Carroll Shelby dead at 89

Few have left as great a personal impact on the auto world in the past 60 years as Carroll Shelby

Published: May 11, 2012, 10:00 AM

Carroll Shelby was born on Jan 11, 1923, in Leesburg, Texas (population ~ 200). He died on May 12, 2012, at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

In between, he lived life to the fullest, literally becoming a legend in his own time.

Among auto enthusiasts around the world, few names are more familiar or revered than Carroll Shelby’s. His name has resonated through the history of motorsports and the auto industry over the past 60-plus years and Carroll Shelby remained a force on the auto scene right up to his death.

He had been scheduled to appear at the New York auto show last month for the introduction of the latest model to bear his name, but was sidelined at the last moment by the pneumonia that finally claimed him.

From a talented amateur driver who reached the heights of professional racing at the international level in the 1950s, Shelby forged a career as a manufacturer of both racing and production cars that led to the winner’s podium at Le Mans and to the boardrooms of Detroit’s Big Three.

Shelby raced in Formula 1 in the 1950s and won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans sports-car race in 1959. shortly after that triumph he gave up driving because of an ongoing heart problem and turned his hand to building what would become some of the most sought-after and valuable cars in the world – the legendary Shelby Cobras.

Not only were they the scourge of the world’s racing circuits, they were immortalized in pop culture by Bill Cosby in his 23-minute recorded monologue, 200 M.P.H.

The subsequent list of Shelby’s automotive accomplishments would fill books – and it has. He was at the very core of almost every facet of auto racing during that sport’s golden age in the 1960s.

Among other achievements that are unlikely ever to be equaled, he is the only person ever to have won at Le Mans as a driver, a manufacturer and an entrant.

Shelby has also worked with all three major American automakers in the design and development of such iconic production cars as the Ford Mustang and GT and the Dodge Viper.

Most recently, he collaborated with Ford on a series of high-performance Mustang variants that bear his name.

The cars he has created or put his stamp on are as legendary as the man himself. More than 40 of the most significant vehicles in his long career were the focus of the 2010 Canadian International Auto Show's classic Shelby exhibit, and Shelby himself attended a gala tribute in his honour on the eve of the show's opening