Auto designer, racer Carroll Shelby dies

@PeterDrivesMay 11, 2012: 10:24 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Carroll Shelby, most famous for creating high-performance road and racing cars bearing his name, died Thursday in Dallas, Texas. He was 89 years old.

Shelby's name is probably most associated with the Cobra, a car that combined a lightweight British racecar body with a powerful Ford V8 engine. He is also known for the Shelby line of Ford Mustang-based performance cars.

The cause of his death has not been released, according to a statement from the auto company Shelby American.

Despite a fascination with speed and power, Shelby was known for his folksy, laid-back personal style. Born in Leesburg, Texas, in 1923, Shelby was an aviator during World War II. After the war, he worked in a chicken farm, ran a dump truck company and also found time to run a sports car dealership, according to Shelby American.

It was in the dealership that Shelby first began building his own cars.

His first race was in 1952 in a 1932 Ford. Shelby then abandoned chicken farming and moved on to automobiles as a full-time career.

As a racer he won a three national sports car championships in the United States and the LeMans 24 hour race in Europe. He set land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats twice.

A heart condition forced Shelby to give up his racing career in 1960. He then turned to racecar design and manufacturing.

He's best known for high horsepower cars. In 1962, he formed Shelby American to make the Cobra. The car was debuted at the 1962 New York Auto Show.

Shelby also helped develop the Ford GT40 racecar. With the GT40 and the Cobra Shelby became the only man to win LeMans as a driver, team owner and automaker.

Shelby is also well known for helping create a series of Ford Mustang-based Shelby cars.

During the 1980s he worked with Chrysler to create performance versions of otherwise underwhelming Chrysler products. Among those was the Dodge Omni GLH-S, a compact hatchback that was said to be one of Shelby's favorite cars. (GLH allegedly stood for "Goes Like Hell.")

He also worked on development of the Dodge Viper while with Chrysler.

Today, classic Shelby Mustangs can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while original Cobras can be worth, in some cases, millions, according to Hagerty Insurance.

A Shelby Cobra sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction in 2007 for $5.5 million.

That car was built for Shelby's own personal use. It was identical to one built for the comedian Bill Cosby. Cosby, who likes to drive Ferraris, was so intimidated by the Cobra he sold it back to Shelby.

In 2005, he restarted his relationship with Ford Motor Co (F, Fortune 500). That has led to the reintroduction of Shelby Mustangs including models built by Ford as well as cars built by Shelby American.

During his last two decades, Shelby had both heart and kidney transplants. He continued to be active in the management of his companies and charitable foundations, according to a statement form Shelby American. To top of page

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