Carroll Shelby is dead

11 05 2012

Word is that Carroll Shelby peeled off into the great beyond last night at the age of 89. Sad news, but not unexpected, as he had been in poor health. In any event, 89 years isn’t a bad run for someone involved in motorsports – or someone who lived with a serious heart condition and received both a heart and kidney transplant as Shelby did.

Shelby driving an Aston Martin DBR1 to victory  in the 1959 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Perhaps one of the inspirations for the Cobra?

I met him once, when I was in grade school. I was a finalist in a Road & Track kids’ auto design competition and traveled to the Chicago Auto Show for some kind of recognition event. Shelby was there, an intimidating figure dressed in black. I’m not sure if I said anything, but I got an autographed picture out of the deal. At the time I didn’t know much about his storied career in racing or automotive performance work – I just knew about his most famous creation, the Cobra. And that was enough to impress a young boy geeked about cars.

I’m sure you know the Cobra as well, even if you don’t know anything about its history. There’s a zillion modern copies of it on the road, and I’m sure more will be built by enthusiasts in the future. In that sense, I guess he’s kind of immortal.

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