Back in 1965, Ford Motor Company and Carroll Shelby got together for the start of what would become a long-running—and often contentious—partnership to build high-performance Mustang-based muscle cars.
That first Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 packed a 289-cubic-inch V8 that was good for about 305 hp, which was a ton of power back in the day—the 1966 Porsche 911, by contrast, made due with about half that number: 158 hp. The Ford was essentially a street-legal racer; in fact, what drove Ford and Shelby to create the GT350 was a desire to build buzz for the Mustang by entering it in Sports Car Club of America competitions. However, the standard Mustang had four seats, while the SCCA only fielded true two-door coupes.
Shelby worked his magic, and thus was born the GT350. Needless to say, the car has long been acknowledged as the car that gave Mustang its performance bona fides.
But by 1967, even “standard” Mustangs could be had with an optional 320-hp V8—rocking twin four-barrel carburetors, by the way—and Mr. Shelby countered by adding an even bigger V8, usually reserved for Ford’s police interceptors, to what became the ’67 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500. More importantly, at least for some customers, the GT500 also went through Ford’s etiquette school, becoming much more civilized. Power steering and air conditioning were added along with the big-block engine, although the car’s padded roll bar still came standard.
The car was also very different visually from the run-of-the-mill Mustang, as it was fitted with a Shelby body kit that included a new nose, a hood with functional air scoops and a quartet of air intakes integrated into the side body work.
However, the on-again, off-again partnership between Ford and Shelby was off again in 1970, and the original Shelby GTs became a part of muscle-car history—and the classic-car auction circuit. Today, an original GT500 can easily crack six figures when it goes under the hammer, with a 1967 model selling for $151,200 just last year in San Antonio. A collector from a Kansas City Used Cars Dealer said an GT500 is one of those cars that only few have to money to add to their collection.
And while it’s increasingly difficult to get ahold of vintage Mustangs like that—whatever the price—enthusiasts now have two other options for curing their Shelby fever. First, the latest chapter in the relationship between the Blue Oval and Shelby opened up in 2006, with the introduction of the current generation Ford Shelby GT500. With its retro looks and supercharged 550-hp V8, the 2011 model is an almost perfect updating of the original.
Of course, to take the next step and actually achieve perfection, Shelby also has teamed with Classic Restorations to build “new” 1967 models. The G.T.500CR puts modern-day mechanicals beneath the classic fastback body, and offers a choice of two new V8s for under the hood. The standard powerplant makes 545 hp, but you can also supersize (and supercharge) that engine to see a pulse-pounding 780 hp.
What’s also notable about the car is that it’s a “continuation” vehicle. That is, it isn’t just some kit car thrown together on a lark; each G.T.500CR is considered a new Shelby and gets its own VIN and serial number.
But of course, if you prefer the styling of the most recent Mustang, you’re in luck there too. Ford raised the performance bar a little higher by adding new engines to the 2011 Mustang and thankfully they also made performance tweaks on the 2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 as well.
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