Los Angeles, CA — While Shelby enthusiasts enjoyed the proceedings on a webcast, many of them around the world revved the engines of their Shelby vehicles around 7 p.m. PDT that evening, including a group in the Petersen parking lot. After that, guests enjoyed a few hours of story-telling from a group that reflected Shelby’s broad interests. “Tonight Show” host and auto enthusiast extraordinaire Jay Leno was the Master of Ceremonies.
Edsel Ford was the first speaker. Sometimes on the verge of tears, he told of first meeting Shelby and then, working for him one summer. He was happy that in recent years, Shelby was again under the Ford umbrella, “where he truly belonged.” He was followed by Dan Gurney, who spoke of the days when he and Shel were rivals on the track and when he drove for Carroll.
Next was Bob Hoover, considered by many to be America’s third-most famous aviator, after the Wright brothers and Lindbergh. Hoover’s achievements include being shot down in a Spitfire over France, escaping from Stalag 11 and stealing a German plane to fly to freedom. He was later the chase pilot for Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 supersonic flight. Hoover remembered Shelby as being, by far, the best pilot in his class. Bob got the biggest ovation of the evening.
Walter Miller, Shel’s golfing buddy from the Bel Air Country Club, reminisced about first meeting Shelby. Miller was part of a group who gathered after golf for a few drinks. When Shel inquired about them, Miller answered, If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, pull up a chair.” Shel joined them on the spot.
Closing the evening was Leah Smith. When she was 11 days old, Shelby helped find her a heart transplant. She went on to a competitive figure skating career and is now an organ transplant advocate.
Leno set the perfect tone, but some of the guests got off even better lines than he did. One of Gurney’s topped the evening: “People say when they made Carroll Shelby, they broke the mold. And if they ever tried to make the mold again, he’d sue them.”
– by Michael T. Lynch