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. True enthusiast

    Shelby lost-out just like we all did when Kuwait began illegally selling Bushco oil to Iraq's contract customer Ja pan. With cheap oil in unlimited supply along with non-union labor, US automakers faced BK. TheUS gov even had to bail-out the Chrysler Corporation.
    Today ditto, only China and Bushco oil flowing to China via Afghan pipelines. Chevy should just move to China now and get it over with, in other words.

    May 12, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. True enthusiast

    Now you know how Ja pan came to dominate the American car market, and how China will be doing exactly the same.
    Have you test-drove the new Walmex Ramcharger?

    May 12, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. '69 Yenko Camaro

    Steve Carmack (Carmack Drilling Corp., GJ, CO) "borrowed" his moms Dodge Omni, turbocharged it, and took it bracket racing...just for kicks. His mom noticed her car was a bit peppier, Steve told her he just had it tuned-up for mothers day. She believed him!

    May 12, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Had a 67 Camaro at one time...candy-apple red with a black vinyl top...oh, yeah.
    Didn't have it long, though....

    May 12, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @banasy, a candy apple red Camaro is my next car. I still have to drive the current car into the ground.

      May 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. True enthusiast

    Yes, those were the days cruising North Ave. in my '69 Vette...rolling down my window and asking the girls in the car next to me if they were rolling down their window b/c someone farted in their car too...laying rubber all the way to where Wal-Mart is now. lmao

    May 12, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. True enthusiast

    I had three '69 Camaros. An SS 396 that I blew the engine in and replaced it a 327/small rod journals/.2.02 fuelie heads/etc Also a base model straight six I replaced with a warmed over 350. But my fav was my SS 302, Yellow w/Black stripes. (never could afford a '69 Yenko)

    May 12, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    This isn't JIF; it's another impersonator.
    I know what kind of cars JIF prefers.
    Need a little more study, there, sport.

    May 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. @banasy

    You should really think about taking a shower this month.
    You stink.

    May 12, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You need a hug? Go ask you mommy.

      May 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RUFFNUTT ( beer drinking , turkey hunting , trailer trash from belton missouri )

    WHEN I GET MY firebird done,, it's going to be a beast... 428 / 4 spd 3.55 posi...

    May 12, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Maybe you could use it to run over the "CNN Staff Intern".

      May 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CNN Staff Intern

    When you get your firebird done, you should pack all your sh!t and move out of your mom's basement and go away.

    May 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. @banasy

    Go shave your 5 o'clock shadow chewbacca.

    May 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I'm going to call a priest for you.
      Sounds as is you need another "exorcism".

      May 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ripley! Believe it, or dont!

    Sounds like Mary is a busy girl today! Jealousy is such an ugly color little girl, why dont you pick another? But to the rest of you good people, good afternoon! Hows life in the fast lane lol?

    May 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Whom ever you are? That would not be me... maybe your the one stirring the pot? Hmmm

      May 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    A hip young man goes out and buys the best car available: a 2008 Bugatti Veyron 16.4. It is the best and most expensive car in the world, and it sets him back $1.24M. He takes it out for a spin and, while doing so, stops for a red light. An old man on a moped (both looking about 90 years old) pulls up next to him. The old man looks over the sleek, shiny surface of the car and asks, "What kind of car ya' got there, sonny?"

    The young man replies "A 2008 Bugatti Veyron 16.4. It cost $1.24M.

    "That's a lot of money" says the old man, shocked. "Why does it cost so much?

    "Because this car can do up to 320 miles an hour!" states the cool dude proudly.

    The moped driver asks, "Can I take a look inside? "Sure," replies the owner.

    So, the old man pokes his head in the window and looks around. Leaning back on his moped, the old man says "That's a pretty nice car, all right!"

    Just then, the light changes, so the guy decides to show the old man what his car can do. He floors it, and within 30 seconds the speedometer reads 320 MPH.

    Suddenly, he notices a dot in his rear view mirror. It seems to be getting closer! He slows down to see what it could be and suddenly, whhhoossh! Something whips by him, going much faster!

    "What on earth could be going faster than my 16.4?" the young man asks himself.

    Then, ahead of him, he sees a dot coming toward him. Whoooooosh! It goes by again, heading the opposite direction! And, it almost looked like the old man on the moped! "Couldn't be," thinks the guy. "How could a moped outrun a Bugatti?"

    Again, he sees a dot in his rear view mirror! Whooooosh Ka-BbblaMMM! It plows into the back of his car, demolishing the rear end. The young man jumps out, and good grief, it is the old man!!! Of course the moped and the old man are hurting for certain. He runs up to the dying old man and says, "You're hurt bad! Is there anything I can do for you?"

    The old man groans and replies "Yes. Unhook my suspenders from your side-view mirror!"

    May 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Lol...that'll learn him!
      Good afternoon, bc (iah) © and Ripley.

      May 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chrissy

    I just dropped a warm stanley steamer into my Depends diaper. Smells like banasy's breath.

    May 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. johnny

    Check out more at

    May 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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