Carroll Shelby: Patron saint of muscle cars
Carroll Shelby was a visionary who put the American-made muscle car on a global platform, says CNN's Greg Morrison.
May 11th, 2012
09:14 PM ET

Carroll Shelby: Patron saint of muscle cars

Where have all the heroes gone? That question popped into my mind Friday when I learned that Carroll Shelby had died at age 89.

To automotive fanatics like myself, Shelby was the hero of performance cars, starting in the mid-1960s when the Mustang, Camaro and Barracuda dominated our imaginations. Shelby took the Ford Mustang to a level never even considered with the Cobra and Cobra GT models.

While most of his fame came from his modifications of Mustangs, Shelby also shared some of his genius with Chrysler for a few years. While there he took an Omni and converted it from a commuter car to a fire-breathing monster that nearly went airborne when pushed to the limit.

Shelby was more than a gearhead and racer. He was a visionary who put an American-designed, American-built muscle car on a global platform. His appeal was more than mere mechanics and was clearly demonstrated a few years ago when Ford unveiled the latest version of the Mustang on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto show.

Rather than a traditional reveal, the event took place in an airplane hangar at the Santa Monica airport. Instead of crowd of jaded automotive reporters, the stands were filled with Mustang enthusiasts who had been gathering all day for the event. The parking lot was filled with their cars, fully restored, polished to perfection and displayed like new children at a family gathering.

As the new cars thundered onto the floor, the faithful cheered until their lungs hurt. But the biggest cheer was reserved for Shelby, who was greeted as a near-deity when he rode in seat in the latest Mustang. Afterwards he patiently signed autographs, answered questions in a soft Texas drawl and walked among the rows of Mustangs parked in the lot.

Shelby was also a fixture at the Barrett Jackson auction of Classic Cars in Arizona. His presence on the stage there was considered the automotive equivalent of a papal audience. His touch on a vehicle was like rubbing against a saint.

Where have all the heroes gone? Mine is somewhere smiling and trying to figure out how to make an angel’s chariot do zero to 60 in less than 4.8 seconds.

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Filed under: Auto Industry • Chrysler • General Motors • Obituary • Uncategorized
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. @Greg Morrison

    Nicely done. Good read.

    May 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Shelby, you da man dude. Rat Fink racer.

    Do you remember the rat fink days banasy. My favorite movie gang of those days was the Rat Finks, with Eric von Zipper as their leader. Do you know the movie ?

    May 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat) ©

      Damn, CNN deleted banasys post and left me talking to myself again.

      May 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Jacker alert.
    Not me.

    May 11, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. social good

    thoughts with his family.

    May 11, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    @ banasy©

    Wow that jacker is really getting good. I hope this is really you I'm talking to this time.
    The movie was Muscle Beach Party. It was awesome back in the day. I saw it again just recently. Not so much now.
    I had a '68 charger for a while. I had fun, fun, fun, til my daddy took my charger away.

    May 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    It's me, Rawr!
    I do remember the movie's been years.
    And what do you think happened to my Super Bee?
    Yep. Same thing.
    It was yellow...I loved that car....

    May 11, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Did it have that big black stripe and 10 ft high spoiler on the back ? That was a baaaaad machine.

    May 11, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I see they deleted my answer to you, which is strange, as my Super Bee was a >muscle car< and all.
      Yes, it had all that, and the awesone bee decal, naturally.
      Reading the article again I saw that Shelby put one of his motors in a Dodge Omni...•that• had to have been a fast little bugger...

      May 12, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    On my charger, it was my own fault. I couldn't keep my foot out of the carburator or tires on the rear.

    May 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    It sure did! And, of course, the cool be decal.
    I had no business driving that car; my right foot was made of lead.
    My dad sold it to a guy down the block...he laughed hysterically every time he saw me.
    Ah well, I was young...

    Well, dear man, I'm off to bed.
    The baby is wearing this Na Na out!
    Talk atcha tomorrow.
    Maybe I'll tell you about my love affair with Monte Carlos over the years.
    Ta ta for now!

    May 12, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Superman

    Now carrol shelby has the fastest of the fast mustangs he was the best and deserves nothing but beyond the best

    May 12, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. lisawatson

    One of simple secret about auto insurance is your location can affect premium pretty easily. If you have two address try both of them and see if your premium goes up and down. If you need tips on auto insurance search "Clearance Auto" it is the best place

    May 12, 2012 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. RUFFNUTT ( beer drinking , turkey hunting , trailer trash from belton missouri )

    sniff sniff... i miss my monte ss...

    May 12, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      *Monte SS* , Now that's a FAT ride! 😉 lol
      That was Poor mans 'looking' version of the bat-mobile ...Morning RUFFIE

      May 12, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I had made a comment last night that they was about my long love affair with Monte Carlos starting with my 69 MC and finally ending in the late 80's...has a 75 Super Sport...oh, them were the days!

      May 12, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. saywhat

    It was my favorite car manufacter

    May 12, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. RUFFNUTT ( beer drinking , turkey hunting , trailer trash from belton missouri )

    hola amigos...yep no more monte... a victim of teenage abuse, and negelct

    May 12, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. True enthusiast

    Shelby also had his latest sportscar creation built at a corporate prison in Nevada, long before we started using our Homeland Security Prisons as slave-labor FEMA camps.

    May 12, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
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