Carroll Shelby’s legend lives on
Like Shelby’s widow, Cleo, told the crowd, “No matter who you were, Carroll made you feel special.”
About 450 people felt a little special as they turned out Saturday, Sept. 8, to pay tribute to Shelby, who died in May at age 89 — and, of course, to swap car stories and rev a few engines.
Auto enthusiasts and Shelby fans crowded into the Shelby American Collection museum in Gunbarrel to peruse the museum’s unmatched collection of Cobras, GT40s, original Shelby Mustangs and race memorabilia. They also were treated to a show of about 70 vintage cars brought in by private owners for the celebration. Among them were some British-built AC Bristols, the inspiration for Shelby’s Cobras.
Special guests at the museum’s 16th annual fundraising party included champion drivers Bob Bondurant, Jack Sears, Allen Grant, Peter Brock and other famous Shelby American Team members who contributed to Shelby’s storied history.
Brock, who may be best known for designing the Daytona Coupe, said Shelby had a knack for assembling the right team of people for a job and hiring drivers who knew no fear.
Bondurant recalled practicing for a hill climb in his Volkswagen bug before winning the race in a 289 Cobra.
“Eight miles up, and no guardrails,” he said. “I was always one for details. I wanted to learn the course, but I did have to compensate in my mind the difference in handling a VW and a Cobra.”
Shelby’s legacy is living on at the museum.
Shelby was one of America’s great success stories: Championship-winning racecar driver, wartime pilot, philanthropist, entrepreneur, car manufacturer and racing team owner.
He founded Carroll Shelby International, a publicly held corporation.
Its licensing arm has agreements with Mattel, Sony, Ford Motor Co. and Electronic Arts. Its car company, Shelby American, has a thriving parts business as well as a line of muscle cars including the Shelby GT500 Super Snake, Shelby GT350 and Shelby GTS.
Shelby considered his greatest achievement to be the establishment of the Carroll Shelby Foundation in 1992 while he was waiting for a heart transplant. The charity provides medical assistance for those in need, including children, educational opportunities for young people.
Shelby remained active in the management of each of his companies and the foundation until his death, even though he endured both heart and kidney transplants in the last two decades of his life.
Steve Volk, a collector of Cobras, and Cobra restorers Bill and Dave Murray, founded the museum in 1996 with support from Shelby. The museum survives through the annual fundraiser.
“Carroll told me he would be at every fundraiser as long as he was vertical,” Volk said.
Vertical or not, it was apparent that Shelby was there in spirit on Saturday.