Event offers up close look at Shelby’s Shelby
By Miles Smith
When one hears the name Carroll Shelby, it’s impossible not to think of Ford Mustangs, auto racing and advances that revolutionized the American sports car.
Only one mechanic school is allowed to bear the name of the famous Texan: Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant, home of the Carroll Shelby Automotive Program.
Representatives of the program are going to be in downtown Lockhart for Hot Rods and Hatters on Saturday, where they’ll be displaying a 1968 Shelby Cobra GT350H that students restored a few years ago.
One other thing: The shiny forest green machine was the last of its type actually owned by Shelby himself.
The face of the program
In 2007, officials at the college met with the famous automotive designer, racing driver and entrepreneur who became a big name in the automotive industry in the 1960s.
Shelby didn’t like seeing young men and women graduate from high school and get stuck in dead-end jobs with a mortgage, car payment and family to pay for. So he and the Carroll Shelby Foundation began contributing money to the college that was located near Leesburg, Texas, his birthplace and childhood home.
The Carroll Shelby Automotive Program was born, but it needed a car that would be its face and mascot.
In March 2011, a maroon 1968 Shelby Cobra GT350H arrived at the campus. It needed cosmetic work, but it ran. Shelby told the students to take their time with the car.
The car was restored and painted green. It was finished just a few months before Shelby died at the age of 89.
Months before he died, Shelby himself sat in his car, turned over the engine, and is said to have said it was “one of the sweetest sounds he ever heard.”
Dr. Jon McCullough, vice president for advancement at NTCC, said students were always excited to be associated with the program.
“It is always exciting for our students to actually get to learn to work on cars that have anything to do with the name Shelby…especially a car that Carroll was personally involved in,” McCullough said. “Not only that, but many of them get to drive this car at one time or another.”
On Saturday, Shelby’s former car will sit on display in downtown Lockhart, where a group of students from the college will be on hand to show it off and answer questions.
In attendance with automotive program director Ron Luellen will be students Mark Rice, Jason Anderson, Colton Ross, Henry Dakota, and Konner Graham.
“We search for those with the unique skills and abilities to be involved in the racing and performance world,” Luellen said. “We seek to make the most of not only the uniqueness of our program but the financial help we receive.
“Our main mission is to give our students the best chance at employment upon graduation. We truly believe this is what Carroll envisioned.”