Carroll Shelby: Cobra Creator and American Racing Legend Dead at 89

This shot of Carroll Shelby taken last fall at the SEMA show in Las Vegas captured the essence of the Carroll Shelby I knew for 33 years: Funny, wicked, gossiping about cars and people, always on top of the scene with his finger on the absolute pulse. He was grateful for every minute of every day he lived with his second heart. He called me Lindermood. I talked to Linda Vaughn, the Queen of race queens, earlier today and we had a laugh about Ol' Shel. "He called me Lindermood," I told her. "He called me Linders," she said.

It seems like everything I hung out with him—working on a television pilot, staying with him at his home in California, traveling with him to his ranch in East Texas, doing a pace lap at Indy in the Viper with him at the wheel—resulted in a column. They were always fun to write, and much more noteworthy to me for what I couldn't put in them.

He came to my second wedding when I became Jennings. "You'll always be Lindermood to me," he said. My beloved aunt Red was tending bar and in charge of getting nametags on the guest. "Oh I don't need one of them," Shelby told her. "Look," she answered. "I don't give a shit if you want a question mark on it, you need a nametag if you want a beer." Which is why Carroll Shelby was seen wandering around at my wedding with a question mark on his name tag.

"I suppose she indented your life the way she did mine," He told my husband, Tim, that day. My life? It has been indented forever by his friendship. I will always remember him in the same way he once described me to my husband: He had the personality of a fart on a hot skillet.

May you be in heaven before the devil knows you're dead, Shel.

-Jean Jennings

President and editor-in-chief, Automobile Magazine


I lost my third dear friend in the past year. The first was Booper, Carroll's old girlfriend, and the second was Grumpy [Jenkins]. Once he called me in the middle of the night and woke me up. "Goddamn it, Linder! Wake-up! I need Booper's number!" "It's four-thirty in the morning!" I told him. "Well, it aint that over here," he said.

Carroll and I worked together for over forty years, because he always used Hurst shifters. Even the King of Sweden had a Shelby with a Hurst shifter. I met the king. He had holes in his pants and he wasn't wearing socks. At the state dinner that night, he was in all his finery.

My third dear friend. You know, it comes in threes.

--Linda Vaughn, Miss Hurst Golden Shifter


“Today, we have lost a legend in Ford Motor Company’s history, and my family and I have lost a dear friend. Carroll Shelby is one of the most recognized names in performance car history, and he’s been successful at everything he’s done. Whether helping Ford dominate the 1960s racing scene or building some of the most famous Mustangs, his enthusiasm and passion for great automobiles over six decades has truly inspired everyone who worked with him. He was a great innovator whose legend at Ford never will be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

--Edsel B. Ford, Ford Motor Company board member


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sschewe
My brother Mike was a University of Michigan-Dearborn co-op student at Lincoln Mercury in 1963-4. He was maybe 20 years old and I was 18 when he brought home an "executive evaluation" blue 260 CID HiPo Shelby Cobra. He drove it around Dearborn with me as a terrified passenger---and him as a terrified driver. It was simply astounding---kind of like when Will Smith in Independence Day exclaimed "I gotta get me one of these!" It was absolutely other-worldly. A perfect mating of ultra-light English sports car nimbleness and American V8 muscle.I became a Ford co-op engineering student and eventually a Ford engine designer. My guess is the falling out that Carroll had with Ford in the late 60s and early 70s was partially due to the fact that we at Ford, along with the Big Three, were under the gun to clean up the engines because of the Clean Air Act. Racing was put on hold.The man was one sharp cookie!
Veloman
The first time I saw Shelby was at Silverstone in the late 1950s. He was wearing coveralls, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. I thought, What a clown". Well that changed when I saw him race. He was a jewel and a witty man. Vaya con Dios Carroll...
4501Safari
This man influenced American culture in ways we do not even notice today but having grown up in the time of the Mustang's introduction and the Shelby Cobra was just another affordable (for some, in the day) sports car with a American V8 in the engine bay, my memory is filled with bookmarks having a Carroll Shelby foot note. I remember the first time I saw a mustang with Shelby mag wheels and knew how special that was. I was in Junior College and it was on the town's main street. I heard Cobras howling in the night at a Sebring Race I attended. You could tell them from the Porches. Just last month I read another article about the Old Man. How he had lived well beyond the expected time for a heart transplant and done so many good works in that time. He enjoyed each day and the challenges presented, still, he said. I guess that marvelous young heart he received was finally caught by the aging body it beat in. When you see a Shelby Mustang or hear Cobra maybe give a nod his direction.
eric32507
Everyone who is a certified car nut has his heroes in the industry and I have lost 2 of mine. David E. Davis and now Carroll Shelby. Both made my heart soar with their words, their actions, their many contributions to the industry and hobby, and their all around zest for life. Godspeed Carroll, may you have reached heaven doing 200mph
JCobra
@eric32507 I own a Shelby AC Cobra with a 302 Ford engine,and having a ball with it.  I liked Carrol Shelby and wondered if he was a born again Christian like I am.Eternal life with Christ is so important, and goes beyond what this earth offers.  The alternative is mind boggling and unfortunately is permanent.Jim Evans- AC Cobra owner.

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