By on May 11, 2012

One of the most colorful figures in American automotive history is gone. According to multiple sources, Carroll Shelby, International announced today that Mr. Shelby died yesterday, in Baylor Hospital (Dallas, TX).

Mr. Shelby will forever be remembered for the Cobra and Shelby Mustang cars of the Sixties, but he remained surprisingly relevant well into the Nineties, inspiring efforts like the Shelby Charger, Shelby Lancer, and Dodge Viper. Although his final years were beset by scandal and an increasingly Byzantine series of lawsuits against everyone from “cloners” to his own fan club, the man’s contributions to the art, science, and passion of hauling ass in affordable cars are undeniable.

Rest in peace, Mr. Shelby.

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48 Comments on “Carroll Shelby Dead At Age 89...”

  • avatar

    Pretty sad. A fellow Texan. I’ll drink a Shiner for him.

    • 0 avatar

      Have one for me too. I love Shiner Bock but can’t get it here.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the GLH, which provided many hours of entertainment, and beat up on 944’s with regularity.

      I still don’t know why Chrysler had to pay someone, even Shelby, to say “take the light and stiff body, put in the biggest brakes on the shelf, and the biggest motor that will fit.”

  • avatar

    Wow, a true legend. Say what you want about him, as he was certainly a salesman, he was still a true icon and a larger than life personality.

    I think the sun just got a little dimmer.

    Rest in peace, Shel.

  • avatar

    Amazing career, notable technical skills, constant re-alignment and re-invention.


  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I think at noon tomorrow, in tribute to Mr. Shelby, I’ll rev the V-8 in my Mustang a little louder and for a few seconds longer than usual.

    I’m certain he’s turnin’ 12-second quarters on Streets of Gold long about now….

  • avatar

    He received a heart transplant in 1990 and a kidney transplant in 1996.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, let us all be thankful for the blessing of organ donors, as they made it possible for Carroll to be with us for several more years.

      And consider being an organ donor if you aren’t already.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Talk about a great run. God bless.

  • avatar

    A man suited to his time, who grew old but not boring.

    I think this pic says it all:

    There are loads of great pics showing the cars in action and behind the scenes at:

    just follow all the links to the hundreds of great pics…

    Thanks and RIP Mr. Shelby.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Guess I’ll go for a ride in the Cobra (replica) both as a tribute and an irritant. He would want it that way :).

  • avatar

    Sad news. The first car I truly fell in love with when I was 7 years old (whilst all my friends swooned over Countach’s and Testarossa’s) was the Shelby/AC Cobra. I always felt there was something more honest, something more down to earth about a fast car with a Shelby badge stuck to the side of it. The Shelby badge reminded me that being able to drive very fast in a cool car wasn’t only for those with lots of money.

  • avatar

    A true legend of our times.

    Thanks for all the great vehicles, rest in peace Mr. Shelby.

  • avatar

    One of a kind. I’m glad I had the fortune to shake his hand a few years back.

  • avatar

    RIP, Race in peace.
    An Icon and inspiration for so many of us up until his death.
    Ford may have come up with the Mustang, but Shelby made it famous.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Real class guy, everyone respected him and admired him, but he leaves behind a great legacy!

  • avatar

    Stories about Carroll Shelby and his cars thrilled and inspired me when all I could do with cars was to read about them. I went on to be a car nut, a racing fan, and an enthusiast partly because of him. Go with God, Mr. Shelby !

  • avatar

    In honour of Mr. Shelby, I wished people would stop making cheesy Cobra replicas. Not all replicas, just the cheesy ones (a lot of ones I’ve seen lately are downright pimpish…have some respect).

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you say that. I was in Key West last year and some bar was selling raffle tickets to win a replica. It was a complete joke, big rims, low profile tires – all to make it more glaringly obvious that it had DRUM BRAKES in the rear.

  • avatar

    The Cobra was one of the first cars that got my attention as a kid. I’ve also always loved the Shelby Mustangs. May he race around many a track with nary a blown gasket in his afterlife.

  • avatar
    George B

    I like replica’s suggestion. Shiner Friday it is!

    Newspaper Article

  • avatar

    In the words of Forbes magazine:

    “The race is run, the flag unfurled, the champion now will rest. God speed, Carroll Shelby, we will never forget…”

    I doubt anyone will ever have as much influence in the automotive world that he did, but may we never forget him so that the future can take inspiration from his life, and strive for the same greatness he brought into the world.

  • avatar

    I always loved his products, powered by Ford, be it a Mustang or an AC Cobra. In fact it’s my dream to build myself an AC Shelby Cobra replica.

    You will be missed, Mr. Shelby, RIP.

  • avatar

    The guy who stores my car during winter (along with many others) owns 2 genuine Shelbys : a ’67 GT350 fastback and a ’68 GT350 convertible in which Mr. Shelby himself autographed the driver’s side dash with a silver pen. I guess its value just went up.

    Mr. Shelby sure had a great life, I admire what he accomplished.

  • avatar

    Go to Youtube and search “Bill Cosby 200mph”.

  • avatar

    RIP to a guy that built some legendary cars.

    Does zMAX actually work?

  • avatar

    RIP Carroll Shelby. You helped make not just cars, but you made enthusiasts. I remember looking at those early Shelbys longingly…you will be missed.

  • avatar

    Too many lately. David E. Davis , for example, and now Carrol Shelby. I’m losing all my heros and I feel sad.

  • avatar

    RIP Caroll Shelby… thank you for all the memories and cars…. guys like you make me proud to own a V8 Mustang.

  • avatar

    My ability to mourn dead famous people is burnt out. Steve Jobs was a major bummer. Jobs was a visionary. His life’s work dramatically changed the way we lived our lives. Given his relatively young age and unrelenting work ethic up to the very end, I can’t help but wonder what humanity is missing out on.

    More recently, Levon Helm was another big loss. One of the all time greatest voices in popular music. His remarkable late-life career comeback after a battle with throat cancer was an inspiration; his ravaged vocal chords couldn’t hide the powerful soul in his singing. He kept making music and influencing new generations of musicians until his final weeks.

    Old Shel’ became a caricature of him self in his last decades, plagued by scandals and a monument to shameless self promotion. Admittedly, Shelby cars never did much for me, but I’m just not feeling this one. Still, the man was a motoring legend, the likes of which we’ll never see again.

    RIP, but I’ll have to excuse myself from the remembrance posts that will inevitably dominate all the car blogs this weekend.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. And what’s even more ironic is that Shelby, like Jobs, seemingly failed to comprehend that all the unlicensed clones of their original product would actually help keep them in business over the long haul. Jobs virtually turned the personal computer industry over to the PC OS when he fanatically went after the Apple clone makers (Franklin was the main target) when the computer industry was in its infancy. This made the PC clones much cheaper than the licensed Apples. Everyone switched to the inferior (but a whole lot cheaper) PC system computers. Within a few short years, PCs dominated the industry based entirely on volume while the better (but more expensive) Apple’s market share dwindled to a tiny fraction.

      Shelby wasn’t nearly as successful as Jobs in squashing all the unlicensed clones of his original product. And, just like with the PC computer, all those Shelby clones kept the car in the public eye and made the Cobra (and Shelby) a legend. If Shelby had been as successful as Jobs in wiping out all the clones, he and the Cobra likely would have been long forgotten, not far removed from the old sixties’ Cheetah ‘kit car’.

      Frankly, I was more bummed at the relative dearth of publicity John Z. DeLorean received when he died. I guess that’s what happens when you try to save your car company by getting involved in cocaine dealing.

      • 0 avatar

        rudiger, if you search the TTAC archives you’ll find a two-part post of mine on the Cobra and the Cheetah that says pretty much the same things you said – while the original Cobras created the legend, it was the replicas that made the car desirable to more than just enthusiasts. FWIW, the Cheetah was not a kit – the small number of Cheetahs that Bill Thomas built were sold complete as far as I know.

    • 0 avatar

      Jobs was terrible — completely against software freedom. You should have mourned Dennis Ritchie instead.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a bit like saying Edison was terrible. Both Edison and Jobs tried to protect proprietary technologies and simultaneously tried to get those technologies entrenched as standards.

        Was Henry Ford a crackpot? Sure, but my 87 year old mother goes to doctors at the Henry Ford Hospital. Despite his flaws you can’t deny the man’s accomplishments. Same with Jobs.

      • 0 avatar

        What “standards” did Jobs try to get entrenched? I think he was more interested in form over functionality….

        Dennis Ritchie on the other hand wanted to help developers so they could deploy/compile their software on any platform.

      • 0 avatar

        Jobs, like Shelby, was flawed, but (I say as I type this on my Mac mini), Apple products do have a very strong track record. If they don’t do everything you want them to do, then I sympathize. I have had the same problem consistently with Windows and Linux boxes over the past 20 years.

        Thing is, EVERY great figure has his or her detractors and his or her adherents–and apologists. I don’t agree with nearly everything Jobs did, nor everything Shelby did. But they were businessmen, and they were focused on making the best products they could according to very specific visions.

        (Granted, I think Dennis Ritchie was sorely underappreciated, and will continue to be so, but I don’t think that’s a reason to slag Jobs.)

  • avatar

    And a bit more color is lost from the automotive world. There won’t be another like him.
    He was one of a kind.

  • avatar

    A fascinating character who went from being a failed chicken farmer to becoming the only person to have won the 24 Hours of LeMans as a driver, a team owner and a manufacturer. He must have been interesting to know: on the one hand the battle with the Shelby American Automobile Club(ultimately settled) can be considered perverse and petty, while his support of children with heart problems was generous and long-standing. He put his name on a lot of junk (I’m looking at you, Mr. Omni) but was responsible for some of the most wonderful cars ever. My personal favourite will always be the glorious Cobra Daytona Coupe, even if I will never own one.

  • avatar

    While I think many of the Shelby cars of late are just plain tacky, I suspect that Mr Shelby had nothing to do with these.

    However, the 65 and 66 Shelby Mustang is one of the world’s most iconic vehicles. These can stand along with 60s Ferraris. White with blue stripes are special. The 65 and 66 versions are more than cars. They are art, and they are among the few select Detroit vehicles produced in the last 50 years which are shown alongside high dollar European stuff at California’s finest car shows.

  • avatar

    Sad news. He was one of the classic wild men of motoring, and he found new and interesting ways to make cars go fast and run off with our imaginations.

    While he is sure to continue to influence the automotive world for years to come, let’s hope that his name is not misapplied.

  • avatar

    I grew up with the likes of his turning Mustangs into something respectable on the street and track. While I was never a Ford fan back in the 60’s ’til recently, I respected what he did with various machinery.

    I wonder what he could have done with my W body Impala…just kidding!

    Another legend gone…do any young people care while they sit in their Civics, Scions, Subies, Lancers and such? I hope they put aside thier IPods for a moment and think about what he made possible.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Drove by my neighborhood Ford dealer today in my T-Bird where there are always a few Shelbys parked out front and said a prayer for Mr.Shelby. Lo and behold a few miles away a late model GT500 white/blue stripes cruised by in the opposite lane.

  • avatar

    I was a 9-year-old car freak (I honestly can’t remember when I wasn’t one) when the Cobra came to notice in ’63. I was thrilled that a Ford-powered car could beat the mighty Vette (a Ford fanboy even then), and then it got even better when the Cobra won the World Championship and the GT40 won Le Mans, beating mighty Ferrari. Over almost 50 years, I had lots of vicarious enjoyment from Shelby and his cars.

    Although his only involvement with the new GT500 may have been as inspiration for the Ford engineers, let that car serve as his epitaph.

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