The famous driver, racing-team boss and car designer from Texas who created the Shelby Cobra sports car died Thursday night at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. Before Shelby’s passing, he had survived a heart transplant in 1990, a kidney transplant in 1996, and seven marriages. The cause of death was not disclosed but Shelby had been in failing health for some time. He was 89.
“My name is Carroll Shelby and performance is my business,” Shelby said in an early commercial for the Cobra.
Carroll H. Shelby made his mark as a racing driver in the 1950s and later as a developer and manufacturer of some of the most memorable cars on the road and track in the 1960s. He is best known as father of the Cobra, which combined small, light British sports cars with Ford V8 engines of ever increasing size. Today, Cobras are among the most sought-after cars by collectors.
He founded Carroll Shelby International, a publicly held company involved in a number of automotive and related pursuits. His licensing arm has agreements with companies including Mattel, Sony, Ford and Electronic Arts. His car unit, Shelby American, produces performance parts and a line of muscle cars including the Shelby GT500 Super Snake, Shelby GT350 and Shelby GTS.
Carroll Shelby is remembered for his vision, his charitable conscience, and most important his love of having a good time. To thousands of “chiliheads” he will be remembered as the father of The International Chili Society and the pioneer who organized the first World’s Championship Chili Cookoff.
What began as a publicity stunt in 1967 to sell what Carroll referred to as “ten thousand acres of rocks” in south Texas, evolved into one of the biggest parties in Texas. The idea of holding a chili cookoff on the porch of an old saloon became the world’s biggest chili-cooking competition. Everyone had so much fun at the first chili cookoff, it was decided to have another!
Carroll’s desire to raise money with chili cookoffs was prompted when he suffered heart problems and became aware of so many people in need of funds for transplants. 2012 marks the 47th celebration of Carroll’s idea to make the popular event and the nearly 200 pre-qualifying annual cookoffs, a benefit for charity.
While waiting for his heart transplant in 1990, Shelby created the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation. The Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation is dedicated towards paying medical bills of children who have heart disease and can’t afford treatment. A portion of proceeds from the sale of his Cobras goes into that fund in addition to the charitable money from the chili cooking competitions.
Friday’s announcement from Carroll Shelby International, Inc.:
“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.”
Image credit: Shelby American