After over 50-plus years since doctors first started predicting his imminent death, it was announced today that auto builder, dealer, marketer, racer, team manager, deal-maker, chicken farmer, and icon Carroll Shelby took life’s checkered flag Thursday as he passed away at the age of 89. Shelby’s bad heart forced him to retire from racing in 1959, but thanks to his second career building sports and pony cars, though, over a half-century later, Shelby was still synonymous with speed.
Tough and more stubborn than a Texas bull in his negotiations and business ventures, Shelby was the quite the opposite with his adoring fans, who often were surprised by his willingness to pose for photos and sign autographs (frequently happily doing so on the dashboards and within engine bays of the cars bearing his name or influence.) The cars in which he was involved reads like a list of bucket-list drives, such as the AC Cobras (in original 260, then 289, 427 and Daytona Coupe forms), GT 350 and GT 500,Toyota 2000GT SCCA racer, Sunbeam Tiger, Dodge Viper, and Shelby Series One. His hi-po Shelbyized versions of front wheel drive Chrysler products like the Omni GLH/GLH-S, Lancer and Daytona are acknowledged by experts as helping to get the import tuner craze rolling.
There were racers turned car builders before Carroll Shelby, and there certainly will be many after him…but nobody will likely have the success and recognition of this American legend. While his Cobra has been the most widely replicated car in automotive history, Carroll will forever remain one-of-a-kind.