First introduced in 1966 the Shelby Mustang, like the Shelby Cobra was built individually making each car unique. It was referred to as the GT350 although the name did not relate to anything specific – it just sounded good to Shelby!
In its first production year there were 562 cars produced, no two the same. Because of the Shelby policy of incorporating modifications and improvements as soon as they had been proven, cars coming out of the Shelby works continued to get better and better.
After the first 250 cars were built it became obvious to Ford that this was a loss operation. Whilst they assisted in improving Ford’s image the Shelby Mustang was not contributing to Ford’s bottom line.
As a consequence Ford’s accountants descended on Shelby to put his house in order for him. Although the changes imposed on Shelby did not please him they did, in fact, add to the car’s appeal. In a surprise move Hertz, the car rental people, bought a quantity to add to their fleet. This GT350H was a popular rental choice for week-ends as many of them appeared at a number of drag strips around the United States.
By 1967 the regular Mustang, which had been selling extremely well and had been Detroit’s most successful first-year model over the previous 10 years, began to face more competition from Camaro and Firebird among others. In response Ford introduced a mid-term face-lift. Whilst this move produced a good result for the regular Mustang it presented the GT350 with a few problems.
A fibreglass front end had to be introduced to reduce the weight of the new overhang, and the addition of convenience features like air-conditioning allowed the car to be positioned as a luxury GT, but the performance credentials were definitely compromised by the changes.
With its four-seater sports coupe body the Shelby Mustang was a smart looking car that performed extremely well. In 1967 Shelby replaced the engine with a larger 7.0-litre 90-degree V8 and christened it the GT500, again for no particular reason other than Shelby thought it sounded good. The GT500 went on to build the Shelby name even more but that’s another story.