Mustang MonthlyNews & Views
Carroll Shelby: 1923-2012
Race driver and car builder Carroll Shelby passed away Thursday, May 10 after a long illness. He was 89.
One of the most iconic names in automotive history, Shelby became an international star in the 1950s as a race car driver, earning Sports Illustrated's "Sports Car Driver of the Year" honors in 1956 and 1957, then winning the 1959 24 Hours of LeMans in an Aston Martin with co-driver Roy Salvadori. A hereditary heart condition put an end to Shelby's driving career in 1960, but the lessons learned while driving world-renowned sports cars gave him the idea to build his own car using an AC Ace body and a small-block Ford V-8 engine. The result was the Cobra, a name that Shelby said came to him in a dream, and a company called Shelby American.
With a combination of light weight and V-8 power, the Cobra quickly dominated sports car racing. Street versions were sold to Hollywood celebrities, and a later model with 427 power became known as one of the fastest musclecars of all time. In racing, Shelby's Cobra claimed numerous SCCA and international championships, including the 1964 24 Hours of LeMans as the Daytona Coupe. Shelby also took Ford's fledgling GT-40 program and turned it into a success by taking on Henry Ford II's challenge to win at LeMans. Shelby did it twice - 1966 and 1967.
When Ford introduced the Mustang in 1965, Ford president Lee Iacocca asked Shelby to enhance the new pony car's performance reputation. Shelby responded with the G.T. 350, a souped-up version of the Mustang fastback. The G.T. 350R won a number of SCCA championships, while street models earned their own reputation as fast, great-handling musclecars. Shelby Mustangs were built from 1965 to 1970, including G.T. 500s with big-block Ford engines. Shelby-prepared Mustangs also won the 1966 and 1967 Trans-Am championships.
After Ford's racing and performance programs ended in 1970, Shelby spent much of the decade in Africa, then returned to the auto scene by teaming up with his old friend Iacocca to build Shelby Dodges in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, Shelby opened a facility in Las Vegas to build a completely Shelby-designed car, the Shelby Series One, along with continuation "roller" versions of the original Cobra. Since 2006, Shelby Automobiles/American has built a number of special Shelby Mustangs, including the Shelby GT-H, Shelby GT, Shelby G.T. 500 Super Snake, and Shelby G.T. 350.
In 1990, Carroll Shelby received a heart transplant, followed by a kidney transplant in 1996. He was recognized as one of the world's oldest and longest living double transplant patients. Subsequently, Shelby created the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation to help young people who need help with medical care and transplants. It continues today as the Carroll Shelby Foundation.
Shelby was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1992.
He is survived by his wife, Cleo, and three children from his first marriage - Sharon, Michael, and Patrick.
Funeral services have not been announced.