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Shelby Mustang: A Look at the History of the Classic Ford Muscle Car

'68 Ford Mustang Shelby Ad

Muscle cars have a special place in the hearts of car lovers. Some models stand out as true classics, including Ford’s Shelby Mustang. Known for powerful engines and unique body designs, the line has shown remarkable staying power throughout years of updates, redesigns and rebranding.

Iconic Ford Shelby Mustang Features

When the Shelby first went mainstream, drivers were treated to some serious performance and sleek features. The 289-cubic-inch V8 engine gave the car the ability to go from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds and delivered 306 horsepower, which was impressive for the time. The 2-door fastback model came with a four-speed manual or optional automatic transmission and sported backs Want to add a caption to this image? Click the Settings icon. eats that could fold down to make more room in the trunk.

What’s the History of the Shelby?

In 1964, Ford hired Carroll Shelby, an automotive designer and former race car driver, to improve the performance and power of the Mustang. Original Shelby models began as regular Mustangs and were upgraded and modified by Shelby American to create what amounted to a race car for the masses.

Shelby Mustang Logo

Early Racers and Powerful Performance

The GT350 made its debut in 1965 as the Shelby Cobra. Thirty-five cars were created with racing specs (GT350R), and the remainder were sold to enthusiastic drivers for around $4,000 each. Shelby eased up on the racing style for the 1966 model to make it more accessible and comfortable. Drivers could choose between manual or automatic transmission while still enjoying the speed and power that made the Shelby so attractive.

A special run of 1,001 GT350H models were produced just for rental and sported an eye-catching black and gold paint scheme. Anyone who wanted a taste of the racing experience could pick up one of these Shelbys from Hertz and zip around town making heads turn.

Ford introduced the GT500 in 1967, which sported a 427-cubic-ich racing engine, but the “ultimate” model of the Shelby didn’t appear until a year later in 1968. The “Mustang” designation had been dropped in 1966, and the Cobra moniker was reintroduced with the 1968 model. The top-performing model for the year was the GT500KR, the “King of the Road,” with body modifications allowing the V8 Cobra Jet engine under the hood to produce up to 440 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 RPM.

The Shelby Mustang name appeared on the 1969 models again, which included slight body modifications, but sales were slowing down. Eventually, Shelby and Ford ended their partnership, but it wasn’t the end of the story…

Shelby Mustang: The Next Generation

The Shelby name got new life in 2006 when Shelby and Ford reinstated their collaboration to produce a special edition of the GT350H in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the iconic 1966 model. The vehicle debuted at the New York International Auto Show, and only 500 were made. Instead of selling the cars, Ford provided them to Hertz rental locations again, allowing drivers to get behind the wheel of a Shelby for the first time in 37 years.

In 2007, GT500 models reappeared, including 1,000 King of the Road vehicles. This new version of the GT500KR promised 550 horsepower and sported a supercharger and unique calibration for an enticing driving experience.

GT350 lovers got a thrill in 2011 when the model was re-introduced, this time with over 500 horsepower packed into a vehicle sporting features based on the original. The 50th anniversary of Shelby American prompted yet another special model in addition to this revival of a classic. Shelby created a stunningly powerful car called the Shelby 1000, which included a 5.4-liter V8 engine with the ability to produce as much as 1,100 horsepower.

Although Carroll Shelby died in the spring of 2012, Ford continues to produce Shelby models, tweaking and updating the body and the specs to produce ever more powerful cars. The time between 2006 and 2019 saw the release of numerous distinctive models, including the Super Snake, GT, GT-H and Terlingua. The third generation of Shelby Mustangs officially launched in 2015 with updated technology features, and carbon fiber parts incorporated into the design.

For enthusiasts hoping to grab the latest and greatest Shelby, a 2020 vehicle boasting an amazing 760 horsepower has been confirmed, although the price tag for a model with high-performance features hovers around $100,000. This new GT500 can zip from zero to 60 in under three seconds, far outpacing its predecessors and promising a new generation of drivers a thrilling experience behind the wheel.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Drivers who want to replicate the Shelby GT350 experience without giving up modern tech features can go to Revology, a Florida-based company licensed to reproduce some of Ford’s iconic models. The body and interior are all designed just like the 1966 Shelby, but the car sports a better engine and updated features to allow for improved performance in modern driving conditions.


A word from Chris...

We had the opportunity to clean up one of these classics recently.

Click the picture below to take a look at some pictures!


About the Author Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks.You can find out more about Sam at


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