Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 1, 2005
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

In the overall scheme of things, the Shelby Mustang should be but a mere footnote in the annals of Mustang history. Looking at the numbers, Shelby Mustangs represented barely over one half of one percent of the total Mustang production from 1965 to 1970. Yet, with racing success, high-performance engines, handling suspensions, and highly visible racing stripes and scoops, the Shelby Mustangs arguably generated more press than all other '65-'70 Mustangs combined. While the Shelby Mustangs were by no stretch of the imagination a sales success, their very aura contributed heavily to the Mustang's overall 2,568,633 sales during the last five years of the '60s.

Shelby made his initial Mustang mark from 1965 to 1970, on the street with his GT350s and GT500s, and on the track with SCCA and Trans-Am Mustangs from 1965 to 1969. However, he has never been far away from the minds of Mustang owners. In 1975, just five years after the last new Shelby Mustangs were sold, the Shelby American Automobile Club was formed to keep Shelby Mustangs, along with Cobras, Tigers, and other cars from Shelby American, in the spotlight. In 1980, Shelby even endorsed the building of 12 '66 GT350 convertible "continuation" cars. Just two years later, Shelby followed his buddy and former Ford President Lee Iacocca to Chrysler, where the two teamed up to offer front-wheel-drive Shelby Chargers. In 1988, Shelby filed a lawsuit against Ford over the use of the GT350 name on a special-edition '84 Mustang, a car that was rushed into production for the Mustang's 20th anniversary.

By the late '90s, Shelby was back in the business of building Cobras, the CSX4000 Series S/C roadsters. But it would be a Hollywood movie that set the stage for Shelby's return to Mustangs. When the remake of the movie Gone In 60 Seconds featured a modified '67 Shelby look-alike called "Eleanor," the subsequent Eleanor craze convinced Shelby to team up with Unique Performance, from his home state of Texas, to build Eleanor-look GT500E Mustangs for the public. Last year, the model lineup was expanded to include the supercharged Super Snake model and a '66 GT350SR. So 40 years after building his first Shelby Mustang, Carroll Shelby, who turns 82 on January 11 (happy birthday, Carroll!) is back in a big way.

Over the next few pages, we're going to take a cruise through the last 40 years of Carroll Shelby's Mustang creations. Now once again affiliated with Ford, there is a strong possibility we'll see a brand-new Shelby Mustang at Ford dealerships, perhaps as early as 2006.

The legend continues...

Shelby {{{Mustang}}} Production
1965
GT350 526 (includes one prototype)
GT350 R-model 37 (includes two prototypes)
GT350 drag model 9  
Total 572
1966
GT350 1,375  
GT350H Hertz 1,002 (includes two prototypes)
GT350 convertible 4  
GT350S (supercharged) 1
Total 2,382
1967
GT350 1,175  
GT500 2,050
GT500 hardtop 1 (prototype)
GT500 convertible 1 (prototype)
Total 3,227  
1968  
GT350 fastback 1,253
GT350 convertible 404
GT500 fastback 1,140
GT500 convertible 402
GT500KR fastback 933
GT500KR convertible 518
GT500KR hardtop 1 (prototype)
Total 4,651  
1969-'70*
GT350 fastback 937 (includes two prototypes)
GT350 fastback (for Hertz) 150  
GT350 convertible 194
GT500 fastback 1,537 (includes one prototype)
GT500 convertible 335  
Total 3,153
Total Shelby Production 13,985
*A total of 789 '69 Shelbys were converted to '70 models.

Pre-Mustang MilestonesJanuary 11, 1923: Carroll Hall Shelby is born to Warren Hall Shelby and Eloise Lawrence Shelby in Leesburg, Texas.

November 1941: Shelby begins training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. As a flight instructor, he did not leave the United States during WW II.

August 1945: Shelby leaves the Air Corps for civilian life and starts a dump truck business in Dallas.

1949: Shelby goes into the chicken business. His first batch of broilers nets a $5,000 profit, but he goes bankrupt when his second group of chickens die of Limberneck disease.

January 1952: Shelby drives in his first race, a quarter-mile drag meet, behind the wheel of a hot rod with a flathead Ford V-8.

May 1952: At Norman, Oklahoma, Shelby drives in his first road race behind the wheel of an MG-TC, taking First Place in competition.

August 1953: Shelby has to hurry to the track and wears his work overalls. When his odd attire nets him more publicity than his racing, Carroll sticks with the striped bib overalls, which become his trademark.

April 1954: Shelby goes to Europe to drive an Aston-Martin DBR3, finishing Second and leading to a ride with Aston-Martin at Le Mans in June 1954.

August 1954: Austin-Healey invites Shelby to help set 70 new Class D records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

March 1957: Sports Illustrated names Shelby "Driver Of The Year."

June 1959: Shelby and Ray Salvadori codrive an Aston-Martin DBR1/300 to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans

.February 1960: Shelby opens his Goodyear Racing Tire distributorship.

May 1960: Doctors diagnose chest pains as angina pectoris, in which the coronary arteries are starved for blood.

December 3-4, 1960: Shelby competes in his last race, the Los Angeles Times-Mirror Grand Prix. Overall, he wins the USAC driving championship.

1961: Out of racing, Shelby opens his Shelby School of High Performance Driving.

September 1961: When England's AC Cars loses the engine source for its two-seat roadster, Shelby proposes that the company keep building the chassis for a special Shelby sports car to be powered by an American V-8.

October 1961: AC Cars is interested in Shelby's plan as long as a suitable engine could be found in the States. The same month, Shelby finds out about the new 221ci Ford small-block.

February 1962: The first 260 Roadster, minus engine and transmission, is air freighted to Shelby's shop. In less than eight hours, a 260 and Borg-Warner four-speed are installed.

March 1962: Shelby American begins operations at a shop in Venice, California.

April 1962: The first Cobra is shipped to the New York Auto Show where it appears in the Ford display. Shelby American formally commits to building its new Cobra.

October 13, 1962: Shelby enters the Cobra in its first race, during the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix.

June 1963: Shelby American completes its first 125 Cobras.

December 1963: The Cobra wins the USRRC (United States Road Racing Championship).

March 1964: Shelby American enters a 427 Cobra at Sebring in the Prototype Class. For the first time, a Cobra beats the Ferrari GTOs.

June 1964: Shelby American wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Cobra is fourth overall and first in GT, defeating Ferrari.