Iconic racer and car designer Carroll Shelby passed away May 10, 2012, in a Dallas hospital at the age of 89.
Shelby, who was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1986, is revered by many as a relentless entrepreneur. His creative efforts and partnerships resulted in a legacy of unmatched high-performance, leading many to consider him the man behind the term "American muscle."
"Carroll Shelby was among the greatest game-changers in the performance automotive industry. He was one of our true living legends and will always be a tremendous inspiration to enthusiasts, racers, designers and those who revel in making horsepower,” said SEMA President & CEO Chris Kersting. “He shared with so many his passion for performance, customization and style. And he set himself apart not only with international racing breakthroughs, but by bridging the gap between hot rodders and automakers, turning stock vehicles into supercars of global renown."
From his beginnings as a part-time racer in the early '50s, Shelby built his reputation as a man of horsepower with several road-racing wins driving Ferraris. Sports Illustrated named Shelby "Driver of the Year" in 1956 and 1957. In 1959, Shelby won the 24 Hours of LeMans co-driving an Aston Martin DBR1/300.
With a storied reputation as a dominant driver, Shelby competed in his last race in 1961. Shelby used his knowledge earned as a driver to develop ways to add horsepower and create legendary sports cars. The switch from driver to builder kickstarted a legacy of automotive creations that have helped further define the term "performance." Some of Shelby's early creations include the '62 AC Cobra, the GT-40 Mark II and Shelby Mustang GT.
Shelby's contributions to, and impact on, racing and the specialty-equipment industry are unmatched, and many enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and racers will forever be inspired by his accomplishments.
was a personal friend to me, to my late mother and brother, as well as good
friend of Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis. In fact, he meant so much to
me, I named my only daughter Shelby after him. He was larger than life,
responsible for some of the most legendary cars including the Cobra, the GT40,
the Shelby Mustang and Viper. His cars command some of the highest prices on
our auction block, and for good reason, because when you buy a Shelby you know
you're going to own a piece of automotive history. His passing is a true loss
for all of us, both at Barrett-Jackson and within the industry as a whole. He
was an icon I was proud to call a friend.
—Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson
With both Shelby (left) and Don Prudhomme (right) at the top of the respective games in the mid-’60s, a partnership seemed pre-destined. At the ’68 Winternationals the deal was announced: Prudhomme’s Ford Cammer-powered rail made its debut as “Shelby’s Super Snake.”
Three legendary racing and performance personalities—"Speedy" Bill Smith, Carroll Shelby and Dave McClelland—share stories during the SEMA Hall of Fame luncheon held annually at the SEMA Show. The lucky man in the back soaking it all in is McClelland’s grandson, Matthew Knight.
For the 35 years
that I have been a friend of Carroll Shelby, he never stopped doing neat things. His personality
was similar to his vehicle creations—both grab your attention and leave lasting
impressions. At last year's Monterey Motorsports Reunion, my son Tim was taking
his some of his first laps in a Cobra, and waiting in the pits was Carroll, who
had shown up unannounced. He gave Tim a hug and said, ‘Good job.' It meant a
lot to Tim. That's what made Shelby special; he was not looking for accolades.
He was genuine, and he gave people of my age a lifetime of passion.
—Lynn Park, Cobra enthusiast and longtime friend of Carroll Shelby
Shelby was a dear friend of our family. Galpin Ford was one the first Shelby
dealers in the country, and it was through this initial business relationship
that we forged a family friendship lasting nearly 50 years. He meant so much to
me as mentor and friend—I really loved the man. There was no one else like him.
It was an honor to know him. My father [Bert Boeckmann] was with me when we got
the news and we are both very saddened. Dad calls him a free spirit who was wonderful
to work with and a lot of fun. We will all miss him tremendously.
—Beau Boeckmann on behalf of the Boeckmann family and Galpin Motors
The story goes back
to late '61, early '62. Shelby was definitely a very early marketeer and he
always sought out opportunities. Carroll had heard that AC was making a little
four-cylinder, aluminum-body sports car and had lost their powerplant
agreement, and Ford was developing a lightweight, cast-iron V8 for their
pickup trucks. So he got on a call and talked to AC and told them a big story,
that Ford had given him money and some of these engines. Then he got on the
phone with Ford and told them a story that AC had given him some chassis. So
basically with neither, he flew to England and secured a deal for AC to make a
prototype roadster that had a slightly different configuration than their Ace.
It had to be modified to fit the V8. Once it landed in L.A., Shelby didn't have a
facility at all, and Dean Moon, if I'm not mistaken, housed some of Shelby's
Goodyear tires [Carroll Shelby Enterprises was a distributor for Goodyear]. And
it was in a small back garage, over a 24-hour period that they prepared the car
for its first drive around Santa Fe Springs.
—Michael Holmes, president of Racing Division Inc. and author of Speed Merchants of Venice
Funeral plans for Shelby are not immediately available. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his name to the Carroll Shelby Foundation.