WASHINGTON - Race car driver and automobile manufacturer Carroll Shelby, who created the best known US sports cars of the 1960s -- the AC Cobra and the Shelby Mustang -- has died at age 89, his company said Friday.
Carroll Shelby International hailed its founder as "a man whose vision for performance transformed the automobile industry." It said he died Thursday of an undisclosed illness at Baylor Hospital in Dallas in his native Texas.
One of the top race car drivers in the United States after World War II, Shelby turned to building cars starting in the 1960s, when he wedged a huge Ford V-8 engine into a lightweight British-made AC roadster to give birth to the AC Cobra.
This combination of power and speed tore up the racetrack, enabling the Cobra to win in its category in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Impressed, Ford entrusted Shelby with the development of its GT40 race car, which ended Ferrari's supremacy at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 1966 and again in 1967.
Shelby was also the father of the special Ford Mustang series, the GT350 and the GT500, built at the end of the 1960s.
Overflowing with power and featuring aggressive bodies, these muscle cars have become highly sought after by automobile collectors.
Regularly updated, the Shelby Mustang GT500 is still the top of Ford's line of sports coupes in the United States.
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