More Carroll Shelby!
When we left Carroll, he was roaring around every racetrack in the U.S., and in Europe! He was the Dale Earnhardt Sr. of his day. He was the girls’ cutie pie, and the boys’ hero (after Patton). Here is the rest of his life.
In 1959, he retired from roaring around Le Mans Raceway at 150 mph, to start his racing school: ‘The Carroll Shelby School of High-Performance Driving.’ The reason that he chose to be stuck behind a desk all day was heart disease had become a large threat within his family. And the track was (and still is) no place for a race car driver’s heart to blow.
In 1962, Carroll decided that he’d better have a signature car. So, he started thinking. He bought an AC 260 roadster, and put a Ford 260 V8 that he had lying around in. He still didn’t have a name. One night, he had a dream where the car came to him and told him its name was Cobra. He woke up and jotted the name down on a note pad on his nightstand. In the morning, he told his friend that the car needed to be called Cobra. And so it was. That night, he went cruising around Dallas in the first Shelby Cobra prototype. He was looking for Vettes (he didn’t find any). But, the Cobra went into production two months later.
By 1965, about 80 Cobra’s had been produced, with Ford V8’s ranging in size from 260 cu. inches to the mighty 427 V8. To be homogolated (big word! It means to register a specific automobile for international racing. And it’s not even definition day yet!) for Le Mans, an automaker had to sell at least 100 vehicles. What Carroll did was build about 80 cars, and skip about 20 Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN’s). The Cobra won at Le Mans many times, leaving Corvettes and Ferraris in the dust (or biting the dust).
By 1991, Carroll was on an urgent heart transplant list. He realized that there were kids who had heart conditions as bad, or worse than his. So, he started the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation. It helps children who need a heart, to find a heart. It has helped over 10,000 children, since it was started in 1991.
When Lee Iacocca was at Ford, he called up Carroll, and asked him to make a higher-performance Mustang. Carroll answered the phone and told Lee “Lee, I don’t think that anybody can make a racehorse out of a mule.” But, Carroll decided to go with Lee’s idea, and tuned a Mustang. Thus, the first Shelby GT350 was built.
In the 25 years since the first Cobra, Carroll made a deal with Ford to have Mustangs shipped to his plant in Las Vegas. He would then tweak them to make them into Shelby GT350’s and Shelby GT500’s. In fact, he made over 50,000 GT350’s and GT500’s since 1965. One cool fact! After a 35-year hiatus, the Shelby GT350 is making a comeback (and a very strong one!)
In addition to pumping out thousands of tuned cars (Ford Mustangs and other cars) from his Las Vegas factory, he came out with a chili kit. He has been cooking chili since his racing days. He also sponsors a chili cook-off in Texas.
Once asked in an interview about his heart in early 2009, the 86 year old Texan replied “I’ve had this [heart] for almost 19 years now, and it’s been serving me better than the previous heart. D’ya think that I’m about to die on you? *#@%, no!”