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Carroll Shelby

Thank goodness for Carroll Shelby.
by Ann Job

He reminds us of just how much passion there is -- and rightfully should be -- in the auto business.

Shelby, a racing legend and creator of powerful Cobras dating to the 1960s, was out recently to show the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 that he has been working on with Ford Special Vehicle Team engineers.

But the 83-year-old Shelby didn't give a typical corporate presentation about demographics of the buyers and where his GT500 fits into the marketplace.

No, the blunt Texan got right down to basics.

The GT500 "will do anything that these $80,000 or $100,000 cars from Europe will do," he said. "What I am so proud of is it doesn't take a back seat to anything."

And, he wanted people to know, the GT500 is "for the guys who don't work for $200,000 a year."

Now that's the way to promote a new car. Can't you just feel his passion?

More Shelby opinions

It turned out Shelby was only getting started.

America's auto industry has hit a bad patch, but "it will all smooth out," he said with the resolution of someone who has had bad patches of his own, including heart and kidney transplants.

There's no need for "some people in the (U.S.) industry to start apologizing," he continued.

"There are very few bad cars built today, and American cars are just as good" as others, which is evidenced by the minuscule differences in quality scores tallied by researcher J.D. Power and Associates, he said.

"It's just the perception" of consumers that American cars are bad, Shelby said.

Passion unmuzzled

Bravo to Shelby! Too many people in the auto business today -- an industry of passion -- fail to speak their minds.

They're busy checking first if they're being diplomatic or sticking with the company line. Or they don't say anything because they don't want to stick out in today's controlling -- some might say stifling -- corporate world.

The black-hatted Shelby managed to come off as a kindly gentleman.

Indeed, at about the time that Shelby uttered an expletive, he caught sight of a Ford public relations woman standing nearby.

He didn't back off his comments but muttered, as if in explanation, "I'm really pretty ticked about this."

Many auto executives and managers could learn a thing or two from Shelby about passion and, most importantly, how to make it part and parcel of every new-car effort.

In these competitive times, the public is craving automotive passion and will know it when they see it.

Shelby can't be the only one who knows this.

Ann Job is a California-based free-lance automotive writer and can be reached at


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Originally formed as the COBRA Club in 1972. Established as a Region of SAAC in 1975. One of the oldest SAAC Regions in the United States