Monday, July 6, 2009

Shelby - the car and the man behind it

Las Vegas is the home of Shelby Automobiles and Museum. Jeff and I love fast cars and the Shelby certainly qualifies as fast. Appropriately, the museum is located near the Las Vegas speedway.
It felt like walking through a dealership showroom except it held Shelbys from 1966 to present production models. From the Cobra CSx2000 to the Terlingua, and GTE00KR, the dozens of cars (and 1 Shelby truck) they were all in mint condition. We were told the exhibits change frequently.
Behind the walls of the museum is the production facility. Both the museum and production facility tour are free. We made it in time for the 10:30am tour; as did about 35 others. One man had brought his Shelby from Arkansas to have additional modifications made.

Don't expect a large production plant. The Shelby is produced by about 8 people and they roll out 2 cars per week. There have been exceptions, such as when Ford partnered with Hertz for a special 'Rent a Shelby' program. Ford then sent Shelby 4,500 Mustangs to be modified.

Of course the cars were beautiful, but I was more moved by the stories of the man that started it all, Carroll Shelby.
Mr. Shelby is now 86 years old and goes to work every day at his foundation in Gardena. Shelby cars branded with the number 85 are tribute to Mr. Shelby's 85th birthday. Carroll Shelby has had two heart transplants and a liver transplant. He is the oldest surviving heart transplant recipient and had his second heart for 15 years now.

While waiting for his first heart transplant in the hospital, Mr. Shelby saw several children die before finding a organ match. Heartbroken, he felt he needed to help in some way and the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation was born to help seriously ill children. Just recently, the Foundation changed it's name to the The Carroll Shelby Foundation in order to broaden service to include young adults. Both the museum gift store and the store at the foundation contribute to the fundraising efforts.

One of the most successful fundraisers of the Foundation is the Carroll Shelby Signature program. It helped the foundation raise over $450,000 last year. For a donation, Carroll Shelby will autograph anything from pictures to car parts. One of the most coveted is to have a Shelby dashboard autographed by Carroll Shelby. All items are sent to the Foundation - including many car parts. They are autographed and shipped back to the donor.
On a side note, when we walked into the production facility, the walls looked like they had colorful wallpaper. It was actually thousands of signatures in different colored permanent markers. At the end of the tour, the guide told us that people want Carroll Shelby's autograph all the time, but that Mr. Shelby would like to have ours. He asked everyone to take a different colored pen and sign the walls. (pictures were not allowed to be taken inside the production facility -except for the walls).

Carroll Shelby is a fascinating man, not only for his contribution to the automotive and racing industry, but for his social contributions.
As we were leaving the production facility, I saw this bench outside. It made me smile.

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