Carroll Shelby, father of Cobra sports car, dies at 89

Fri May 11, 2012 6:56pm EDT
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Carroll Shelby, designer of the Shelby Cobra and other sports cars that placed him in the pantheon of auto industry legends, has died at age 89, his company said on Friday.

He died on Thursday at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, according to the company, Carroll Shelby Licensing. The firm did not disclose the cause of death.

A post on his Facebook page last month revealed he had been hospitalized for pneumonia.

Shelby was one of the few prominent designers to work with all three major American car companies, starting with Ford Motor Co in the 1960s. His last collaboration with Ford was on the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500.

"My name is Carroll Shelby and performance is my business," he said in an early Cobra commercial.

Shelby was born in Leesburg, Texas, in 1923. He started racing cars in the 1950s, and in 1959 he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a marathon race held in France.

But he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition that forced him to quit racing. In 1960 he drove one race with nitroglycerin pills under his tongue. He complained that he would have won if not for the pills.

Shelby had a heart transplant in 1990 and a kidney transplant in 1996.   Continued...

Automotive designer and race car driver Carroll Shelby (L) walks to his seat at the Ford press conference at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles November 16, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok