As every car enthusiast knows by now, Carroll Shelby passed away last Thursday.
We're saddened if not entirely shocked; after all, Carroll was 89 years old - a good innings by any reckoning - and lived his entire life under the constant threat of a weak heart.
Biologically, at least - he was one of the longest-surviving heart transplants, and also had a donated kidney from his son.
But there was never anything lacking in his metaphorical heart.
His racing and car-building exploits are well-known; I'll just add a couple of personal anecdotes.
Two years ago, local vintage car guru Richard Pickering organized what we think was the largest collection of Shelby vehicles ever assembled under one roof. Shelby himself was flown up from his California home, and several of his long-standing colleagues and buddies, including racer/driving instructor Bob Bondurant and journalist David E. Davis Jr., also attended.
I don't know if anyone had ever seen Shelby in tears before, but he was at that event - it was an unforgettable evening.
Many more years ago than I can possibly remember but it must have been early- to mid-1980s, Chrysler brought Shelby to the Media Preview for their new model-year line-up, to give journalists rides around the Chelsea Michigan proving grounds in his Dodge Shelby Charger.
As I strapped myself in for my turn, I complimented Shelby on the fact that his version of the Charger was one of the first cars to have dual retractable cup holders.
“Shoot,” said Shelby approximately, “all a man needs in a car is a back seat for his [fuddle-duddling], a rack for his rifle, and a place to put his coffee and beer!”
That's product planning in a nutshell...
A bit later in our drive, we passed a Chrysler test driver whose job was simply to put development miles on a Plymouth TC3. Shelby glanced in the mirror and saw that the Plymouth driver had obviously seen who was driving the Charger, and had picked up his pace.
Shelby grinned at me. “Looks like he wants to play!” (Wish I could type in a Texas accent...).
Now, on the back half of the Chelsea circuit is a series of whoop-de-doos - three short sharp hills. If you wonder where Car and Driver magazine gets those cover shots with the car way up in the air, wonder no more.
Shelby gunned the car up the first one, flying off the crest, not touching the back side of the hill at all as it returned from near-orbit.
The car slammed into the pavement at the bottom of that first hill, then flew off the top of the second one.
WHAM - we landed again.
The third hill has a little right-hand kink, right at the crest. Shelby took to the gravel shoulder before launching, so that when we landed, we were still on the pavement.
As the car settled down, he looked in the mirror again, grinned again, and said to me, “Looks like he don't wanna play no more!”
The poor Plymouth guy had probably got out of his car and walked back to the pits, never to get behind a wheel again.
Rest in Peace, Carroll. We will never see your like again.