I didn’t know Carroll Shelby.
Unlike my buddy Matt Stone (who writes about their relationship in his blog), I didn’t truly know Carroll Shelby. Oh sure, we bounced off each other often enough. I was one of the many journalists over Shelby’s long career who put a microphone in front of him and hoped for one of those great Shelby “Aw Shucks” kind of comments that always had the down home honesty. If he liked something, he said it. If he didn’t like something, he said that too.
But while Carroll Shelby didn’t know me, I knew him.
I’ve written before about how I grew up a car geek. I was following his team’s exploits at LeMans when I was just 12 years old. Back then, Shelby wasn’t so much a man as it was an international force to be reckoned with. Carroll’s team helped Ford beat Ferrari in front of the whole world.
Success is an elusive creature and often even those who rise to the top find themselves sliding backwards. Carroll Shelby was no different. There were plenty of projects that never reached the potential Shelby expected. For every Shelby GT500 KR, there were also Dodge Shelbys and the, never lived up to its potential, Series 1. But Carroll the man always bounced back. I love the fact that in the last years of his 89-year-old life he was still cranking out cars that excited people. More importantly, he was cranking out cars that excited Carroll.
Most people slowly fade away as they grow older. Carroll never did. He was always the center of the attention he deserved to be.
I wish I could have called Carroll my friend, but I’ll still get to tell my grandkids about how many times I interviewed Shelby. And they’ll be impressed because I have no doubt his legend will last for a very long time.