Sad news today, Carroll Shelby, winner of Le Mans in 1959 driving an Aston Martin and creator of the famed Cobra sports car in 1962, has died aged 89. A true racer, Carroll had to end his racing career due to heart ailments and found chicken farming not exciting.
Deciding to build his own sports car he mated a new Ford engine to an old British chassis creating one of the worlds greatest cars, the Cobra. Success at various racing events had Shelby American go on to compeate in FIA Sports Car Racing all over Europe. Cobras (and Shelby prepared Mustangs) went on to win the Manufactuers Championship in 1965 with the Daytona Coupe and the SCCA Group B Championship with the GT350R Mustang.
Impressed with his team mangagment skills, Henry Ford II tapped Carroll to help Ford win the Le Mans races in 1966 and 1967. Ford GTs won the subsequent races in '68 and '69. So dominant were the cars that the rules were changed and the track altered to slow the cars down. (Porsche went on to dominate for years after using the all conquering 917 anyway)
Thousands of Shelby Mustangs were built and sold for public use from '65-'70. Though Carroll had little to do with actual design after '67, his input was sought untill Ford got out of racing in 1971. The '65 GT350 put Mustang on the map as a car capable of compeating with cars costing far more and with much more sophisticated engineering. The '69 GT500 was among the flashiest cars available in the heady muscle car era.
After safaring and general mulling about, Carroll was contacted by his old friend Lee Iacocca to help create some excitment in the Chrysler Corporation in the early '80s. Never one to sit idly, Carroll had given lots of ideas for turbocharged cars such as the GLH Omni and Daytona. When Bob Lutz decided to build a car at Dodge in homoge to the original Cobra, it was once again Carroll Shelby they turned to for help and ideas in creating the Viper.
For Fords 100th anniversary, William Ford Jr. contacted Carroll to see if he would be interested in partnering with Ford for some special projects to commemorate the anniversry and to bring Carroll back into the fold. Carroll remarked that it was fitting that it would be Ford that would be the last car company he would work with.
One of the worlds oldest living heart transplant recipiants, Carroll set up a foundation to help in research and funding for heart disease, benifiting hundreds of people worldwide. He remained active in his company, Shelby American, and the foundation as far as I know, untill his recent passing.
A life like his is a reminder that determination and inginuity go a long way. Well known the world over as a self made man, his accomplishments speak for themselves. At his age, it's hardly a suprise that he would eventually pass on to that great garage in the sky. But as I heard the news and reflected on who he was and what he did I couldn't help but be a bit saddened that one of the worlds most greatest real car guys was gone. Gone, but not forgotten.
God bless Carroll, you brought happiness and joy to so many people for so long, that the world will be a bit less full without you.