“I’m not going to take this defeatist attitude and listen to all this crap any more from all these people who have nothing except doomsday to predict.” Carroll Shelby
Carroll Shelby, a Texas chicken farmer turned hot-rodder who went on to build innovative sports cars like the Cobra that challenged Europe’s longtime dominance of road racing as well as high-performance versions of production cars like the Ford Mustang, died on Thursday in Dallas. He was 89.
In the 1960s, Shelby raised the profile of American racing machines on the international sports-car circuit by packing powerful Ford V-8 engines into lightweight British roadsters, and by developing racing cars for Ford.
“Carroll is sort of like the car world’s Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays,” Jay Leno, who owned three Shelby cars, told The New York Times in 2003. “Unlike so many racers, he didn’t come from a rich family, so he signifies that Everyman, common-sense ideal. When I was a kid, American cars were big, clunky things, until Carroll used his ingenuity to make them compete with European cars.”
In 1959, Shelby became the second American-born driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the famously brutal endurance race in France, co-driving a British-made Aston Martin.
But a heart ailment forced him to quit driving, and he founded Shelby American in 1962. It became one of the most successful independent sports-car builders of the era.
Shelby is survived by his wife, Cleo; his children, Patrick, Michael and Sharon; and a sister, Anne Shelby Ellison.
Shelby had homes in the Bel Air hills of Los Angeles and in Las Vegas, and owned ranchland in Pittsburg, Tex., where he raised miniature horses and African cattle while keeping his hand in high-performance design into his later years. He owned small vintage planes and numerous cars, including his original Cobra.
He possessed the brashness and imagination of a consummate promoter.
Bill Neale, an automotive artist who illustrated Shelby’s designs, once recalled for Vanity Fair that when Shelby assembled his first Cobra, he painted it yellow and had it photographed for the cover of Sports Car Graphic. The next day, he showed another magazine what seemed to be an identical car, colored red.
“I said, ‘You have two of them?’ ” Neale recalled. “And he said, ‘Nah, we just painted it so they think we have two.’ ”
-courtesy new york times-