Shelby Mustang GT-H
Seldom do we get the chance to write and photograph a feature on a car and also watch it being built. This was our good fortune at Shelby Automobiles, where the 500-unit run of Shelby GT-H models was underway. Actually, the car we photographed was the prototype. The remainder of the Mustangs were already sold. Hertz bought them in one big deal. Hertz personnel were already on the premises inspecting the Mustangs before Shelby Automobiles rolled them onto transporters, nine at a time, to whisk the cars away to select locations around the country.
Go to the Shelby Automobiles web site (www.shelbyautos.com) and you'll see the phrase, "We did it in '66 ... and we've done it again." If you are into Shelby Mustangs, you know the story chapter and verse. If not, turn with us now, in your voluminous Shelby-American World Registry tomes to page 584 where Rick Kopec chronicles the story of the legendary Hertz rental G.T. 350.
The basic history is simple. In '66, Shelby came up with an ingenious idea. Sell G.T. 350 Shelby Mustangs to a rental car company. At first, the idea seems far-fetched. After all, rental cars, by their very nature, are not the sportiest selections. However, Hertz had formed a Sports Car Club in 1958 for qualified drivers. It was still going strong in 1966. Shelby-American went after this market. Hertz eventually ordered 1,000 Shelbys for '66. For such a large order, they got more than a G.T. 350. They got their own model, a G.T. 350 H - the H for Hertz, of course. Most were painted the historic company colors of black with gold stripes.
The Hertz models really pumped up Shelby sales for '66. Imagine this. Total sales for 1965 were only 562. Hertz models almost doubled this output. Total G.T. 350 production for the model year passed 2,500. The flip side to this prosperity is Hertz kept the cars in their fleet for a year. They began selling off the Shelby fastbacks, en masse, in September of 1967. Some cars sold for less than wholesale, which was $2,474. Average retail price was $3,085.
In contrast, today's GT-H (they've left out the 350 this time around) is a hot collector car right out of the factory. Prices would definitely be over sticker if collectors could buy one brand new.
Amy Boylan, President of Shelby Automobiles, told us, "We must get 10 calls a day from people wanting to buy a Hertz car. I had a guy last week, he offered me $15,000 if I would sell him one out of the back. I said, they're not my cars. They're Hertz cars, but thanks for the offer." Today, the Shelby brand name is much more widespread in recognition. Some of the first shipments arrived in Phoenix. Gary Patterson at Shelby relayed to us, "They're already backed up weeks and weeks in advance. There's a bidding war going on who can get a car to rent."
Next, enthusiasts are calling to find out how they can buy one after Hertz is done renting the cars. Shelby Automobiles can't help. Ford and Hertz have worked out a plan to sell the Shelbys to the public. When Hertz gets done with the cars, they will be put up at a Ford auction. Ford dealers will be given the chance to bid on the cars and set the prices. Then, they'll resell the cars. This time, the prices will certainly not be under wholesale, like 1967.
In anticipation of these sales to the public, Shelby Automobiles has prepared a "full legacy of information." First, each car will come with the actual aluminum plaque for the dash. For Hertz rentals, Shelby does not install the aluminum plaques in the center of the dash. Somebody could easily steal this plaque. Instead, Shelby installs decals on the dashboards that reveal the Hertz consecutive unit number and the same information on the plaque, basically, that the car is made at Shelby Automobiles in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Each owner will also receive pictures of the build. Each car will come with pictures of the team. Each car will get a plaque to go in the trunk of all the team members signing it. There will be "something" signed by Carroll Shelby - exactly what, we don't know yet. But, the cars will come with a full history.
Amy Boylan was excited, "This is our first car. This is our first Mustang at Shelby Automobiles in Las Vegas. It's an important car." We walked onto the production floor where employees were assembling GT-H models at six different workstations. Two employees per workstation assemble two cars per day. That's about 12 total per day.
Akos Feher is Director Of Production. He and Gary Davis (Production Manager of Cobra and Mustang) set up the line. Brand new Mustang GTs arrive by rail from Ford Motor Company. First, they go to pre-assembly, where workers remove the hoods and fascia. Then, cars go to each workstation (lift) where two people do about 95 percent of the conversion. They modify the suspension, exhaust, engine, hood, and fascia and install some of the badges.
From the workstations, the Mustangs go to a line where an expert team installs the stripes. Then, the cars return to the workstations where the assemblers install the Shelby letters and more badges. Originally, Feher and Davis placed three people per lift. They found out two people per lift worked better. They start at the back end of the car, doing the rear end and move to the front.
"We found we can do a car in less than five hours," Akos explained. "But, that's without accounting for unexpected events, like one of the hoods doesn't fit or they have mechanical problems. But, in an ideal situation when everything is clicking, it's about two cars per station comfortably per day."
J.B. Perrier was working on a Hertz car elevated on a lift. He told us, "I do everything - assembly and finishing detail work." We wanted to know how different a GT-H is from a stock Mustang. First, the cars come from the factory as stock GTs. We asked Perrier, who proved very articulate, to run through what they did to make a factory GT into a Hertz model.
"We take the stock hood off, put an aftermarket hood on. New front fascia, so we take the old one off, put a new one on. Take all the old badges off, put all the new badges back on." Which is what?
"The Hertz badging. The Shelby. On the front, sides and then the rear. The pony? We take the GT badge off and put a pony on and then drill for Shelby on the back, right below the brake light. And we drill the side scoops. They're non-functional. We install the doorsill plates and put an engine badge under the hood. It matches the number of the sticker on the dash inside."
The wheels remain stock. The suspension does not. Lowering the car an inch to an inch and a half adds to the cool look. "We change the front struts. They are new front struts, lowered. And then rear springs and a new rear axle. It's all lowered. New rear springs, and new rear shocks. We replace front and rear sway bars.. Add a brace in the front. All these parts come from Ford Racing." The 4.6 is peppier than stock by 25-30 horsepower.
"Under the hood we add a cold air intake. Then, there's the exhausts. We cut the H-pipe out, and put the X-pipe in and put new mufflers on with tips on them." A major part of the work is applying the stripes. Mike Smith, who was applying stripes, explained, "There are 22 separate pieces of adhesive vinyl."
Apparently, installation is not for amateurs. "The adhesive is very aggressive. That's why we have to float it on. Normally, we put them on dry, but this car has to be so accurate that we have to float and align panels as we go." Nathan Banks, who was applying rocker panel stripes told us, "If you do it slow for the first five minutes, it will save you a good three hours later. So just take your time, do it right and save time."
In another part of the shop, David Nieto and John Delarosa were preparing the grilles. The stock ponies must come out as well as the round opening for lights. Hertz cars, like Shelbys of old, have a seamless look to the grille, punctuated only by a running horse emblem on the driver's side. The way the headlights are cut and the front fascia modified (also done in the shop), the new GT-H has the look of a Cobra snakehead. We also walked to the paint shop where we found Dustin Eubank, Baby Face, Steve Conley, Warren Murphy and Stick Williams sanding and painting the new hoods.
Late in the day, we watched a man load nine cars onto a transporter. New GTs come in the Shelby factory and leave completed GT-H models. Cars are destined for the "Hertz Fun Collection" at select airport locations including Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida; Maui and Honolulu, Hawaii, Boston, Massachusetts; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Our seat time was limited to driving the car ten miles back from our photo location north of Las Vegas, and taking the car for a spin one afternoon on the public road around the Speedway. The Mustang GT itself is a fun car to drive. The GT-H adds flair with the striping. Inside, I was intrigued with the Shelby plaque on the dash. You know you are in a special model. The horsepower gain of 25-30 is something you may not feel instantly in the seat of your pants. However, the growl of the exhausts is certainly very much improved over stock and the car is faster and handles better.
2006 Shelby Mustang GT-H
Shelby traditional "Le Mans" dual overbody racing stripes; Rocker panel stripes with special "Shelby GT-H" nomenclature; Hertz Edition emblem on front fenders; Hertz Shelby GT-H badged sill plates; Numbered dash badge with Carroll Shelby's signature inside the cockpit; Custom Shelby Performance hood with pins; Brushed aluminum grille with running horse emblem; Unique front fascia with integrated lower grille; Side scoops
Ford Racing Handling Pack (FR3) installed, including special-tuned dampers inspired from the FR500C, lowering springs and revised sway bars; Mustang GT brakes with painted calipers
Wheels And Tires
OE 17" Bullitt-style rims with 235/55R17 Pirelli tires
2006 Shelby Mustang GT-H
Ford 4.6 liter SOHC V8
Ford Racing Performance Group Power Pack (FR1), includes: Ford Racing 90mm Cold Air kit, a new, premium fuel performance calibration, a new X-pipe similar to the one used on the new Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang and a cat-back performance exhaust for a throaty sound
Ford Racing 3.55:1 ratio rear axle assembly
Ford Racing Strut tower brace