Carroll Shelby has passed, and we are poorer for it. Modern American muscle has suffered since this nation’s first gasoline crisis of the early 1970’s. Throughout the ages, it struggled against government regulations and rising fuel prices.
Today’s muscle is high tech – melding the greenest energies and highest fuel economy numbers with some of the greatest horse power available, street legal, to the public.
Carroll Shelby, Head of Carroll Shelby International, knew this. He built his final run of Ford Mustang GT’s with performance and the environment in mind.
Carroll passed away last weekend at the age of 89, a good run in any race, and we tip our caps to him on this gloomy Spring day of 2012.
Carroll Hall Shelby was born in Leesburg, TX on January 11th, 1923. After serving in the Air Force during WWII, Carroll went on to procure several careers, including oil field worker and chicken farming. When he was introduced to small MG roadsters by a friend, the gears in his head immediately started turning. Carroll went on to drive some of the most intense US-based races. Shelby also became the second American to conquer a 24-Hours of Le Mans event in 1959.
A heart ailment grounded Shelby in the early 1960’s, turning his attention to the design of high performance V8 engines. Some believe that everything happens for a reason, and if Carroll had not suffered from health issues, the world may never have had a Shelby Cobra.
The Shelby Cobra, a light-weight European-style roadster with V8 power under its hood, gave way to Shelby American Inc. and several famous enhanced vehicles over five decades. The most notable is probably Shelby’s Mustang GT500 KR (King of the Road).
In 1964, Ford CEO Lee Iacocca reached out to Carroll, asking his help in constructing a special edition of the little two door known as Mustang. Since then, countless Mustang variants have been transformed into pure muscle cars, like the Mustang GT350 and aforementioned GT500 KR.
Earlier this year, Shelby International released a 2012 Shelby Mustang 1000 at the New York Auto Show. This version produces an output ranging from 950 to 1100 horsepower, making it the fastest street legal vehicle available to the public. The output is thanks to a choice of either Kenne-Bell 3.6 liter or a Whipple 4.0 liter supercharged engines.
During his later years, Carroll started an automobile club and charity – The Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation. He never lost sight of his true passion, and continued overseeing the production of enhanced vehicles for Ford and Chrysler throughout his lifetime. A somber day for the auto industry, as one of its last true pioneers hits the fast lane for a final run.
– Eric M. Hoover