Carroll Shelby, whose influence can be seen on everything from the early '60s Cobra roadsters to the '90s Dodge Viper V-10 to today's awesome G.T. 500 Mustang, will visit the Sept. 4-7 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The legendary car builder will meet the public during a one-hour autograph session on Saturday, Sept. 6. The special event will take place in the Food Lion AutoFair's spacious 3M Car Care Garage beginning at 10 a.m.

Shelby did not invent engine swapping or hot rodding, but his success in those areas has earned him an entry in the history books alongside Henry Ford and Lee Iacocca. In 1962, Shelby, a former chicken farmer and '59 Le Mans winner from Texas, put two pieces of news together to create a hybrid masterpiece of performance.

British company AC was stopping production of its stylish aluminum-bodied Ace roadster because the supply of six-cylinder engines was drying up. Shelby also learned Ford was developing a new V-8. He wondered if the 260-cubic-inch V-8 would fit into the little AC roadster.

The high-revving engine made the featherweight open car lightning fast, and Cobras started winning races against Corvettes and Ferraris. Ford Motor Co. had tried to purchase Ferrari earlier, but the egos of Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari killed the deal and made the two men bitter personal rivals. Shelby's directive from Ford was to beat the Italians at every level.

The first 75 Cobras left the Los Angeles factory with the 260 engine, but a larger, more powerful 289-cubic-inch version went into service as soon as Ford released it for production. Less than two years later, Shelby engineers began stuffing Ford's monstrous NASCAR 427-cubic-inch V-8 into the narrow car's tight engine compartment. The job required making the chassis five inches wider, but the effort was worth it. Although the last new 427 Cobra was sold in 1968, it is still considered one of the fastest cars ever unleashed, with a zero-100-zero time of 14 seconds.

Because his name was synonymous in racing circles with Ford high-performance, it was a logical step for Shelby to work his magic on the Mustang when it was introduced in 1964. His first specially modified, race track-bred version of the pony car was the '65 G.T. 350.

Evolution led to more incredible machines in the following years, including the G.T. 350H (a special model sold to Hertz for its rental fleets in '66), the G.T. 500 and G.T. 500KR ("KR" unofficially stands for King of the Road). The final production year for Shelby's Mustang line was 1969.

For most of the '60s, Shelby spent his time producing Cobras and Mustangs and he acted as developer for other projects, such as Sunbeam's V-8 Tiger and the super-exotic Ford GT-40 built in Slough, England. The GT-40 was named for its low 40-inch height and in Shelby's hands it became another weapon in Ford's arsenal against Ferrari on the world's race tracks.

The '70s were a vacation for Shelby from the public eye. He went on safaris to Africa, started a business producing his own blend of chili and pursued other personal interests. In the '80s, when his old Ford friend Iacocca took the reins of the ailing Chrysler Corp., Shelby lent his name and expertise to several high-performance Dodge cars, including the Charger 2.2, Daytona, Shadow CSX, Omni GLH, Lancer and even a hot rod version of the Dakota pickup.

Although his name does not appear on the product, Shelby assisted in development of the Dodge Viper V-10 supercar, Chrysler Corp.'s performance flagship and one of the fastest production vehicles in the world. The Viper designers' inspiration? The 427 Cobra.

In 1999 Shelby introduced a low-slung roadster he built from scratch at his headquarters next to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Called the Series 1, it was powered by an Oldsmobile V-8 engine. From there, Shelby's involvement in the new-car world expanded, eventually leading to the 2007 release of a 500-horsepower G.T. 500 developed through Ford's Special Vehicle Team. A line of Mustang-based high-performance cars followed, including the Hertz GT-H (available only as a rental) and a similarly dressed Shelby GT.

In recognition of his influence on the auto industry, 85-year-old Shelby was named 2008 Automotive Executive of the Year and honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Automotive Industry Action Group.

The fall Food Lion AutoFair annually attracts more than 120,000 visitors. It features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia.

More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults while children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Parking for the event is $5. or information, contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit us online.