Friday, June 22, 2012

Family feuds over the remains of Carroll Shelby

Jeff Haynes / AFP/Getty Images file

Could Carroll Shelby have created the latest round of mischief that is keeping him from finding final rest?

By Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau

Carroll Shelby was never one to shy away from a good ol? Texas brawl, but few expected controversy to follow him to the grave.

Yet, more than a month after his death and weeks after a West Coast memorial service that brought celebrities like Jay Leno and scores of Shelby owners out for a celebration of his life?s work, the legendary racer and raconteur?s remains are still being held in a Dallas morgue.

The problem is a family feud pitting his sixth and last wife Cleo Shelby against his three children.? Each side claims to hold documents allowing them to dispose of Carroll Shelby?s body.

The one-time chicken farmer and Navy flight instructor became a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the track, after leaving military service in World War II.? By 1959 he had won the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race but his career behind the wheel was cut short when an old heart ailment that had left him bedridden as a child returned.?

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Shelby ran his last few races with a nitroglycerine tablet under his tongue. Then, at 37, rather than abandon the world of motorsports, he started teaching performance driving and launched his own specialty car company.? A half-century later, even a Shelby Cobra needing some work might fetch a million dollars or more at auction.

Shelby later formed a long-running alliance with automotive executive Lee Iacocca, first at Ford, where the tall Texan lent his expertise and name to high-performance versions of the Mustang, then following Iacocca to Chrysler.? In recent years, Shelby returned to Ford, again planting his name on the maker?s most powerful Mustang ever, the Shelby GT500, while also running his own tuner car company near Las Vegas.

But Shelby was never far from controversy in his business dealings, especially when he claimed to have found ?incomplete? chasses for dozens of the ?60s-era Cobras and started selling ?completed? models soon after.? It soon turned out they were being built from scratch and were relabeled ?continuation? Cobras.?

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?Carroll always gave me a big hug whenever he?d see me, but I?d always check for my wallet after? recalls one Detroit executive with a twinkle, asking not to be identified by name impugning the deceased.

Could Carroll Shelby have created the latest round of mischief that is keeping him from finding final rest?? While widow Cleo Shelby insists she was given the power of attorney by her late husband two years ago, the three Shelby children insist they have signed papers directing them to have their father?s body cremated.? It supposedly calls for Carroll Shelby?s ashes to be divided up among sons Patrick and Michael, daughter Sharon, and a burial plot in East Texas.

?There?s just a lack of closure in a situation where he did have a nice, long life,? Patrick Shelby told The Associated Press. ?He?s got relatives down in East Texas, and we?re just not able to get this chapter closed. And I?m not really sure what the reasoning is.??

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For her part, Shelby?s widow calls the cremation document a forgery and hints at what could become an even more bitter, drawn-out battle, insisting that in his final months of life, one of Shelby?s sons ?arranged to exclude? her from being at her husband?s side as much as possible.

The two sides have taken their dispute to a Dallas County court, temporarily leaving Shelby?s body under the control of the medical examiner?s office because some of the claims made in the dispute potentially falls within Texas criminal law.

Attorneys for the two sides aren?t discussing where things stand and, for the moment, there?s been no hearing scheduled. ?

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