Greg's List Special Edition : The Man, The Legend, Carroll Shelby
By Greg Warner
Carroll Hall Shelby was an American Icon of the automotive industry and a man who, in person, seemed bigger than life itself. He started out as humble as any normal person and through his love of all things to do with racing and performance, he created an image, a reputation, a career and an empire that is etched in automotive history. He began his racing career in the early 1950's and was immediately recognized as an extremely talented driver. He caught the attention of John Wyer, team manager of Aston Martin Racing, who offered to let him co-drive an Aston Martin DB3 for the grueling endurance race at Sebring Raceway in Florida in 1954. This success then lead to an offer to race the famous Le Mans endurance race in France as well. His racing, performance and design career was launched and he never looked back. In 1956, Sports Illustrated named Carroll Shelby "Driver of the Year" and again in 1957. He raced, with co-driver Roy Salvadori, to win the 1959 Le Mans race in France piloting an Aston Martin DBR1/300 and in 1960 wins the U.S.A.C. driving championship in the USA. His racing career would end in 1960 due to a life-long battle with a heart condition, which never seemed to really slow him down, no matter how many doctors warned him to take it easy due to his fragile "heart condition".
He created his own automotive, performance-based company and founded the "Shelby-American Inc." company in 1962 in Venice, CA. The first car he would build is the infamous "Shelby Cobra" (the "Cobra" name came to him in the form of a dream he once had), which was based on a British roadster chassis made by the AC Motors Co. of England and Shelby's desire to install an American V8 into this beautiful, but somewhat underpowered road racer. Needless to say, the car was an immediate success, both on the road and at the racetrack and today are some of the most sought after collector cars in the world.
During his long, illustrious career, Carroll Shelby was involved with many of the largest automobile manufacturing companies and racing teams/names in the world and always maintained an image of professionalism, with an impeccable reputation for speed, performance, design and innovation. He was, of course, most notably connected to the Ford Motor Company for most of his life and career and created many special vehicles and designs which are all considered some of the most famous and collectible, limited-production vehicles on any road, on any planet!
In 1991, he founded a charitable organization for children, recently re-named the Carroll Shelby Foundation (or CSF), to help children with heart disease (and their families) to cover the costs of their care when they cannot afford to cover the medical costs themselves. Carroll Shelby was presented with many trophies, awards and accolades over the years and was even presented the "Lifetime Achievement Award" as the Automotive Executive of the Year in Detroit, MI in 2009.
I was lucky enough to have met and spoken to Mr. Shelby on a couple occasions and I will always remember and cherish those moments in time as he was always a gracious, attentive and interesting man among men.
God speed, Carroll Shelby, and I know you'll keep the performance going on the roads of heaven!
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