Legendary Carroll Shelby Dead At 89
DALLAS — Carroll Shelby, known in the motorsports world as the father of the Shelby Cobra and many other high-end automobiles, died Thursday night in Dallas at the age of 89. He had been hospitalized for pneumonia.
A native of Texas, Shelby was born on Jan. 11, 1923. Before becoming involved in the motorsports world, Shelby enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in World War II as a flight instructor and test pilot.
Soon, however, he became heavily involved in motorsports. He spent time as a driver for Cad-Allard, Aston Martin and Maserati during the 1950s. In 1959 he teamed with Roy Salvadori to win the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans in an Aston Martin. He also entered eight Formula One races from 1958 to 1959.
In 1959 Shelby retired from driving and opened a driving school and the Shelby-American company. It was here where he created what would later become the Shelby Cobra. The car started out as a British racer made by AC Motors, but Shelby improved on it by adding a Ford engine. That decision jump started his career as a designer and engineer.
Over the years Shelby continued to influence cars manufactured by Ford, including the Daytona Coupe, GT40, the Shelby GT500 and many more. Shelby eventually parted with Ford and helped develop cars for both Dodge and Oldsmobile. Shelby returned to Ford in 2003 and helped develop the Ford GT.
He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1992.
The motorsports world was reacting to the death of a legend Friday evening and Saturday morning.
“The automotive industry has lost a pioneer and the motorsports world a legend with the passing of Carroll Shelby,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “He and our founder Wally Parks were very good friends and Carroll frequently attended events at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California. On behalf of everyone at NHRA, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Jeff Belskus issued a statement on behalf of IMS and Hulman & Company.
“We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Carroll Shelby. He made monumental contributions to automotive design and racing engineering that changed the way the world looked at American performance cars. Carroll was an American original,” said Belskus. “There never will be another quite like him. We were honored that he drove the Pace Car twice at the Indianapolis 500, as his spirit of ingenuity and innovation was a perfect match for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ We extend our thoughts, prayers and sympathies to his family and friends.”
Shelby had a long history with Ford Motor Company.
“Today, we have lost a legend in Ford Motor Company’s history, and my family and I have lost a dear friend,” said Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. “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. He was a great innovator whose legend at Ford never will be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
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