Carroll Hall Shelby, a man whose vision for performance transformed the automobile industry, has died at age 89. Shelby passed away May 10 at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Born on Jan. 11, 1923, 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.
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 Co. 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.
Shelby considered his greatest achievement to be the establishment of the Carroll Shelby Foundation. 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.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. President and CEO Jeff Belskus also commented on the passing of Carroll Shelby.
"We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Carroll Shelby. He made monumental contributions to automotive design and racing engineering that changed the way the world looked at American performance cars. Carroll was an American original. There never will be another quite like him. We were honored that he drove the Pace Car twice at the Indianapolis 500, as his spirit of ingenuity and innovation was a perfect match for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ We extend our thoughts, prayers and sympathies to his family and friends."
Funeral plans are not available. Donations to the Carroll Shelby Foundation are encouraged in lieu of flowers. Information about the Carroll Shelby Foundation is available at www.carrollshelbyfoundation.org.