Thursday, January 10, 2008
Some legends never die, they just get faster
In my life time I have been honored to know many incredible men some of whom I idolize and one of them that stands out is none other than Carroll Shelby himself. Tomorrow marks Carroll’s 85th birthday and there is going to be a gala event held at the Las Vegas factory on January 11-13, 2008 that is sure to make even the biggest car enthusiast envious.
It would be easy at this time to do what most other automotive journalist in the world typically do by starting in with all the redundant kudos and accolades about Carroll’s many amazing accomplishments. The truth is, Carroll’s many successes are so well documented that it seems almost impossible to discuss anything new. What can possibly be written about a man who has his resume as if dominating sports car racing in the mid 50s, twice being named Sports Car Illustrated’s “Driver of the Year.” and then winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 wasn’t enough? In retrospect he was just getting started. With all due respect and I do mean that in every sense of the word, what I would rather write about is a special memory I shared with Carroll almost 17 years ago.
That year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Carroll’s doctor while attending a Shelby Concourse De Elegance held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We spent most of the weekend enjoying all of the many fine Shelbys in attendance and showing each other’s cars to one another. The doctor noticed an old bumper sticker I had sitting on the consol of my car that said, “CARROLL SHELBY IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING UNDER THE HOOD.” He asked where I had gotten it and I told him, “Believe it of not I bought it in 1970 but never stuck it on anything. One of these days I might ask Carroll to autograph it for me.” As he stood there reading it his eyes began to lit up as if there was a light bulb over his head. Then he said, “Do you have any plans for the next hour or so?” When I asked him what he had in mind he replied, “I have to run over to Cedars-Sinai Hospital and check on Carroll. How would you like to come along and say hello?” The fact of the matter was I hadn’t even known Carroll was just down the way in the hospital having some heart surgery. Well, he didn’t have to ask twice and so he said, “OK then we’ll leave in a few minutes and don’t forget to bring that bumper sticker along.
The next thing I knew we were walking into Carroll’s hospital room and there he was with tubes and IV’s not at all unlike an AC Cobra hooked up to a Sun Analyzer getting a tune-up. One of the most amazing things about Carroll is his amazing ability to remember almost everyone he ever meets. Not only does he seem to remember everyone but he seems to have total recall as well as he says, “Hello guys. Hey Gary, how’s that 68 running?” I waited while the doctor took care of a few things and then he rolled a hospital tray over to Carroll’s bed and said, “Gary has something he wants you to sign.” and then motioned me to hand over the bumper sticker.
While Carroll was signing the bumper sticker the doctor teasingly said, “Just think how much that autograph would be worth if it was your last and only had an “S” followed by the last scribble tapering off the side of the page.” Carroll stopped before signing his last name and looked up at us with a smile in his eyes and said, “It’s so nice to be loved… You Some Bitches.”
I still have that bumper sticker in a safe place and like it I will cherish that memory for years to come. For me it was more than just a few moments with a man I have idolized for so many years but rather an in-depth look into a man who looked adversity squarely in the face and said, “Give it your best shot.” It is that same look that reminded me of a favorite quote from Alexandre Dumas’s, Count of Monte Christo when he said, “Life is a storm my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout, as you did in Rome, ‘Do your worst…for I will do mine.’”
That said, it’s easy to realize Carroll is THE man who has done both his worst and his best and now it’s his moment to bask in the sunlight.
Happy Birthday Carroll and may you have many more.
How does this sound for a birthday party? Some of the scheduled event plans for Carroll birthday bash will include:
A birthday party for Carroll
Chili cook off
Exhibit of the 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR
Autograph session with Carroll
Hertz Shelby reunion and car show
Parts swap meet and vendor area
Open track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Drag racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway