Amidst the classics, a tribute to Carroll Shelby at IMS

An Indianapolis couple gets attention as they bring their Shelby Cobra to the Celebration of Automobiles two days after the famous auto designer's death at 89.

SPEEDWAY - A passer by knew its significance even if it was one of over 160 cars.

All he had to do was look at the dashboard to realize why.

"I wish I could have met him," said one curious fan at Saturday's Celebration of Automobiles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, taking photos of the sliver coupe as he talked.

Before him was a 1964 Ford Shelby Cobra-a small two-seater coupe that with restoration had a new shine. The hood was open for numerous onlookers to check out  the engine and the top down on the convertible for everyone to check out.

So was the signature on the glove compartment on the right side. Silver marker on black leather trim that officially put the stamp on this classic automobile.

"I was a big Carroll Shelby fan," said the car's owner Ronald Riffel, who talked to onlookers for most of the morning and afternoon of the event. He even brought a scrapbook full of pictures of the car from its purchase, restoration and present day.

On Saturday he made one more addition to the coupe-a black ribbon on the lock and nearly in the middle of the sliver signature. It was done hours after learning that Shelby-the famous designer of performance cars-died of a heart condition at the age of 89.

"He's really been ahead of the market," said Riffel of Shelby. "A lot of people, like myself, like performance in a car."

During his life Shelby managed to do that early and often, beginning with the European-inspired Cobra like Riffel's in the early 1960s. Shelby continued to help design cars and was known for the unique styling and performance which he brought to the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Viper.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Motosports Hall of Fame a year later.

Shelby's accomplishments included the honor of driving the pace car on two seperate occasions in the Indianapolis 500. With a Chrysler LeBaron in 1987 and a Dodge Viper V-10 in 1991, Carroll led the field to green to start off the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Coincidentally in both races which he started, a four-time Indy 500 champion was crowned-Al UnserSr. in 1987 and Rick Mears in 1991.

"He made monumental contributions to automotive design and racing engineering that changed the way the world looked at American performance cars," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus after his passing. "Carroll was an American original. There never will be another quite like him."

On Saturday, there was no other like Riffel's at the Celebration of Automobiles, which drew a number of visitors throout the day. Standing as a tribute to the revolutionary designer added more to the honor of being nominated for the nationwide showcase.

"It's a limited club," said Ronald's son Chris of the '64 Shelby Cobra. "It's not lost on us, I guess, we're honored to be apart of that."

A unique tribute in a sea of one-of-a-kind cars.

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