History of the Legendary Shelby Mustang
The Shelby Mustang was a higher performance model of the Ford Mustang, which was built by Carroll Shelby from 1965 to 1968 and by Ford in 1969 and 1970. In 2007, the Shelby nameplate was added back to high-performance models of the Mustang that were designed and built by Ford up until the present day.
1965-1970 Shelby Mustang Models
The original Shelby Mustangs are sometimes called “Cobras,” although this can be confusing because Carroll Shelby’s company, Shelby American, also produced a car of the same name, based on a British AC two-seat sports car. Both cars used a Cobra emblem and had similar paint schemes. Some of the Cobra valve covers were a marketing tie-in from Shelby. For 1965 and 1966, only the GT 350 model was produced. The cars started as stock Mustangs and were shipped to Shelby American for modifications, which included Tri-Y headers, high-riser manifolds, Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes and Ford Galaxie drum brakes in the rear. The 1965 model year was stripped down and built more for racing whereas from 1966 onward, additional comfort features were built in for casual drivers, including rear seats and optional automatic transmission.
Starting in 1966, the car was available in colors other than white. Many of the cars were painted with Le Mans stripes and rocker panel stripes. The Hertz car rental agency ordered nearly 1000 GT 350s, mostly in black with gold stripes, that they rented in a “Rent-a-Racer” program. After their use with Hertz, they were returned to Ford for resale to the public and given a new model number, the GT 350H.
In 1967, the GT 500 model was introduced with a “Ford Cobra” V8 engine fitted with two four-barrel carburetors on top of a mid-rise intake manifold. Originally, a convertible model was planned, but this was shelved with the exception of a prototype. By May, Ford stopped sending cars to Shelby American in favor of producing the models completely in-house. One of the GT 500 cars was updated with a 427 GT 40 racing engine capable of 650 horsepower. This car was dubbed the “Super Snake,” and it could reach speeds up to 170 mph.
In 1968, the Cobra name was applied to both the Shelby Cobra GT 500 and the Shelby Cobra GT 350. In April 1968, Ford began installing a special version of their 428 engine, dubbed the “Cobra Jet.” The GT 500 model was thereafter known as the GT 500KR for “King of the Road.” Aluminum valve covers bearing the words “Cobra Lemans” were added to denote Ford’s victory over Ferrari in the Le Mans race for 1966 and 1967. A convertible model was finally produced in limited quantity.
In 1969, Carroll Shelby terminated his relationship with Ford. The Cobra name was removed from the car. Unsold 1969 cars were relabeled with 1970 vehicle identification numbers. Ford modified the design of the car slightly for both years, lengthening the body in 1969 and adding a front chin spoiler in 1970.
2006-2009 Second Generation Shelby Mustang Models
In 2006, Ford revived the Shelby Mustang with the Shelby GT-H model. Like the 1966 GT 350H, this model featured black paint with gold stripes and was only available at Hertz car rental locations. The Ford Racing Performance Group added numerous modifications to the Mustang, including an FR1 Power Pack for the powertrain, and 25 horsepower and 10 ft/lb of torque. Also added were a 3.55:1 ratio rear axle assembly, a strut tower brace, sway bars, lowering springs, specially tuned dampers, a 90mm cold air kit, “GTA” Ford Racing axle-back mufflers and a new X-pipe. A convertible model was offered with a custom light bar. All of the cars featured automatic transmissions.
In 2007, the GT-H was fitted with a manual transmission and sold as the Ford Shelby GT. The rear spoiler was removed, the hood was given a retro scoop and the stripes were changed from gold to silver. A special model in orange paint, the GT-C, was exclusively sold in California.
Through a collaboration of Carroll Shelby and Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), the Shelby GT 500 model was revived, featuring a six-speed manual transmission, body kit, suspension tuning and 18-inch wheels.
Some Shelby GT owners had their cars specially modified by Shelby at his facilities in Las Vegas. Add-ons such as larger wheels and tires and “Super Snake” brakes could be had, along with superchargers that increased the horsepower to 500 or greater. These modified cars were known as Shelby GT/SCs.
GT 500 owners could have their cars modified with either 605 horsepower, 5.4-liter engines or 725+ horsepower Kenne Bell twin-screw supercharged engines. The latter boasted 0 to 60 mph times of 3.5 to 3.7 seconds. Additional modifications included larger brakes, 20-inch Alcoa wheels, brake-cooling ducts, track setup suspension, a cat-back exhaust system and 3.73 differential gears. These modified GT 500s were known as “Super Snakes.” Limited edition versions of the Super Snakes designed for drag-racing and named after Don Prudhomme had even more powerful engines, visible over-the-hood air intakes, safety harnesses, Borla side exhaust systems, adjustable BMR racing suspension and street or drag-racing tires. These limited edition modifications cost $100,000 over and above the cost of the original car.
In 2008, 100 GT-H cars were sold by auction company Barrett-Jackson. They sported custom paint jobs, sill plates, interiors, serial number plates and gas cap inserts featuring autographed photos of Carroll Shelby with Amy Boylan, Craig Jackson and Steve Davis.
The same year, Ford released the GT 500KR with a new supercharged 540-horsepower, V-8 engine, which boasted unique calibration and a functional cold air intake. These models featured “40th Anniversary” badges, carbon fiber hoods, twist-lock hood pins, carbon fiber mirror caps, a carbon fiber splitter and functioning brake cooling ducts. The suspension was sourced from Ford Racing and tuned by SVT with unique dampers, spring rates and a strut tower brace. Special Goodyear tires were developed for the car, and Carroll Shelby embroidered seats were available as an option. The car was featured prominently on the new Knight Rider TV series on NBC. Starting price for the GT 500KR was $120,000.
2010-2012 Second Generation Models
In 2010, the GT 500 was redesigned. New front and rear fascias, a hood with functioning vents and a unique rear spoiler featuring a Gurney flap were added. The engine’s power was increased to 540 horsepower, and fuel efficiency improved by 2 mpg.
In 2011, the engine was lighter, more powerful and used patented plasma-coating technology developed by Flamespray. The fuel efficiency and handling were boosted, and electric power-assisted steering was added. Optional improved tires, shocks, springs, and other features were available as part of the SVT Performance Package. The 2011 GT 500 was rated as fast or faster than the BMW M3, the Audi R8 V10, the Dodge Viper SRT-10 and the Porsche GT3 at the Virginia International Raceway.
Also in 2011, Shelby American unveiled a 45th anniversary edition of the Shelby GT 350 with a supercharged 5.0 liter, V8 engine as well as parts upgrades from Ford Racing, Crager, Borla, Baer and other manufacturers. This edition is available as a modification for owners of the 2011 Mustang GT. Manual transmission vehicles can be fitted with a supercharger, racing suspension system, Baer brakes, Borla exhaust system, 19-inch Crager wheels and other additions. All models received exterior body upgrades with Guardsman Blue racing stripes painted on a white body. All 2011 GT 350 upgrades received a GT 350 45th anniversary badge. The 2011 Shelby GT 350 can reach 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, compared to the GT 500’s 4.2 seconds and the Super Snake edition’s 4.1 seconds.
In 2012, Shelby American introduced higher horsepower upgrades to the 2012 Shelby GT 500, known as the Shelby 1000, offering 920 horsepower in a street-legal version and 1,100 horsepower in an S/C version.
2013-2014 Second Generation Models
The release of the most powerful Mustang ever came with the 2013 Ford Shelby GT 500, which featured a DOHC 4-V V8 supercharged engine. It can produce 662 bhp and a top speed of 202 mph. The 2013 models featured new front ends, twin fuel pumps, larger-diameter clutch, larger fuel injectors, three-row interceptor, larger fan, more robust Tremec 6060 with internal oil pump, a carbon fiber single-piece driveshaft, LED tail lights and no grille for better cooling. The car can go over 200 mph, thanks to reinforced axle tubes, Brembo front disc brakes and aerodynamic tweaks which reduced drag by 14 percent and increased front-end downforce by 66 percent. It had a larger anti-roll bar in front and retuned springs. Four-mode stability and rpm-adjustable launch controls were standard.
The 2013 Shelby GT 500’s zero to 60 mph time is between 3.3 and 3.5 seconds, and the car is faster than both the Corvette Z06 and the Camaro ZL1. A convertible model was produced with a top speed of 155 mph.
Shelby continued upgrades of GT 500s to “Super Snake” models, with engines in 2012 and 2013 reaching 652 to 850 bhp.
The 2013 and 2014 Shelby 1000 featured a new 5.8 liter, V8 engine that could be upgraded to use an 850 hp fuel system with a Borla 3-inch stainless steel exhaust, forged pistons, titanium valve springs and retainers, ported cylinder heads and 72-lb injectors. In these models, a Kenne Bell 3.6-liter supercharger uses a 4.5-inch inlet pipe to feed a 1,850cfm throttle. There is also a twin-clutch assembly and a high-performance aluminum flywheel. The total horsepower of the engine is estimated at 1200. Like the 2012 model, the 2013 and 2014 models strengthened the chassis and the underbody. Billet-aluminum supports and driveshaft tunnel braces were both employed, as was a 9-inch Wavetrac differential. A widebody version of the vehicle was also offered, and the 2013 model was available with both street-legal and track packages.
For 2014, no major changes were made to the Shelby GT 500, but several colors were discontinued. The same year, Shelby American produced a version of the Shelby GT based on the 2014 Ford Mustang GT. It included a Shelby/Barton short shifter, Caster/Camber plate set, Shelby/Borla exhaust, Panhard suspension bar, billet upper grille, Shelby GT dash plaque, “SHELBY” trunk letters, “Powered by Ford” badges, BFG G-Force tires, silver 20×9-inch wheels, Shelby GT fiberglass hood, Shelby GT front fascia, “SHELBY” head rest covers, Shelby GT hood louvers and Shelby GT LeMans stripes.
2015-2016 Third Generation Models
The 2015 Shelby GT was based on the 2015 Ford Mustang GT. It featured a more aggressive style, making use of rockers, splitters, a spoiler, a diffuser and a carbon fiber hood.
In 2015, Shelby American introduced a high-performance edition of the Shelby GT called the GT EcoBoost and launched a new GT 500 Super Snake upgrade known simply as the Shelby Super Snake. Based on the 2015 Ford Mustang GT, it had a supercharged engine rated for 650+ horsepower.
In 2016, the GT 500 models were discontinued. However, there will be new a Shelby GT 350, with a 5.2 liter, V8 flat-plane crank engine featuring 526 horsepower. Compared to the GT 500, the car is more track-oriented, so it was benchmarked against the Porsche GT3, Camaro Z28 and the BMW M4. The GT 350 offers a lower hood, track-focused chassis tuning, two-piece Brembo brakes, a lightweight Tremec manual transmission, a MagneRide damping option, Recaro seats and numerous decreases to its weight, including a reinforced polymer radiator with cooling channels for different components. Options include a navigation system, larger alloy wheels, a rear backup camera and several others.
A special edition GT 350, the GT 350R, was also introduced that stripped out a lot of the GT 350’s comfort features to reduce its weight by 130 pounds. A rear wing and larger splitter improved the downforce and there is a limited-slip differential. The first serial-numbered car was sold at auction for $1,000,000 to benefit charity.