Carroll Shelby: 1923–2012
Few men have made more of an impact on American motorsports. I never met him, but like a lot of people, I feel like I did.
I don't like this. It's a given that all your heroes eventually pass, but I can't take so much of it happening in the same month. If Chuck Berry, Dan Gurney, and Pete Townshend go in the next two weeks, I'm moving to a cave in Montana and not coming out.
Still, Shelby? To be honest -- and I say this grateful for every day he walked the earth -- I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. America's most famous independent carmaker and one-time chicken farmer famously suffered from health problems as long ago as the 1950s, most famously when he won Le Mans in an Aston Martin with nitroglycerin pills under his tongue. The heart transplant he received 22 years ago served him well; he was one of the longest-lived American recipients of the procedure, and he managed to cram a surprising amount of life and exposure into the additional time it gave him.
To borrow and distort an old line, Carroll Shelby was a hell of a thing. If you know anything about him, anything at all, I don't need to explain why he was important. If you don't, the past few days have produced a lot of obituaries, and I suggest you read at least one of them. (Start with Autoweek and The New York Times. Then move on to this and this.)
As with a lot of great people, you remember Shelby's resume not because of the accomplishments, but because everything just seemed to fit his personality. Unlike a lot of legends, Shelby always seemed approachable -- watching him in movies or on YouTube, you get the feeling that if you went out to lunch with him, he'd tell you stories. Maybe that's true, maybe not. The feeling is all that matters.
Sam Smith is a journalist, a southerner, and a reformed Alfa Romeo mechanic who spends most of his time mooning over ancient racing cars and small-batch bourbon. A multiple International Automotive Media award-winner, he has written for Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, and Esquire, among other publications. He once drove 4,000 miles in a weekend for a hamburger and has only been threatened by the German police twice.
Gonna take the ShelbyZ out of the garage tonite and take her for a tire smokin' spin in Carroll's honor.
Sam Smith forgot to mention in his article Levon Helm from The Band as the fourth. I wish I had a GT500 to take out for some tire burning. For those not fimilar with Donald Duck Dunn a studio musician who changed the face of blues with Booker T and the MG's. Plus played with Clapton, Dylan, Young and Blues Brothers.
All will be missed...
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