Legendary racer, car-builder Carroll Shelby dies in Dallas at 89

May 11, 2012 / 2:11PM

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Carroll Shelby, a 1940 graduate of Woodrow Wilson HS, acted as the Grand Marshal in the parade celebrating the school's 80th anniversary on 4/25/2009.

Legendary racer Carroll Shelby, the larger-than-life Texan who created the brutal 427 Cobra & beat Enzo Ferrari, died Thursday night in Dallas after a lengthy illness.

He was 89. No cause of death was disclosed.

Born in Leesburg, Shelby attended Woodrow Wilson HS in Dallas & started racing on weekends while working as a chicken farmer & dump-truck driver.

Best known probably for his Shelby Cobras & Mustangs, Shelby was a highly accomplished racer in the ‘50s before he began building cars.

The lanky Shelby, who favored black cowboy hats & flashed cinematic smiles, won 3 national sports-car championships in the U.S., posted a victory at the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans in 1959 & set land speed records at Bonneville. He was twice named Sports Illustrated's "Driver of the Year."

A bad heart forced Shelby to quit racing in 1960, & he began developing the 1st Cobras & Shelby Mustangs shortly after that.

In 1963, Shelby took a team of Cobras to Europe to race arch-enemy Ferrari as well as Porsche & Jaguar on their turf. In 1965, he wrested the G/T World Championship away from Ferrari. He & drivers Dan Gurney & Bob Bondurant returned to Europe to win Le Mans in a Shelby-prepared Ford GT40 in 1966 & 1967.

Shelby, who contended w/heart problems for most of his adult life, got a heart transplant in 1992, later receiving a kidney from one of his sons.

At the time of his death, he was founder & chairman of Carroll Shelby International & Shelby American, which unveiled its Shelby 1000 Mustang in NY last month -- a street car that be equipped to produce more than 1,000 HP.

"We are all deeply saddened, & feel a tremendous sense of loss for Carroll's family, ourselves & the entire automotive industry," said Joe Conway, president of Shelby International. "There has been no one like Carroll Shelby & never will be. However, we promised Carroll we would carry on, & he put the team, the products & the vision in place to do just that."

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