My first personal interaction with Carroll Shelby was at his 80th birthday, celebrated at the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles, June, 2003 (as a sidebar, it was 1963 when I saw, for the first time, his first iteration of a Cobra!). For his birthday there was a tremendous gathering of Cobras, Shelbys, Daytona Coupes because the faithful Shelby crowd knew he'd be there.
Of course he was signing autographs, so I brought a nice photo of the Shelby along with me to the party, which he graciously signed for me. It's one of a number of Carroll's autographs I have in my collection. He was so cordial and interested in me and the Shelby! He asked how I liked it, he wanted to know the serial number, and he wanted to know if I thought it "ran good". I told him the Shelby still kicks ass and takes names. He then got a huge smile and that Shelby twinkle in his eyes.
The second time I met Carroll a year or two later was totally by chance: I was out with a colleague for lunch at a Quizno's, and we had just finished eating. As I was walking to return a tray, to my amazement I spotted Carroll off in the corner by himself eating a bowl of chowder. I walked over to him, told him my name and that I had a '66 Shelby. He immediately lit up, smiled and we began to chat about Shelbys, both old and new (this was just around the time the all-new Ford/Shelby G.T. 500 was about to go on sale).
Carroll was delighted to talk about the new projects that he and Ford were working on together again, and he was excited about how good the 'new' G.T. 500 was (especially from an engineering and driving dynamics perspective). Yet, he also expressed concern that Ford (and its dealers) would overprice and gouge customers over the price of the new car. He knew intrinsically that the car would be very popular. But the root of his worry was that their pricing behaviors might deny the 'average guy on the street' to have an opportunity to buy a new Shelby. What impressed me the most about this encounter was how involved he was in the car culture and still so very concerned over who would be able to buy something with his name on it.
And all this wonderful enthusiasm and passion from an 82-year-old chicken farmer who could sucessfully drive, race, win, and build awesome cars. I am forever grateful!
Cleo Shelby, at the LA Shelby Club Show on the Santa Monica Pier - September 20, 2014. She was test-driving my Carroll Shelby Stetson! Looks great, too!