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Carroll Hall Shelby


Carroll Hall Shelby

Carroll Shelby with the GT500 Mustang

Photo © Ford Motor Company


January 11, 1923 - Leesburg, Texas


May 10, 2012 - Dallas, Texas

Quote From Carroll Shelby:

"I've worked with the SVT guys for several years now, and I know they have the guts, the talent, and the passion to deliver the best performance Mustangs ever."

Growing Up:

Carroll Hall Shelby was born in a small town of about 200 in eastern Texas. His mother was Eloise and his father was Warren Shelby. He grew up in a religious household with his younger sister Anne. According to Wallace A. Wyss' book "Shelby: The Man, The Cars, The Legend", Shelby received a speeding ticket the very first time his father loaned him the family car. He was ticketed for going 85 mph.

During his younger years he worked as a part-time golf caddy. In high school he developed an interest in flying, and enlisted in the Army-Air Force in 1941.

Life in the Military:

While in the Army-Air Force Shelby was instructed to fly an airplane. One of his instructors was the famed pilot Chuck Yeager. Shelby later taught new pilots how to fly for the military. He also worked as a test pilot.

After the war Shelby worked in the oil business as a grunt worker capping wells. He eventually left the job and started a dump truck business. Later he moved on to raising chickens. When all of his chickens died from Limberneck disease, times were tough. That's when a trip to a local race in his overalls changed his life forever. Shelby won the race has been hooked on racing ever since.

Race Car Driver:

Shelby’s racing career grew out of a trip to a drag race in 1952. Later that year Shelby got behind the wheel of a MG TC and raced in his first road race. He was determined to win, and won the race.

In November of 1954, while racing in the Carrera Pan Americana Mexico, Shelby wrecked, flipping his car four times. It was his first serious accident. In 1955, Shelby raced with his arm in a cast due to follow-up surgeries as a result of the accident. Later that year, at Torrey Pines, Shelby beat Phil Hill while driving a 4.1L Mexico Ferrari. In 1956 he won the Mount Washington Hillclimb Auto Race in a Ferrari.

Racing Highlights and the Last Race:

In 1956 and 1957 Shelby was named "Driver of the Year" by Sports Illustrated magazine. He entered Formula One Racing in 1958, and in 1959 went on to win the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans with co-driver Ray Salvadori.

Shelby’s last racing season was in 1960. His last race would be on October 23 of 1960 at the Pacific Grand Prix for Sports cars at Laguna Seca. He finished 2nd for the day while behind the wheel of a Tipo 61 Birdcage Maserati. He finished runner up to Stirling Moss who took 1st place. He was in such pain after the race that he decided to retire.

Automotive Designer:

Carroll Shelby's first venture after racing was the Shelby School of High Performance Driving which he started in 1961. Shelby would go on to create cars such as the 427 Shelby Cobra, GT40, Mustang GT350, Shelby GT350H rent-a-car racer, and the Shelby GT500, just to name a few. His initial association with the Mustang began in 1964 and ended in 1969. He later collaborated with Dodge and Oldsmobile. The Dodge Viper is a Shelby creation. In 1991 Shelby was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The following year, on October 1st of 1992, Shelby was elected into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Trivia Fact About Carroll Shelby:

Shelby was a technical advisor on the 1966 movie Grand Prix starring James Garner and Eva Marie Saint.

Other Ventures:

Carroll Shelby was a fan of chili. In fact, he was one of the original founders of the World's first Championship Chili Cook off held in Terlingua, Texas back in 1967. At the 1972 cook off, Shelby announced his "Original Texas Brand Chili Mix" was on the market. In 1986 he sold the company to Kraft.

In 1991 Shelby founded the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation which helps to fund heart and other organ transplants for children. The group later went on to become the Carroll Shelby Foundation.

Shelby Mustangs Return in 2005:

Carroll Shelby’s association with performance Mustangs was renewed in 2005 with the creation of the Shelby GT500 Mustang. The car was revealed at the New York International Auto Show, and hit the streets in the summer of 2006. Shelby provided his feedback and input while the car was designed by Ford and SVT (Special Vehicle Team). In 2006, Shelby revived the Hertz rent-a-racer with the new 2006 Shelby GT-H Mustang. In 2007 the Shelby GT Mustang was introduced. It’s similar to the GT-H car, with the exception of suspension upgrades and the choice of manual or automatic transmission. In 2008 Shelby’s King of the Road Mustang returned with the introduction of the new Shelby GT500KR Mustang. For the 2011 model year, Shelby announced the return of the classic GT350 Mustang.

Shelby passed away on May 10, 2012 at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. The cause of death was not disclosed.

“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.”

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