Legendary racer Carroll Shelby, the larger-than-life Texan who created the brutal 427 Cobra and 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 High School in Dallas and started racing on weekends while working as a chicken farmer and dump-truck driver.
Best known probably for his Shelby Cobras and Mustangs, Shelby was a highly accomplished racer in the 1950s before he began building cars.
The lanky Shelby, who favored black cowboy hats and flashed cinematic smiles, won three national sports-car championships in the U.S., posted a victory at the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans in 1959 and 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, and he began developing the first Cobras and Shelby Mustangs shortly after that.
In 1963, Shelby took a team of Cobras to Europe to race arch-enemy Ferrari as well as Porsche and Jaguar on their turf. In 1965, he wrested the Grand Touring World Championship away from Ferrari. He and drivers Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant returned to Europe to win LeMans in a Shelby-prepared Ford GT40 in 1966 and 1967.
Shelby, who contended with 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 and chairman of Carroll Shelby International and Shelby American, which unveiled its Shelby 1000 Mustang in New York last month -- a street car that be equipped to produce more than 1,000 horsepower.
"We are all deeply saddened, and feel a tremendous sense of loss for Carroll's family, ourselves and the entire automotive industry," said Joe Conway, president of Shelby International. "There has been no one like Carroll Shelby and never will be. However, we promised Carroll we would carry on, and he put the team, the products and the vision in place to do just that."