Automotive Legend Carroll Shelby Passes

Carroll Shelby, 1923-2012

By Gary P Jackson

In the early 1960s the Ford Motor Company came up with a new 260 cubic inch V-8 engine. Carroll Shelby put one of those small block Ford engines in a British built A.C. sports car, and a legend was born.

Few men have had more impact on the automotive world than Carroll Shelby. What started out with a $25,000 stake from Ford’s Lee Iaccoca to build a prototype, turned into an automotive powerhouse.

Shelby’s Cobra is no doubt one of the most copied automotive designs in history. There are around a dozen companies that reproduce the iconic roadster, either turn key, or in kit form. The original Shelby built cars fetch millions of dollars at collector car auctions.

Shelby with his 1964 production Cobra and a Cobra race car.

A racer, Shelby fielded teams for Ford, and literally won the world.

Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford, considered Shelby to be a dear friend.

Today, we have lost a legend in Ford Motor Company’s history, and my family and I have lost a dear friend,” Ford said. “Carroll Shelby is one of the most recognized names in performance car history, and he’s been successful at everything he’s done. Whether helping Ford dominate the 1960s racing scene or building some of the most famous Mustangs, his enthusiasm and passion for great automobiles over six decades has truly inspired everyone who worked with him. He was a great innovator whose legend at Ford never will be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Shelby most recently collaborated with the company on the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang, the most powerful production V8 in the world. Working with SVT engineers at Sebring and the Arizona Proving Grounds, at times he drove for more than eight hours …. at the ripe old age of 88. He was having so much fun, he didn’t want to stop.

Shelby was drag racer at heart and was a late bloomer when at nearly 30 years, entered his first car race, a quarter-mile drag meet in 1952. The hot rod he drove to the finish line that day was powered by a Ford V8.

The NHRA’s Tom Compton said drag racing has lost a legend with the passing of Shelby.

The automotive industry has lost a pioneer and the motorsports world a legend with the passing of Carroll Shelby. He and our founder Wally Parks were very good friends and Carroll frequently attended events at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California. On behalf of everyone at NHRA, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Autoweek has an extensive bio of Shelby as well as some great photos.

Shelby was more than just an automotive icon though. Having been born with a heart defect, he would later receive a new heart. It was while he was in the hospital that he saw so many young kids who suffered heart problems. Shelby started the Carroll Shelby Foundation in order to help pay for much needed treatment for children.

Last year helping Ford celebrate 110 years of racing, Shelby sat down for this video:

Shelby is survived by his wife, Cleo Shelby; his sister Anne Shelby Ellison, daughter Sharon Lavine and sons Michael and Patrick Shelby, as well as six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

He was 89 years old. He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.



Filed under In The News, NHRA

6 responses to “Automotive Legend Carroll Shelby Passes

  1. Aaron Allen

    Hi Gary: Thanks for running the bio/obit on Carroll Shelby. The Cobra was
    a neat car which cud be built as a rocket or a pussycat–depending on the
    owner’s desire and available funds…I thot of building one with a lift-off
    hardtop for winter and a convertible one for warm weather…While my
    friends preferred gutsy V-8s or UK sporty 4s, I liked smooth, longer-stroke
    straight 6s–like the Blue Flame [Chev engine in original, pre-production
    Corvettes], or the DB-6 in 1960s MB 220s or 300s. A few performance en-
    hancers [transistorized ignition, electric-heated low speed idle needle val-
    ves, slightly taller tires, Fire Injector sparkplugs, 2×3 exhaust headers back to 2 low-backpressure truck mufflers, foam induction air filters]–not
    a lotta dough, but super performance…Four or five-speed tranny with HD,
    hydraulic clutch…By adding a ‘better’ quality HHO gas generator, the mi-
    leage shud exceed 50 mpg at moderate highway speeds…A ‘repivoted’ brake-pedal arm [to skip PB] even tho the stroke is a bit more. A ‘full-size’ steering wheel with the steering box out of a pick-
    up truck [to skip PS]. Correct instruments–where they belong! AM/FM/HD
    radio [4-6 watts into 4 high-efficiency speakers with ‘autosurround’ switch-
    ing when ‘depth/ambience’ is detected…RIP Carroll…Aaron Allen…

  2. Aaron Allen

    Hi Gary: The Factory 5 vehicles are very nice! Many good options for the
    builder. I used to be stationed near Wareham MA [USAF]. Lotsa great dri-
    ving around the Cape [Cod] and ‘South Shore’…With flotation-like tires,
    car cud drive on beaches [as a ‘surf-fishing’ vehicle…After summer, take
    to a good boat shop for salt washoff and put on ‘winter/offseason’ wheels/
    tires. A manual or auto-locker rear axle wud be great on beach trails and
    snow/ice. Some ‘summer residents’ kept beautiful 30s-40s restored cars
    for summer use, then ‘put-em-up’ for the winter in a garage or boat shop.
    Thanks for link–wish I cud buy one!..Aaron Allen…

    • Gary P Jackson

      Oh man, that sounds like fun!

      Factory Five also has a cool 1934 Ford roadster. It’s basically a race car with the body shell. What I like about that bunch is they have a serious engineering department, and you can buy a car that really works.

      I wish I could buy one of the Cobras as well as the 34!

  3. Aaron Allen

    Hi Gary: Some years ago, a company in BC Canada searched for ’34 For
    d coupes and, using the Ranger truck V8 and manual tranny built ‘new’
    legally-titled ’34s because they used the original frame and enuf parts to
    legally be a ‘restoration’ [using the original VIN]. Vintage aircraft are recog
    nized as ‘original’ if the original airframe serial and 15% of the original era
    parts are used [this is how many older Navy and AF fighters are rebuilt].
    In Montana, a company scrounged original 64-66 [pre-EPA rules] floor-
    chassies and legally ‘restored’ them [using some old and new parts] as
    ’65-66 Golden Beetles’. Finally, another nomination for Factory 5 Cobra:
    70s-80s Mercedes 5 cyl. turbodiesel and 4-6 speed mini-pickup tranny…
    With natural gas or Green Algae biodiesel [and HHO added] shud run
    well, economically!..Wud look cool with MB ‘star’ emblem on hood and
    50s-60s MB wheels and hubcaps?..Aaron Allen…

    • Gary P Jackson

      That might be an interesting combination. I had an old Mercedes 220D when I was a kid. Man it was a DOG. No turbo. Also had a Nissan pickup with a 4 banger diesel. It was slow, but got 40MPG on the highway loaded with race bikes and equipment. I loved it. Literally drove it into the ground.

      Every state has their own rules. In Texas, as long as it looks like what it’s supposed to be, you can register a replica as “real” thus not having to meat 2012 standards for emissions and other things.

      Factory Five sends an MSO, Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin, with every kit. This is the same document a new car dealer gets from the factory when they receive a new car on the lot. You turn that into a state title. This makes registering and getting insurance for a Factory Five car a snap.

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