Monday, April 22, 2013

“A man named Carroll”

A person can get teased about his or her name for many reasons, but a boy with a girl’s name would be hard to overcome.  This is the story of a man born in Texas in 1923 that will forever be famous and not because of his first name; he would change the automotive world as we know it.  He was one of the most influential figures in car racing during the 1950’s and may have gone down in the books as the most successful race car driver of all time had it not been for a heart condition that forced him to hang up his helmet in 1960.  He lived his life in the fast lane, whether he was setting a new land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats or winning at the world famous LeMans race course, there was something special about this man.  Instead of hanging his head in defeat due to his racing career being sidelined, it only gave him more time to focus on his new thoughts of building race cars and race teams.  He also decided to begin designing and building production cars and his first major project became known as the “Cobra” and it set the world afire with its small-lightweight frame and big engines.

His race team would begin to win everything in sight including the FIA World Championship of GT cars in 1965.  As he built on that success, his Ford backed GT40 race team would beat all the European factory race teams and win LeMans in 1966 and 67.  The relationship with Ford was only beginning, because just a short time later a friend named Lee Iacocca called him up and asked if he would use his racing skills and knowledge to help him with a new car he was promoting called “Mustang”. 
The Mustang GT350’s are some of the most expensive muscle cars being sold today.  The partnership with the Ford Mustang has spanned some 48 years and still carries his name today.  He was also involved in the development and design of the Dodge Viper and Charger of the 90’s.  Then again he would rekindle his involvement with Ford in 2003 with the introduction of the Ford GT.  Bringing it full circle, his name would appear again on the Mustang in 2007 as the GT-500 was reborn. 

If I were to compile a dictionary, next to the word “Speed” I would put a footnote that said “see Carroll Shelby”!  Yes, this “man named Carroll” is none other than Carroll Shelby, the man whose name has adorned so many of the cars we love;  Shelby Cobra, Shelby Mustang GT350, Shelby Mustang GT500, Dodge Shelby Charger, and even the new 2013 Shelby GT500 Mustang that is the first production Mustang to have a top speed of 200 mph! 
(Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

In Memory of Carroll Shelby (Jan. 11, 1923 – May 10, 2012)