THE FORD MUSTANG GT350 | CARROLL SHELBY & THE AMERICAN PONY WAR

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Carroll Shelby, whose Ford powered cars have been a constant contender in International racing, plays a toy flute to charm a toy Cobra out of its basket on the hood of his latest offering to the automotive world, the Mustang GT 350, at the first showing of the car- January 27th, 1965 in Riverside, CA.  The Shelby is a modified Ford Mustang Fastback, with a 289 Ford Cobra engine, front disc brakes, and improved suspension for road racing or high speed driving. -- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Carroll Shelby, whose Ford powered cars have been a constant contender in International racing, plays a toy flute to charm a toy Cobra out of its basket on the hood of his latest offering to the automotive world, the Mustang GT 350, at the first showing of the car- January 27th, 1965 in Riverside, CA. The Shelby is a modified Ford Mustang Fastback, with a 289 Ford Cobra engine, front disc brakes, and improved suspension for road racing or high speed driving. -- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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Carroll Shelby was undoubtedly the greatest single force behind American auto racing over the last 60+ years.  From his legendary racing career, to reinventing the image of American road-racers in European competitive racing and beyond.  In 1962, and with no official engineering background, Carroll Shelby created the legendary, stallion-slaying Cobra, which soon ended Ferrari’s all-out domination of the World’s Manufacturing Championship.  For him, the recipe was simple and oft repeated– put a massive engine in a lightweight, nimble car.

In 1965, the Shelby Mustang GT350 made its production debut setting off  a legendary battle for power and prestige between rival Detroit automakers– which would from that day on be known as  the “Pony War”.

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The legendary Shelby Mustang GT350

The legendary Shelby Mustang GT350

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In 1964, Carroll Shelby was asked by Ford to apply that same winning Cobra recipe into it’s new Mustang.  Initially created to compete in the SCAA/B production competition just for racing, the 1965 GT350 R Model began its dominance on American racing circuits and making a name for itself by winning the SCCA B production championship in 1965, 1966 and 1967.  Ford wanted to put a version on the street known as the GT350– essentially a de-tuned and reworked R Model and it catapulted Mustang into the world of high performance.  It became one of the most popular and recognizable brands in the automotive industry.  The ’68 Mustang GT will forever be connected with screen and auto legend costar, Steve McQueen, in the classic film Bullitt.  The performance evolution continued with the famed king of the road, the GT500. For several years production continued, until 1969 when Carroll Shelby and Ford parted company.  Ford evolved the Shelby program into the Boss 302 and Mach 1 Mustangs of the early ’70s.

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Carroll Shelby’s Ford Mustang GT350s in action.

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Every man and boy’s dream back then– a fleet of Carroll Shelby / Ford Mustang GT350s.

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Carroll Shelby’s iconic Ford Mustang GT350 pony car

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Carroll Shelby’s iconic Ford Mustang GT350 pony car

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Carroll Shelby’s iconic Ford Mustang GT350 pony car

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Carroll Shelby with his legendary Ford Mustangs.

Carroll Shelby and the Ford/Mustang legacy.

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The 1967 Shelby GT500 (the GT350′s big-block brother) came equipped standard with the 428 cubic-inch Police Interceptor engine, 2 Holley 4 barrel carbs, and headers as an option. In February 1968, the GT500KR “King of the Road” debuted– under the hood was the 428 cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8, conservatively rated at 335 horsepower.  Due to an untimely production strike at Ford, some early 1968 GT500′s had a 390 cubic-inch V8. Also in 1968, production of Shelby Mustangs switched from Shelby’s shop in California to A.O. Smith Company in Michigan.

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Carroll Shelby behind the wheel of the later, greater Shelby Mustang-- the big-block GT500.

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9 thoughts on “THE FORD MUSTANG GT350 | CARROLL SHELBY & THE AMERICAN PONY WAR

  1. Pingback: THE LIZARD KING & THE LEGEND OF HIS LOST SHELBY GT500 « The Selvedge Yard

  2. Oh My! Don’t write Mr. Shelby off! His most latest and greatest creations are the 2005+ Shelby Mustang GT 500′s and his Shelby GT 500 SuperSnake! He has a cool little museum in Las Vegas where you can still see his original GT350 and GT500 plus lots of other cool cars on display. Mr. Shelby is still quite alive and kickin!

  3. nice article, great pictures. but I think you watched too much “gone in 60 seconds” (the new one, have you seen the old one?). the car steve mcqueen drove in bullit was a more or less standard 68′ mustang fastback, not a shelby gt350, i think the shelbys would have been too expensive. great movie anyway, I love steve mcqueen!

  4. yeah, i don’t like the new ones that much either. about ten years ago, i found an old 428cj engine in my grandfather’s junkyard. when i went back to get it, someone had already copped it:( it would’ve been a perfect engine to stick in my 70 cougar.

  5. oh yeah and the car mcqueen drove was a 68 mustang gt which is a different beast from the gt-350. i don’t think jp was saying it was a shelby.

  6. Pingback: THE ULTIMATE CARROLL SHELBY MUSTANG | THE GT500E SUPER SNAKE « The Selvedge Yard

  7. One of the cars in Bullitt was a “68 Mustang GT with a 390 engine, but there is some dispute about the other. Nowadays, most people say the second car was also a 390 GT, but a magazine article at the time said one was a plain Mustang with a 289- not a GT. That was supposedly the reason the GT had its emblems removed, so it would match the 289. Both were ’68′s.

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