American racing driver and motor engineer who developed the classic Cobra sports car
Carroll Shelby, the colourful American racing driver and engineer who shared the winning Aston Martin with Britain’s Roy Salvadori in the 1959 Le Mans 24-hour sports car classic, and who later gave his name to the iconic Shelby American Cobra high-performance sports car, has died at the age of 89.
The genial Texan’s trademark was his distinctive striped, bib-style racing overalls, which gave him a swashbuckling, Casey Jones-like appearance throughout a distinguished racing career that included eight world championship grand prix outings driving a private Maserati 250F, and latterly for the ill-starred Aston Martin Formula One team.
Born in Leesburg, Texas, the son of the town’s postmaster, Shelby was a child when his family moved to Dallas. Despite being diagnosed with a slight heart murmur at the age of 10, he served as a flight instructor with the US air force during the second world war. He went on to work in the truck business, before turning his hand to chicken farming, unsuccessfully, in the late 1940s.
Meanwhile, Shelby had started to dabble in sports car racing, and by 1952 had gained a degree of recognition after some promising outings at the wheel of a Jaguar XK120, before switching to a fearsome, Cadillac-powered Allard the following year. In 1954, spurred on by the offer of a cup from Kleenex heir Jim Kimberly – one of the great US racing philanthropists of the time – for the best performance by an amateur driver, Shelby entered the Allard in the Buenos Aires 1,000km sports car race, co-driving with airline pilot Dale Duncan, who was a useful contact when it came to air freighting the car to Argentina.
This first competitive appearance outside the US for Shelby was memorable: he and Duncan finished 10th, despite a carburettor fire during a pit stop, which had to be extinguished by the simple expedient of Duncan urinating on the engine. More significantly, Aston Martin driver Peter Collins introduced Shelby to his team manager, John Wyer, who had been impressed with the Texan’s handling of the wild and woolly Allard. Shelby now had his foot in the door at Aston Martin, which would lead to a place in their works team – and that memorable victory at Le Mans five years later.
Like most of those who drove for Aston Martin in the 1950s, Shelby loved the team’s ambience, and he never seriously considered any of the fleeting, and possibly empty, offers to join Maserati or Ferrari. His Texan penchant for straight talking occasionally made David Brown, the Aston Martin company’s owner, wince: telling the boss one of his cars handled like “10 pounds of shit in a five-pound bag” was pretty strong stuff from a hired hand in the mid-1950s. Shelby recalled Brown’s reaction: “He got pissed off at that, turned round and walked away.”
Along with Salvadori, Shelby also took up the F1 Aston Martin DBR4s during the 1959 season. But these front-engined museum pieces were obsolete even before they raced for the first time, a new generation of mid-engined cars from Cooper dashing their hopes of success. At the start of 1960, Shelby suffered bad chest pains that alerted him to a now-serious heart condition. Despite attempting to control the situation by driving with nitroglycerin pills under his tongue, Shelby decided to retire from racing at the end of that year.
One of Shelby’s dreams had been the manufacture of a high-performance American sports car, so when he heard in 1961 that supplies of Bristol engines had dried up for the British AC company, he brokered a deal that saw AC switch to using a 4.7-litre Ford V8, and the famous Cobra was born. Ford backed Shelby’s efforts on the race track, and the Shelby Cobras were duly homologated as GT cars by the start of the 1963 international sports car racing calendar, when they were pitched against the Ferrari GTOs. In 1965, the Shelby Cobras won the FIA GT championship, wresting this prestigious title from their Ferrari opposition.
By 1970, Shelby was diversifying into other businesses outside motor racing, but in 1982 Chrysler boss Lee Iaccoca, an old friend, offered him the opportunity to serve as a performance consultant to the automotive giant, bringing him back into the motor racing orbit.
He is survived by his wife, Cleo, his two sons, Patrick and Michael, his daughter, Sharon, and his sister, Anne.
• Carroll Shelby, racing driver and engineer, born 11 January 1923; died 10 May 2012.
The reason that Apple does not produce its expensive toys in the US (Bad Apple?, G2, 24 April) is not because the late Steve Jobs and the current CEO were necessarily extremely greedy but because corporate shareholders demand that they maximise profits for investors. Indeed, company law both here and in the US places an implied demand on directors to do so. Add to that the global deregulation and free-trade agenda driven by the corporate giants over the last 30 years and we have a situation where hundreds of millions of people work in factories and on plantations in conditions little better than those endured by slaves in centuries gone by.
The enormous profits generated by the transnational companies from their exploitative activities – such as the $11.6bn made by Apple over the last 12 months – and the consequent glut of capital inevitably lead to speculation in commodities, complex financial transactions and private-equity asset-stripping in the search for still more profits until the bubble bursts and the whole edifice collapses, with disastrous results for the vast majority of the world’s population.
Until such time as the economy is put at the service of the people, and not the other way round, the cycle of boom and bust will continue. For this to happen the profit motive would have to cease to be the sole driver of economic activity and the means of production be democratised to benefit the majority rather than just the obscenely remunerated bosses. However, with governments in thrall to big business and wedded to an unsustainable economic model of infinite growth, the rotten Apple syndrome will be with us for the foreseeable future.
International officer, GMB
Two accidents by the same Tennessee bus driver prompt a look at the commercial driver safety regulations.
Link: Two School Bus Accidents Prompt Look Into Commercial Driver Safety
A new set of proposals is drawn up after talks in the fuel tanker driver dispute, with the Unite union given nearly a month to consult on them.
Go here to read the rest: New plan aims to end fuel dispute
The chairman of London-based minicab firm Addison Lee has used the company’s in-cab magazine to launch a series of eye-catching polemics
Are you a regular reader of the “Chairman’s Column”? I can heartily recommend it. You may not even have heard of it. It’s the short opinion piece near the front of the quarterly in-cab magazine Add Lib, which you’ll find in all cars affiliated to Addison Lee plc, a large London-based minicab firm. It’s written by the chairman of the company, John Griffin. If you live outside London or don’t use minicabs, I’m happy to report that it’s available online via the company’s website.
I just love the fact of it. Add Lib is not a political publication. It’s a bit of fluff to read in the car while the driver slavishly follows the satnav through gridlock – it’s a glossy compilation of retail opportunities. So when, a couple of pages in, you stumble across a short but highly politically opinionated article by the bloke who runs the company, it’s something of a surprise. Yet it refuses to explain itself. There it is, among the reprinted press releases about new bars and shoe shops and the photos of models and celebrities: the words “Chairman’s Column” with a picture of John Griffin, looking grumpy in glasses and a suit, and then a piquant taste of his views. As if it’s long been part of the duties of someone running a minicab firm to write a regular column about topical issues. As if, like the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, it was a regrettable and unavoidable duty which it would be churlish of him not to fulfil. As if chairman and column went together like best man and speech or auctioneer and gavel.
He’s broached a wide range of subjects over the years. London politics: “During the last mayoral election it seemed that the real issue was getting rid of Ken and his Trotsky agenda.” The war on drugs: “We need to start asking the question as to what visible means of support these dealers can point to which has led them to such good circumstances. If they fail to offer a satisfactory explanation, then we must assume that their expensive items are from the proceeds of criminal activity.” Even phone hacking: “It does not come as a surprise to me that any journalist worth his salt would take advantage of this opportunity.”
Eye-catching stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree: Ken Livingstone’s stewardship of London through eight years of an insane financial services boom was in fact a communist regime. The solution to the drugs problem is to arrest young people who look incongruously wealthy. Phone hacking was just a creditable sign of initiative. It’s not hugely unusual that he holds these views – just that he’s so desperate for a context in which to express them. Thank God he doesn’t drive a cab.
His latest piece is a real humdinger. Perhaps appropriately for an authority figure among drivers, it’s a diatribe against cyclists. His sympathy lies with the motorist who might quite understandably fail to spot “a granny wobbling to avoid a pothole or a rain drain” and thus find themselves “guilty of failing to anticipate that this was somebody on her maiden voyage into the abyss”. He bemoans cyclists’ lack of training, insurance, impact bars, air bags and road tax liability, and ends: “It is time for us to say to cyclists ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.” (His punctuation, not mine.)
This is classic Griffin. A more oleaginous arguer might have conjured up an unsympathetic cyclist: a cocky shades-wearing courier, weaving between cars while listening to his iPod, or a self-promoting politician surrounded by obliging paps and tailed by his ministerial car. But not Griffin – he’s happy to go straight for the granny: the stupid, myopic, shaky old biddy, wobbling around the road in the way of minicabs, who doesn’t even have the goodness to look where she’s going, get a driving licence or buy a fully taxed Lamborghini. The thought that she, and cyclists in general, probably don’t want to join his “gang” simply doesn’t occur to him.
This guy is a major talent. I’ve often wondered when he’d break through. Well, it happened last week when Griffin wrote a letter to all 3,500 Addison Lee drivers exhorting them to use London’s bus lanes. They’re reserved for buses and black cabs so this is illegal. But Griffin doesn’t see it that way: “The current bus lane legislation is anti-competitive and unfairly discriminates against the millions of passengers that use Addison Lee.”
At last he’s found a big enough fan to throw shit at. Amid consternation from cyclists’ groups, taxi drivers and Transport for London, it emerged that Addison Lee has donated £250,000 to the Conservative party and Griffin has personally lobbied former transport secretary Philip Hammond. Meanwhile several government departments are continuing to patronise Addison Lee.
I can understand why. It’s a very reliable service for anyone visiting the capital. Using a smartphone, you can effectively hail an Addison Lee car in minutes, and some of the drivers even know their way round London. The others are often as amenable to following a passenger’s directions as those being barked out by their in-car machines. It’s a bit expensive but not terribly expensive which, in London, is the closest you get to the sensation of a bargain.
Griffin’s suggestion that his drivers have a right to the same privileges as proper cabbies who’ve done “the Knowledge” is, of course, offensive. But that’s exactly what he means it to be. He must be one of those men who can only unwind by winding people up. I’d say that he wasn’t a very nice fellow if I thought he was even momentarily concerned with coming across as one. But he can’t be stupid enough not to know how his pronouncements will make him seem.
Like Michael O’Leary’s strategy with Ryanair, this could be very effective. We don’t need to like the guy who runs the minicab firm we use – just to feel that the company is well run and will get us from A to B as quickly as possible. Griffin’s attempt to appropriate the bus lanes makes us think exactly that.
It’s ridiculous to claim that bus lane rules discriminate against “the millions of passengers that use Addison Lee”, as if they didn’t have every right to get on a bus. It’s not an argument that holds up for a second. Except if, in that second, you’re late, sitting in a minicab in stationary traffic, and enviously eying the empty bus lane to your left. In those moments of towering selfishness, Griffin’s arguments have real eloquence.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) – Corning, the world’s largest supplier of glass for flat-panel television sets, is continuing to diversify into the life sciences business, buying the majority of Becton Dickinson’s laboratory products unit, called Discovery Labware, for $730 million in cash. Corning is banking on growth in its life sciences division as a way to drive overall revenue to $10 billion over the next few years.
The diversification by way of deal-making couldn’t come at a better time for Corning as pressures in the glutted LCD market intensify. A drop in demand for flatscreen TVs, a core earnings driver for Corning, resulted in electronics giant Sony announcing a record loss on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, LCD TV maker Sharp increased its annual loss forecast to $4.67 billion.
In 2011, profits at Corning’s display technologies unit fell over 20% to $2.3 billion, driving overall profits down by roughly the same amount, even as revenue increased to a record $7.9 billion.
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Visit link: Lab Deal Adds Life to Corning’s Glass House