in America where it was regarded strictly as an amateur sport.


It was early in his racing career when Shelby accidentally developed a memorable image --- he was in a hurry to get to a race from the farm and didn’t have time to change to his racing suit so he wore his farmer’s bib overalls in the race and ended up garnering more publicity than the race winner! Later on, when he started his own car company, those overalls figured in the early publicity.

He was named "Sports Car Driver of the Year" by Sports Illustrated magazine in both 1956 and 1957 and one time was featured on the cover. But even before that, he had been angling to get to Europe because the fact was that American sports car racing didn’t pay. He wasn’t alone in his ambitions, because also in Europe from California were his pals, Phil Hill , Dan Gurney and Ritchie Ginther plus Masten Gregory of St. Louis -- all determined to get “factory rides” where they would be factory "pilotos" for the factory making the cars. Hill and Ginther landed spots on the Ferrari team, and Dan Gurney landed a spot on the Porsche team. Shelby went British, impressing the head of Aston Martin racing enough to be asked to join the Aston Martin team. It was while with John Wyer's factory Aston Martin Team that Shelby scored his biggest success as a driver -- he and British co-driver Roy Salvadori won the 24-hours of Le Mans in 1959.

Carroll returned to the U.S. in 1960 and was still racing , though it was becoming harder to disguise a heart ailment that had been with him as a child. Finally it caught up with him and during one race in the year 1960, he pulled into the pits, took off his helmet, hung up his gloves and retired on the spot.


Shelby had been angling to build his own production sports car, and there were some failed attempts , such as the time he had three Corvettes rebodied in Italy. He also failed in an attempt to talk Sir Donald Healey into letting him build Austin-Healeys powered by small block Chevrolet V8s.

Shelby had raced Max Balchowsky's "Ol' Yeller" race car, a pieced together contraption powered by an old Buick engine, and managed to outrun Ferraris, so he was convinced that the secret to success for him would be to mate a lightweight sports car with a powerful race-tuned American V8.

In 1962, during lunch with an editor of Sports Car Graphic, Shelby heard the news that AC Cars Ltd., in England was discontinuing a sports car called the Ace-Bristol because they couldn’t get any more Bristol in-line six cylinder engines. Shelby put that knowledge together with the fact that Ford was about to produce a lightweight 221-cu. in. V8. He put the two together (with a 260 cu. in. V8) and created the immortal Cobra. Ford threw in their support both for manufacturing the cars and for a racing team, and by 1965, the Cobra factory team won the FIA Manufacturers Grand Touring World Championship in 1965, the only American car company to ever do so.

During the middle of the Cobra program, Shelby got involved with Ford’s GT40 racing team and helped Ford secure back to back victories at LeMans in ’66 and ’67. Those victories greatly buoyed the reputation of Ford in Europe.

Shelby was a busy man while at Ford. Back in ’65 Ford had asked him to create a more exciting Mustang (the car had made its debut being marketed as a "secretary's car") and the Shelby GT-350 Mustang was the result. Shelby rented a hanger near LAX airport and for several years cranked out Shelby Mustangs, most of which are worth over $100,000 today. In mid-67, production was shifted over to a Michigan sub-contractor. The original batch of Shelby's ended with the 1970 model year.

Shelby then retired from the car business and went to Africa to fulfil a childhood dream of having a game hunting preserve. When he came back to America, he found his old boss at Ford, Lee Iacocca, had taken over the helm at Chrysler Corporation, and needed someone, a swashbuckler of sorts, to bolster the performance image of Chrysler products; and who better than the 'Ole Pirate from Princeton Drive in Venice, CA than Carroll Shelby? The first efforts were limited to mere stripes and decals on a Dodge but his operation grew into a "Skunk Works" factory in Whittier, California, where Shelby's buccaneers transformed Dodge Omnis, Chargers, Lancers, Shadows and Dakota pickups into pavement rippers from 1986 to 1989. The one Dodge car that he was involved with that was close to the Cobra in both concept and performance was the Viper. Shelby even drove it himself as the pace car driver at the Indianapolis 500, even though he had recently been the recipient of a heart transplant.

Shelby left Chrysler and once again was involved with ranching, this time in Texas, but then got into the replica Cobra business, a business which thrives today, at his factory in Las Vegas.

He also signed back on at Ford in 2002, just as they were preparing to bring back a retro version of the GT40. The new car, called the Ford GT was sold as an ’05 and ’06 model and became an instant success (4038 were sold). One difference between the original GT40 and the new one is that this time Ford didn't back a racing program. It was strictly competition in the showroom, with the new Ford GT a direct rival to Ferrari's 360 Modena.

As part and parcel of the deal with Ford, Shelby also began designing new Shelby Mustangs, the first of which was introduced in 2005. Shelby's new Shelby Mustangs helped blunt the comeback of both Chevrolet's Camaro and Dodge's Challenger.

Today Shelby is 86 years old and still involved in a number of businesses, from selling racing tires, to being a Ford spokesman. After his two heart transplants, he vowed to help children with heart problems, and created a foundation for children with heart problems and more recently began helping a community college near his birthplace develop a program for training auto mechanics.

He is still a car collector and has managed, through thick and thin, to hang on to the first Cobra he ever built, a car which he says he has turned down $5 million for....

AUTHOR: Wallace A. Wyss


Time Line for Carroll Shelby

Jan. 11, 1923: Carroll Hall Shelby is born in Leesburg, Texas, to Warren Hall Shelby, a rural mail carrier, and Eloise Lawrence Shelby.

November 1941: Shelby begins training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio. On training missions, Carroll corresponds with his fiancee by dropping love letters placed in his flying boots onto her farm.

1949: Carroll goes into the chicken raising business. His first batch of broilers nets a $5,000 profit, but he goes bankrupt when his second group of chickens die of Limberneck disease.

January 1952: Carroll drives in his first race, a quarter-mile drag meet, behind the wheel of a hot rod fitted with a flathead Ford V-8.

May 1952: At Norman, Okla., Carroll drives in his first road race behind the wheel of an MG-TC, taking first place in competition with other MGs. The same day, against hotter competition from Jaguar XK 120s, he wins again.

November 1954: Carroll Shelby enters the Carrera Pan Americana Mexico and T-bones a large rock and flips his Austin-Healey four times. Indians find him and offer him strong drinks to ease the pain of his broken bones, cuts, contusions and a shattered elbow.

March 1955: Shelby continues to race with his arm in a specially made fiberglass cast and his hand taped to the steering wheel.

1956: Sports Illustrated names Shelby sports car driver of the year.

Early 1957: Carroll Shelby Sports Cars opens in Dallas.

March 1957: Sports Illustrated again names Shelby “Driver Of The Year.”

June 1959: Carroll and Ray Salvadori co-drive an Aston Martin DBR1/300 and win the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Dec. 3-4, 1960: Shelby competes in his last race, the third annual Los Angeles Times-Mirror Grand Prix for sports cars and finishes fifth.

1961: He opens Shelby School of High Performance Driving.

February 1962: The name Cobra comes to Shelby in a dream.

March 1962: Shelby-American begins operations at a shop in Venice, Calif. Shelby creates the original Cobra Roadster.

January 1963: Dave MacDonald and Ken Miles sign to drive Cobras for Shelby-American and place first and second at Riverside, beating the Corvette Stingrays.

June 1964: The Cobras and Shelby-American win Europe’s biggest race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

August 1964: Ford asks Carroll Shelby to develop a high-performance Mustang fastback for street and track.

September 1964: The first ’65 Shelby Mustang GT350 race cars and street cars are built.

February 1965: With Shelby handling the racing program, Ford’s GT-40 wins its first race at Daytona.

October 1965: The brand-new ’66 GT350 Shelby fastbacks go on sale.  Click here for more detail on the 1965/66 models.

June 1966: Henry Ford II watches proudly as a trio of GT-40 Mark IIs cross the finish line at Le Mans, 1-2-3.

March 1967: The last 427 Cobra Roadster is built.

August 1969: Shelby begins marketing his famous Chili mix.

October 1969: At Riverside, in the Trans-Am, Shelby fields his last Ford team race car.

December 1969: Shelby Automotive Racing Company closes.

February 1970: Ford ends its long-term racing agreement with Shelby.

October 1982: Shelby contracts with Chrysler to create performance cars based on Dodge products.

1987: Shelby envisions and begins prototype work on a Dodge sports car that later becomes the “Viper.”

April 1988: Shelby sues Ford for using GT350 for its ’84 Anniversary Mustang.

1989: Shelby builds the first Viper chassis prototype.

June 1990: Shelby receives the heart of a 38-year-old gambler from Las Vegas in a long-awaited transplant operation.

May 1991: Less than a year after his transplant, Shelby paces the Indy 500 in a Dodge Viper.

September 1991: Shelby starts the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation that funds heart transplants for indigent children.

Oct. 1, 1992: Shelby is elected to the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit.

Dec. 30, 1992: Shelby helps introduce the Viper concept coupe at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

July 2002: Ford hires Shelby to join “Dream Team” of designers for new Ford GT super car.

Feb 2004: Ford shows new Shelby Cobra supercar concept at North American International Auto Show.

Aug 2004: Ford shows new Shelby GT-R concept car at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Thursday 12 Aug 04

Nov 2004: Ford SHelby GR-1 concept introduced

March 23 2005: Shelby GT500 introduced at New York International Auto Show

September 29, 2005: Convertible GT500 introduced

January 2006: The First 2007 Ford Shelby GT 500 was auctioned at the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction and raised $600,000 for the Carroll Shelby Foundation.

April 12, 2006: Ford, Shelby, and Hertz reveal new GT-H to celebrate 40th anniversary of the '66 GT350

August8, 2006: Shelby GT introduced

January 2007: CSX3015 ­ Shelby Super Snake was sold for a record breaking $5 Million at the Barrett-Jackson Auction

March 30, 2007: Shelby introduced the '08 model GT500KR

April 1, 2007: Shelby GT-H convertible introduced

June 7, 2007: Post-title Super Snake package offered for Shelby GT500s

June 13, 2007:Shelby GT convertible introduced

June 14, 2007: Shelby Automobiles announces the creation of Shelby Performance Parts Company

July 19, 2007: Shelby Terlingua Racing Team returns

January, 2008: Carroll Shelby celebrates his 85th Birthday with 800 of his closest friends at the Las Vegas Shelby Bash. Shelby American introduces the 2008 Shelby KR.

April 2009: Carroll Shelby was presented with the lifetime achievement award as the Automotive Executive of the Year in Detroit

June 2009: The Carroll Shelby Foundation becomes the Carroll Shelby Foundation and broadens its mission. CSF is instrumental in the creation and funding of the Carroll Shelby Automotive Technology School of NorthEast Texas community College

February 14, 2010: Shelby American releases a 45th anniversary GT350

2010: Carroll Shelby launches the Shelby Signature Foods Company with a portion of the proceeds to benefit his Foundation

January 21, 2011: Shelby American released a special edition CSX8000 Cobra in celebration of almost 50 years of the 289 Cobra

February 2, 2011: Carroll Shelby Honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award. Automotive News, presented the 2011 Keith Crain/Automotive News. Lifetime Achievement Award to Carroll Shelby at the Washington Auto Show in Washington, D.C.

May 2011: Carroll Shelby is honoured by the World Children's Transplant Fund for his generous donations to organ transplantation over the years

May 10, 2012: Carroll Hall Shelby, a man whose vision for performance transformed the automobile industry, died at age 89, in Dallas TX.