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Peter Anderson | May 14, 2012

Racing legend and engineer Carroll Shelby has died in a Dallas hospital, aged 89.

Shelby got his start in the fast car business at the conclusion of World War II. Having served in the US Army Air Corps as a test pilot and instructor, he took his bravery to the track, racing for Aston Martin and Maserati.

He won Le Mans in an Aston, competed in Formula 1 for Aston and Maserati and set speed records in various machinery.

For two years running, 1956 and 1957, he was Sports Illustrated magazine's Racing Driver of the Year.

In 1959 however, a leaky heart valve - a condition that meant long periods of inaction during his childhood - forced Shelby to quit competitive driving.

He never put his talents to rest however, putting his energies into starting a high performance driving school.

In 1962 Shelby turned his hand to importing through his company Shelby American, starting with the AC Ace roadster.

carroll shelby 02d

Shelby intended to race the Cobra against the Chevrolet Corvette in US sports car racing, so the original Bristol motor was replaced with a Ford V8.

(The Cobra is perhaps unfairly remembered for causing the introduction of a 70mph speed limit in Britain, after one was caught doing 196mph during a 'test run.')

Over the past fifty years, the Shelby and Cobra names have graced Ford Mustangs and various Dodges.

Despite a 30 year hiatus, the Shelby name has had an almost symbiotic relationship with Ford, lending a hand with the Daytona Coupe, the GT40 and the reborn GT, and again with Mustang performance variants and parts.

After the Shelby/Ford racing relationship ended in 1970, the Shelby company went on to work with Oldsmobile and then with Dodge through the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Carroll Shelby was instrumental in the original Dodge Viper, beginning work with Dodge at the request of then-chairman Lee Iacocca.

On the Viper project, Shelby's title was 'Performance Consultant', working alongside Bob Lutz, Tom Gale and Engineering VP Francois Castaing.

Interestingly, Shelby also lent his name to a deodorant, a chilli 'fixings' kit, a limited edition speedboat and even alloy wheels for Saab.

The Shelby name will continue to be held in high esteem as the business he built continues to supply the automotive world with dramatic muscle cars and performance parts.

Most enduring, however, will be the memory of the spectacular AC Cobra and Shelby Mustangs.

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