Just another Friday afternoon in Big D, doing all the usual things to finish up the week while making mental notes for the weekend. While stopped at an intersection, I pick up my Samsung Galaxy Note to see who just emailed me and it was a link from one of my brothers, which I open.
I don’t know how long it was before the deep breath I took was expelled. I couldn’t process what I was reading and didn’t want to…American racing legend Carroll Shelby dead at 89.
As the light changed and traffic began to move again, I was numb. If the song “The Sky Is Crying” had been playing it would have been apropos, as it was raining and my tears were rolling down the street.
I was in my very early teens when I first heard of Carroll Hall Shelby, after the introduction of his first car, the Shelby Cobra. It took the automotive world by storm, following Carroll’s simple philosophy for performance…”small car, big engine.”
The man and his machines impressed a young man that was a ‘car guy’ from an early age. I’m convinced my Dad, an aircraft engine mechanic in WWII, put gasoline in my juice bottle and bearing grease on my toast. The beautiful lines of the A/C Bristol body and it’s compact size, along with good old Detroit iron under the hood made men realize they too have nipples when they saw it for the first time. I experienced that same sensation, along with another that young men often experience, while peering through the show room window of a Ford dealership in downtown Shreveport, La. The unobtainable Shelby Cobra sat there in its gleaming glory, right next to the “Kooky Byrnes” hot rod from the hit TV show, 77 Sunset Strip.
The legend of the Shelby Cobras continued to grow and the enthusiasm for his products did, as well, as they got better and more powerful, while everything Shelby waved his ‘magic wand’ over continued to win races. It is important to note that no other man has accomplished in racing history what this former East Texas chicken rancher did:
Carroll Shelby is the only man to have won the prestigious Le Mans race as a driver, team owner and automotive manufacturer.
In Shelby’s view of his long and illustrious career, his greatest accomplishment was not his racing success, his car building or his being the world’s longest living heart transplant survivor, it was forming The Carroll Shelby Foundation. As Carroll Shelby stated:
“when you hear those words ‘i think we found you a heart’ there is nothing so sweet”
More than anything else, Carroll Shelby was one of my personal heroes because of his character and inner strength. In his many endeavors, he always faced adversity, but not once did he ever shrink or slink away in defeat, he just cinched up his overalls and got to work again.
Here is a brief synopsis of his working life:
*WWII flight instructor
*Dump truck operator
*Dallas sports car dealership
*International champion race car driver
*Bonneville Salt Flats world speed record setter
*Two time Sports Illustrated “Driver of the Year”
*Created the Texas Chili Cook-Off in Terlingua 1968
*African Safari Hunting Operator
**Created some of the most iconic American muscle cars-his Ford and Shelby created cars are in the below photo:
I, as well as many, many others, have lost a friend, a hero and an inspiration. Posting this is a small consolation to the many who admired and loved this perpetually smiling entrepreneur. I wish nothing but the best for his family and the many dedicated employees of Shelby American and sincerely hope they will continue the many endeavors he created.
In a way it is only fitting that Shelby left us at this time, just one month after the 50th Anniversary celebration in Las Vegas of the founding of Shelby American, even if he was unable to attend.
Godspeed and a heartfelt THANK YOU, Mr. Shelby, for being such a fine example of an American and a Son Of Texas.
The race is run, the flag unfurled, the champion now will rest. God speed, Carroll Shelby, we will never forget you. Jan. 23, 1923 – May 10, 2012.
~Carroll Shelby Foundation
Car And Driver-So Long, Shelby: Carroll Shelby 1923–2012
**Cross-posted at Urban Grounds**