DALLAS — Carroll Shelby, the legendary car designer and champion auto racer who built the fabled Shelby Cobra sports car and injected testosterone into Ford’s Mustang and Chrysler’s Viper, has died. He was 89.
Shelby’s company, Carroll Shelby International, said Friday that Shelby died the night before at a Dallas hospital. Doctors have not released a cause of death.
“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.”
Shelby was one of the nation’s longest-living heart transplant recipients, having received a heart on June 7, 1990, from a 34-year-old man who died of an aneurysm. Shelby also received a kidney transplant in 1996 from his son, Michael.
The 1992 inductee into the Automobile Hall of Fame had homes in Los Angeles and his native east Texas.
The one-time chicken farmer had more than a half-dozen successful careers during his long life. Among them: champion race car driver, racing team owner, automobile manufacturer, automotive consultant, safari tour operator, raconteur, chili entrepreneur and philanthropist.
“He’s an icon in the medical world and an icon in the automotive world,” his longtime friend, Dick Messer, executive director of Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum, once said of Shelby.
“His legacy is the diversity of his life,” Messer said. “He’s incredibly innovative. His life has always been the reinvention of Carroll Shelby.”
In recent years, Shelby worked as a technical adviser on the Ford GT project and designed the Shelby Series 1 two-seat muscle car, a 21st century clone of his 1965 Cobra.