It’s not often you’ll see a memorial or an obituary on these online pages. CraveOnline works at being an upbeat and entertaining place to visit. But, the passing of Carroll Shelby more than deserves recognition and honor anywhere people go who enjoy cars and entertainment.
Shelby died recently at the age of 88 – an amazing run for an adventurous speed and racing addict who built some of the hottest and physics defying cars in the world.
If 2012 was destined to be Shelby’s final victory lap helping to design performance cars, he couldn’t have gone out any better than with the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang. It’s not only the fastest mass-produced Mustang ever built – rivaling much more expensive Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis with its official top speed of 202 mph, but it’s also the most powerful production V8 in the world.
Shelby worked with the Ford Special Vehicle Team and Ford Racing at the groups’ Arizona testing ground to build, improve and finalize the 2013 Shelby Mustang. And he wouldn’t sit in the pits or behind a computer to do his designing. He’d be on the track driving or riding along in test vehicles for eight hours a day on occasion.
In the 1940s Shelby served in the U.S. military as a test pilot. After leaving the service, he became a racing driver. While many professional racing drivers begin racing before their teens, 1952: Shelby was pushing 30 when he entered first race in 1952. He’d drive professionally for Aston Martin and Maserati. Some 10 years later, he tested his first AC 260 Roadster. That car would develop into the renamed Shelby Cobra. Based on that car, he established Shelby-American in Venice, Calif. to begin producing the Cobra.
The Cobra got Ford’s attention a year later. So, Dearborn, Mich. folks asked Shelby to develop a high-performance Mustang spin-off. The first legendary Shelby GT350 rolls off the very limited production line in 1965. It’s an absolute collectors item today.
In 1966 and 1967, a Shelby Ford GT40 Mark II won Le Mans. One year later, the 1967 Shelby GT500s arrived – marking another legendary Ford car that every major collector would love to own.
After 1969, Ford and Shelby parted company, and the car-building legend spent intervening years working to keep his Cobras in production.
He’d return to Ford in 2001 Ford to consult on a new GT40 Concept. Th first 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR hit in 2008 right on Carroll Shelby’s 85th birthday. He spent the last years of his life working with Ford Racing, eventually developing the 662-horsepower 2013 Ford Shelby GT500.
Along the way, he found time to be a father and to travel the world from racetrack to racetrack, auto show to auto show. Wherever he headed, he was treated like an automotive celebrity.
When I was 17, I had a beat-up, rusting Mustang that I treated with love and reverence because it had a very old, but still functioning Shelby engine. I ended up totaling that car racing between my two high school jobs. It’s the kind of thing teenage males do, but I wept for the car and for the fact that I let down the Shelby by name by crushing that engine.
In a way, Shelby led a dream life for most men. He lived, worked and played around fast cars until the day he died. Beat that.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS