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Carroll Shelby dies at 89

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Carroll Shelby dies at 89

Post by TTR Benny on 5/12/2012, 2:40 pm





So death finally overtook cantankerous ol’ Shel. It was a hell of a
contest, begun in the 1950s, when Carroll Shelby, who went on to fame
and fortune as a sports-car builder, had to take nitroglycerin tablets
while driving race cars to keep his iffy heart pumping.

He drove hard almost until the end. At the media introduction of the
Shelby GT500 at the New York Auto Show in 2005, I asked how things were
going at home in Texas. Not good, he said. The then-82-year-old had just
gotten a speeding ticket. “Them sumbitches down in Texas are gettin’ as
bad as the sumbitches in California,” he growled.

Against stiff odds, he made it to 1990 with his weak heart before
getting a donor's heart that finally quit nearly a quarter-century
later. In 1996, his son donated Shelby a kidney. There was a time when
the two threatened to scavenge spare body parts from anyone who had the
misfortune to expire on the premises of the Shelby American Inc. shop in
Las Vegas.

Shelby was best known for his eponymous sports cars, most
particularly the fearsome 427 Cobra, a car that resulted from mating a
big-block 427-cubic-inch Ford V8 engine with the chassis and bodywork of
a diminutive English sports car, the AC Ace. Over the years Shelby’s
car production evolved from the original Cobra line to include the GT350
and GT500, which were modified Ford Mustangs.

For a time in the 1980s he sold hot-rodded, turbocharged Chrysler
economy cars – their “GLH” moniker stood for “Goes Like Hell” -- that
were the precursors of the sport-compact-car movement epitomized by
customized Honda Civics.

Shelby also pioneered the modern notion of intellectual property
protection and licensing, spawning simultaneous industries licensing his
name and designs on the one hand, and sending lawyers after unlicensed
knockoffs on the other.

While this earned him a reputation for seeking credit where it might
not have been due, I found just the opposite while researching a book on
the Dodge Viper sports car. He didn’t want credit for others’
work, only credit -- and payment -- for his own.

Shelby was frequently credited for contributing to the Viper, which
was an overt homage to his original Cobra, down to its serpent-inspired
name. But he said he had done nothing to help design or build the car,
except intercede on the car’s behalf with his longtime collaborator at
Ford and Chrysler, then-Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca.

“I said, ‘I’ll go talk to Iacocca,’ because he had been turning us
down for a long time,” Shelby recalled. “So we bulls---ted him that we
could do it for about $20 million. He OK’d it, but I had to meet with
him and tell him we were on budget – until we got enough money in it he
couldn’t back out.”

But you don’t typically plop down on the scene in an industry like
the car business and achieve success without some credentials, and
Shelby had them. What did Shelby do? What didn’t he do?

He was a pilot during World War II, but spent the war stateside
because they made him an instructor. In the '50s he was a three-time
U.S. champion sports car racer, drove for the Aston Martin team in
Europe and won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race as a
driver. Sports Illustrated twice named him “Driver of the Year.”

During this time he earned his reputation as the racing chicken
rancher, when he sped from tending his animals directly to a race, and
drove still wearing his bib overalls.

He was forced from the cockpit by his heart problems in 1960 and
moved on to car building, producing the first Cobra in 1962 after
cutting his first deal with Iacocca when he was at Ford.

In addition to building and selling sports cars, Shelby’s company
also raced them, developing the Cobra Daytona Coupe derivative of the
open-top Cobra roadster and then the dominant Ford GT40. The latter was
a weapon specifically devised by Ford and wielded by Shelby for the
purpose of defeating Enzo Ferrari’s red sports cars at Le Mans in a
cost-is-no-object campaign fueled by Henry Ford II’s ego and money.
Shelby’s team won in 1966 and ’67.

Shelby’s cars were so popular in the mid-‘60s that in 1966 you could
rent a Shelby GT-350H from Hertz. Bill Cosby was the car-nut Jerry
Seinfeld equivalent of that era, driving a custom-built Cobra that he
worked into his comedy routine as the “200 miles per hour” bit.

The ‘70s weren’t kind to cars or racing, and Shelby collected a fat
check from Ford in exchange for the opportunity for the company to
bastardize Shelby’s legacy with atrocities like the 1978 Mustang II King
Cobra.

Shelby returned to his Texas roots and in a move that pre-dated Paul
Newman’s popular line of celebrity foods, launched his Carroll Shelby’s
Original Texas Brand Chili Preparation mix in 1976.

After receiving a transplanted heart in 1990, Shelby founded the
Carroll Shelby Heart Fund, a charity to help children get heart
transplants. He called the foundation his most important work.

Author A.J. Baime spent significant time with Shelby researching his
book on the Shelby Le Mans races, “Go Like Hell.” “He contributed so
much to so many — his cars, his charity, his victories against all
odds,” Baime remembered. “I feel lucky to have known him. In the cars
that bear his name and in the lore of the greatest motorsport victories
in the history of the USA, he will live on forever.”

On May 10, 2012, 89 years after his birth in 1923, Shelby’s second heart finally stopped.

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3rd 2010 BMW Series - 2nd 2011 TCL Series - 2nd 2011 NZV8 Series
1st 2011 Porsche Series - 2nd= 2011 V8 Supercar Series 2 -
2nd= 2011V8 Endurance Series
3rd 2012 NZV8 Series - 2nd 2012 V8 Supercar Series 1 1st 2012 NZ SuperTourer Series 1
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TTR Benny
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Posts : 2185
Join date : 2010-11-01
Age : 42
Location : Sunbury Victoria Australia

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