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May-16-2012 21:04printcommentsVideo

Remembering Auto Legend Carrol Shelby

R.I.P. Carroll Hall Shelby: 1923-2012

The legendary Carroll Shelby
The legendary Carroll Shelby

(LOS ANGELES) - The automotive world lost a huge name this week with the passage of auto legend Carol Hall Shelby, whose name will permanently be associated with high performance and genuine old-school innovation.

Carroll Shelby International, Inc., announced that Carroll Hall Shelby, a man whose vision for performance transformed the automobile industry, has died at age 89. Mr. Shelby passed away this week at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Born on Jan. 11, 1923, Carroll Shelby was one of America’s greatest success stories. Championship-winning racecar driver, “flying sergeant” wartime pilot, philanthropist, entrepreneur, car manufacturer and racing team owner, he embodied the ingenuity, tenacity and grit to overcome any obstacle. He is perhaps the only person to have worked at a visible level with all three major American automobile manufacturers.

Carroll Shelby founded Carroll Shelby International, a publicly held corporation involved in many industries. His licensing arm has agreements with industry giants, such as Mattel, Sony, Ford Motor Company and Electronic Arts.

His car company, Shelby American, has a thriving parts business as well as a line of muscle cars including the Shelby GT500 Super Snake, Shelby GT350 and Shelby GTS. The Las Vegas-based company also manufactures a limited number of the 1960s Shelby 289 “street,” 289 FIA, 427 S/C and Daytona Coupe Cobras.

Unforgettable Machines

Tim and Bonnie King's Hot Wheels in Las Vegas explores the Shelby legacy

The Cobra is the hallmark of this man's legacy. For generations it held the world record as the fastest car to accelerate to 100 m.p.h. and back to zero. It is fascinating to discover that the basis of the Cobra is the British A.C. Bristol sports car. In the spirit of the utterly outrageous Sunbeam Tiger, it combined a lightweight car with excellent handling capabilities; removing a heavy cast iron engine, and replacing it with a small-block Ford V8. In both cases, the results bring us back to that key word in this story, legendary.

I had the great fortune of learning the story of the Shelby Cobra in Las Vegas, at the Carol Shelby factory located near the city's speedway. This is the home of some of the most fascinating and interesting Cobras, and it is where they manufactured the later generation Shelby Series One which is absolutely the fastest car I have ever ridden in.

Gary Patterson, who was the spokesperson for Shelby American, explained in the TV show, Hot Wheels in Las Vegas, produced by Bonnie King and I (see video below), how Carol Shelby went to Chevrolet first when he wanted to create the Cobra, and they turned it down. Ford didn't turn him down. Whereas the Chevy Corvette was hot stuff, Shelby made the Cobra, the company re-outfitted Mustangs as 'Shelby Mustangs', and it all created a lot of appeal and these cars have probably starred in more teenager's dreams than anything else in history.

Lifetime Achievements

Shelby considered his greatest achievement to be the establishment of the Carroll Shelby Foundation(tm). Created in 1992 while Shelby was waiting for a heart transplant, the charity is dedicated to providing medical assistance for those in need, including children, educational opportunities for young people through automotive and other training programs and benefitting the Carroll Shelby Automotive Foundation.

Shelby remained active in the management of each of his companies and the Foundation until his death, even though he endured both heart and kidney transplants in the last two decades of his life. “We are all deeply saddened, and feel a tremendous sense of loss for Carroll’s family, ourselves and the entire automotive industry,” said Joe Conway, president of Carroll Shelby International, Inc. and board member.

“There has been no one like Carroll Shelby and never will be. However, we promised Carroll we would carry on, and he put the team, the products and the vision in place to do just that.”

Shelby is survived by his three children Patrick, Michael and Sharon, his sister Anne Shelby Ellison of Fort Worth and his wife Cleo. Funeral plans are not currently available. Donations to the Carroll Shelby Foundation are encouraged in lieu of flowers. Information about the Carroll Shelby Foundation is available at

About Shelby American, Inc.

Founded by legend Carroll Shelby, Shelby American manufactures and markets performance vehicles and related products. Now a subsidiary of Carroll Shelby International, Inc., the company manufactures authentic continuation Cobras, including the 427 S/C, 289 FIA and 289 street car component vehicles. The company offers the GT350, GT500 Super Snake and GTS post-title packages for the current generation Ford Mustang. For more information, visit

About The Carroll Shelby Foundation

The Carroll Shelby Foundation was created by legendary racer and automotive manufacturer Carroll Shelby. Headquartered in Gardena, Calif., the Foundation is dedicated to providing medical assistance for those in need, including children, educational opportunities for young people through automotive and other training programs and benefitting the Shelby Automotive Foundation. For more information visit

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