H.B. Halicki, the creator of Gone in 60 Seconds, told me that he was leaving the rights to his brothers. But his wife sued them and took the legacy for herself. My lawyers applied to the United States Patent & Trademark Office and I was granted the rights to the "Eleanor" trademark for vehicles, and my licensing company licensed it out to some people [Unique Performance] who wanted to build Shelby GT500s from old Mustangs built in the '60s. The Shelby GT500 is my car. No one is going to call my car "Eleanor" without my permission. But H.B. Halicki's wife sued me, and I spent a lot of money on a lawsuit. The judge threw it out on a summary judgment, which is being appealed.
Now she has sued me again, even before the appeal is over. She claims she somehow got new rights to my car and my trademarks from Disney. It's the damndest thing, but I guess the legal process works in very strange ways sometimes.
Some people just like to sue, and I guess I'm what some lawyers call a "deep pocket," but I'll fight all these frivolous lawsuits to the end.
MM: You seem to keep getting caught up in lawsuits. Is that just a matter of you being in business and so successful?
Shelby: Like I said, there are some people out there who will knowingly rip you off, and others who will sue you for just about anything, and there are so many lawyers now it's scary. You see, I'm 85 now and I want to get all of this cleaned up so I don't leave my children, my wife, and my company fighting these battles for the next 85 years. I'm doin' my best.
MM: Can you talk about the situation with Unique Performance, which was building GT500E and other Shelby continuation cars? As you know, they were shut down under accusations of illegal title washing.
Shelby: Since there's an ongoing investigation about what Unique was doing with those cars, I can't say a whole lot, except that I was never a part of the contracts of the people who bought the cars. And I never accepted a dime for any of these cars until they were delivered and the customers said they were satisfied. I hope everyone who purchased a car will still get it.
MM: Last year The Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation was criticized for not giving out enough money. You responded by saying that you were trying to make sure that the foundation was endowed.
Shelby: A national article was published that said we're not giving any money away that came from cars we sold at auction. But the simple fact of it is, my goal is to build an endowment for the Foundation that will help people long after I'm gone. When it comes right down to it, my Foundation isn't doing anything different than places like colleges that build up their endowment funds with billions of dollars for future use. I'm not there yet!
When I had my heart transplant in 1990, there were two boys, one on each side of me, one 12 and one 15. They both passed away waiting for a heart. I had about two weeks to live so I told the Old Man upstairs that if I got a heart that I was going to try and help people who needed transplants. I formed my foundation after I got out and put $100,000 in it. Three days after I signed the papers, I got a call from my friend Chris Schenkel who said there was a baby girl in Indiana who needed a heart transplant or she wasn't going to live. I went to the bank and borrowed the money to put a heart in her. She's 17 now and one of the 12 kids picked to be on the U.S. Olympic ice skating team. And we've given out money to great kids and worthy causes ever since.
The last three Shelbys auctioned went to other charities to spread the wealth. So I'm financing my Foundation myself. When somebody sends me their glovebox, I sign it for $250, which goes straight to the foundation endowment. I hope to leave it with enough money that my estate doesn't have to keep putting money into it after I go horizontal.