Carroll Shelby lived a truly unique life and was best known for his contributions to the racecar industry as both a racecar driver and designer of high speed super powered racing cars. He died May 10, 2012 at the age of 89 from a heart condition.
Carroll Shelby lived a varied life where he had many different careers. He began as a chicken farmer where his first batch of broiler chickens made him a total of $5,000. However his next batch of chickens became disease ridden and this caused Shelby’s farm business to go under. He began racing cars and made a name for himself when he entered the 24 hours of Le Mans sports car race in 1959. He won the race with his partner Ray Salvadori and began his career as a racer in the industry going on to win dozens of races throughout his career. Shelby won the famed title of Driver of the Year in Sports Illustrated two times and continued his successful racing career throughout the 1950s.
More than just a racer, Carroll Shelby used his intuitive genius to develop some of the most powerful racecars of his time. His first creation, The Cobra used Ford engines and a sports chassis that originated from Britain. This car was the fastest model that was ever made when it was displayed in 1962 at The New York Auto Show. Shelby continued to design these high speed ‘muscle cars’ and his latest model the 2013 Shelby Mustang GT500 has the highest horsepower in the world at 662 horses and a V8 engine. Shelby dubbed it ‘his new favorite car’ after never before declaring a favorite.
The legendary race car driver spent some of his years in Africa as a tour guide and safari driver. He went overseas during a lull in the automotive industry caused by an energy crisis during the 1970s. His other ventures included a dump truck business that he started right before he ventured into farming. Carroll Shelby was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1992. He spent his later years as a technical consultant for Ford Motors. With Ford, Shelby worked on the Ford GT project where he designed the Shelby Series 1 which was a two-seater modern version of the 1965 Cobra. Edsel B. Ford, a member of Ford motors board of directors had this to say about the motor legend “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.”
Carroll Shelby is truly a racecar icon and his contributions to the automotive industry will never be forgotten. He was also a generous man who started the Carroll Shelby Foundation in 1991 with the goal of helping children and youth who suffered from heart and kidney issues. The foundation provided many children access to care and much needed surgery as well as providing funding in the areas of kidney and coronary research. A legend of his time, Carroll Shelby has made an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of car enthusiasts throughout the world.