It was exactly 50 years ago today, January 27, 1965, when one iconic car transformed the automotive world into an age where spirited driving was all that mattered. Developed by renowned racer Carroll Shelby, in partnership with Ford Motor Company, the first Shelby Mustang GT350 launched to stardom almost immediately after the first Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line on April 17, 1964, propelling America atop the automotive trending charts once more.
Igniting what was eventually dubbed as the “Pony Wars,” the Shelby Mustang GT350 became THE car to beat for many of the US’s top automakers. It was technically slotted as the Ford Mustang’s high-performance variant and featured a basic ‘60s Ford Mustang body, but was further enhanced by redesigning the rear-end to create a fastback profile. Gills were then offered as an optional add-on to add that extra oomph to its already fearsome look.
It was also made available in only one color, Wimbledon White with Blue Racing Stripes, which made the ’65 Shelby Mustang GT350 stand out from the rest during its time.
Being a muscle car through and through, the ’65 Mustang GT350 got its power from a beasty 4-barrel carbureted V8 engine, capable of producing 306 hp and 446 Nm. of torque. It then sends all the power to the rear wheels via 4-speed full synchromesh Borg Warner T-10 manual transmission. This combination pushed the car to the end of the quarter mile in just 14.7 secs, ultimately reaching its maximum speed of 124mph (200kph).
With the aforementioned facts, figures, and technicalities, it’s easy to conclude that the Shelby Mustang GT350 sure did have a big space in the global automotive history books. After all, it revolutionized the American muscle car genre to how it is today. However, its production run lasted only three years (1965-1968), but those three years have imprinted lasting memories for its followers, especially for those loyal American muscle patriots.
In 1966, the car lost its Mustang nameplate, and was henceforth officially called the Shelby GT350. Slight improvements in aesthetics and specs were made for that year model, including the addition of more body colors, rear quarter windows that replaced the gills, and the introduction of a 3-speed SelectShift AT plus an optional Paxton supercharger.
As 1967 set in, the Shelby GT350 received yet another upgrade, the Cobra-Style Aluminium High-Rise Rocker Cover, leading it to wear the iconic Shelby Cobra badge. That addition resulted in an increase of the car’s overall engine specs. From the tried and tested 4.0L, it now had a much bigger 4.7L V8, internally designated as the “289 K-Code” V8.
Also that same year, a new Shelby was unveiled and was slotted to be a step above from the GT350. Aptly called the Shelby GT500, it boasted an even bigger 7.0L V8 engine, aside from many other levelled up distinctions. Both cars co-existed in 1967 and 1968, and were even renamed as the Shelby Cobra GT350 and Shelby Cobra GT500, respectively.
Both were battling it out with other vehicles in the highly-contested American muscle car genre, such as the already-popular Dodge Challenger and the then first-gen 1966 Chevrolet Camaro, until finally in 1968, the Shelby Cobra GT350 retired from the scene.
Or did it?
Fast forward to 2014, and a familiar name suddenly made waves in the now modern, now more competitive muscle car genre of the global automotive scene. Unveiled before the global motoring media last November 2014, the all-new Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang has returned, and what a comeback it was. Penned as a 2016 model, the new GT350 boasts styling cues inspired from the latest generation Mustang, but was enhanced here and there to give it that signature menacing look its ancestor was well-known for.
That familiar fastback profile is back, and has undergone a modern facelift. But the most stunning update the new GT350 has in store is its completely-reworked V8 engine. Featuring Ford-Shelby’s newly-developed “Flat-Plane Crankshaft”, and an increased engine displacement of 5.2L, this future-driven pony screams loud with over 500hp. Pulling power is estimated at around the above 500’s.
It’s been half a decade since the first Shelby GT350 saw the light of day as an iconic car it eventually became. Many thought that its legacy was short-lived as Ford and Shelby turned many new pages in their diaries, but to everyone’s delight, it’s back and is promising to shake up the global automotive scene once again.
The new Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang’s chances of reaching our Philippine shores are still undetermined as of this typing. But here’s to hoping that it would eventually make it someday, just like its fellow ponies in the Ford stable.