Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
May 13, 2011
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

It’s widely known that Shelby American offered its first-year ’65 GT350s in one color combination only--Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue stripes. For 1966, Ford wanted Shelby to sell more than the 562 built for ’65, so the car’s appeal was broadened by a number of changes, including the expansion of the color lineup to include Candy Apple Red, Sapphire Blue (a Continental/Thunderbird color), Ivy Green, and Raven Black (for Hertz) in addition to Wimbledon White. It obviously helped, with Shelby selling more than four times as many ’66 GT350s as ’65 models.

So it’s no surprise that Shelby American is sticking with tradition by adding more colors to its second year offering of its new GT350, which debuted for ’11 in white-with-blue only. For ’12, the GT350 is available in two new colors--Race Red and Kona Blue, both with white LeMans and side stripes, in addition to Performance White with blue stripes.

Last year, we brought back the GT350 45 years after it was launched, said Carroll Shelby. They look and sound just like the ones we built in 1965. We’re repeating history by offering two additional colors for the second year of production.

Also well-known by Shelby aficionados is the fact that Shelby American built four GT350 convertibles for 1966 (see The Original ’66 Convertibles sidebar). That gives Shelby American an ideal reason to once again offer a GT350 convertible for ’12. As Shelby American President John Luft notes, it’s the first GT350 convertible since 1970.

We’re ramping up production to meet the expected demand, said Luft, although our plan is to only build 350 GT350s for the ’12 model year to maintain exclusivity and future collectibility.

Like ’11, the ’12 Shelby GT350 is a post-title program based on the Mustang GT and its 412-horsepower 5.0-liter engine. Buyers purchase the Mustang from their favorite Ford dealer, basing the order on Shelby American’s specifications, then it’s drop-shopped (Ford order code 99wkh7) to the Shelby headquarters in Las Vegas for the upfit to a GT350. Buyers can choose 430 hp normally-aspirated, 525 hp supercharged, or a specially-tuned supercharged version for 624 hp, which voids the drivetrain warranty. Supercharged cars come with the sixspeed manual only while naturally-aspirated GT350s are available with either the manual or the six-speed automatic.

Essentially, the ’12 GT350 package is the same as the ’11. The car goes into Shelby American as a Mustang GT and comes out the other side as a GT350 with a unique front fascia and hood, performance suspension, Baer front brakes, center-exit Borla exhaust, 19-inch Cragar wheels with Goodyear performance tires, and plenty of Shelby GT350 logos and badging.

When it comes to performance of the current generation GT350, our team did a great job right out of the gate, quipped Gary Patterson, vice president of operations at Shelby American. The GT350 leaves its mark on the street that says a Shelby was here.’ That’s why we’re packing the ’12 model with the same performance as the ’11 Shelbys.

Obviously, convertibles and red or blue cars are all ’12 models, but if you want to tell the difference between white coupes, look at the grille. The ’11s have a molding similar to the ’65 GT350; for ’12, the molding is eliminated.

The Shelby GT350 post-title package starts at $26,995 (normally aspirated) and $33,995 (supercharged). Add in the price of the base car and you’re looking at close to $60,000 for a normally-aspirated GT350 coupe or well over $70,000 for a nicely-equipped, supercharged version. Like the 1960s, Shelby Mustangs aren’t for everyone, nor can everyone afford one. But those are just a couple of the reasons why Shelbys have become so special over the years.

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’12 Shelby GT350 Package

Supercharged: $33,995
Naturally aspirated: $26,995

  • Shelby/Ford Racing/Whipple super- charger
  • Shelby/Ford Racing suspension
  • Caster/camper plate kit
  • Shelby/Baer six-piston front brake kit
  • Shelby Eradispeed rear rotor upgrade
  • Front and rear brake duct cooling kit
  • Shelby/Borla center-exit exhaust
  • 19-inch Cragar wheels
  • Goodyear performance tires
  • Exclusive front fascia, grille, and running horse emblem
  • Exclusive fiberglass hood
  • Exclusive rear fascia with center- exit exhaust and GT350 badging
  • Taillight trim
  • Rear decklid filler panel
  • Side rockers with integral scoop and screen mesh
  • Over the top and side vinyl stripes (Guardsman Blue with Perfor- mance White exterior or Matte White with Race Red and Kona Blue exteriors)
  • Powered by Ford front fender emblems
  • Engine plate and cap set
  • Console-mounted dash plate with Carroll Shelby sequential number
  • GT350 cup lid appliqu
  • A-pillar gauge package with fuel pressure, oil pressure, and boost gauges
  • Embroidered head rests
  • GT350 logo floor mats

Options

  • Shelby/Baer rear brake upgrade
  • 624 gross horsepower tune (voids powertrain warranty)
  • Polished supercharger
  • Watts link rear suspension
  • Shelby high-performance cooling package
  • One-piece aluminum driveshaft
  • Shelby short-throw shifter
  • Painted over the top and side stripes
  • Custom interior upgrade (contrast- ing seat stitching, tone-on-tone embroidering, console lid trim, shifter and emergency handle boots)
  • Shelby/Kicker sound system upgrade
  • Light bar (convertibles)
  • Color anodized billet aluminum engine cap set

Living with the GT350

Over the years, my neighbors have become jaded to the Mustangs in my garage, whether they were personal cars or press vehicles. That ended when I spent a week with an ’11 Shelby GT350. One neighbor followed me home to get a closer look, several others rang my door bell to ask questions, and my next-door neighbor’s 16-year-old daughter stopped by to have her photo taken with the car. In other words, if you’re driving a new GT350, don’t expect peace and quiet.

Of course, a car like the new GT350 is not designed for peace and quiet. From its bold front fascia and LeMans stripes to its Borla center-exit exhaust, the latest Shelby stands out wherever it goes. That includes street and track. The buzz around our office hallways says that Evan Smith from Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine drove the supercharged GT350 to a mid 11-second quarter-mile e.t. at 122 mphon the Goodyear Eagle F1 street tires.

On the street, the supercharged version of the GT350 is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Keep it under half-throttle and the Shelby is polite and well-mannered with plenty of down-low torque from the 5.0-liter. Push the throttle past halfway and the Shelby becomes absolutely evil as the supercharger boost kicks in. The power is exhilarating, and even the ultra high-performance F1 tires struggle to keep their grip on the pavement in Second and Third gears.

With its Borla center-exit exhaust, the new GT350 ranks as one of the best-sounding Mustangs ever. Your neighbors will know that you’re coming or going, but from inside the cabin the exhaust tone urges you to frequently dip past that half-throttle point. Shelby American says they provided a recording of a ’65 GT350 exhaust for Borla to copy. Aside from the stereo effect of the ’65’s side exhaust, they got it close.

With a $70,000 car like our well-optioned supercharged Shelby GT350, I doubt that many owners will use the car as daily transportation. But with the car’s thrilling acceleration and great sound, it will definitely be difficult to leave this one in the garage.

The Original ’66 Convertibles

At the end of ’66 Shelby GT350 production, the final four cars, 6S2375-2378, were convertibles. Although rumors have circulated for years that there were six cars and that a pink one was given to Carroll Shelby’s secretary, the latest edition of the SAAC Shelby Registry: 1965, 1966, 1967 (see this month’s Pony Tales) sets the record straight by stating that Shelby records prove that only four cars were built. One was a sold unit (to Bob Shane from the folk group The Kingston Trio), while the other three were used for test purposes in anticipation of a ’67 GT350 convertible. Of course, a regular production Shelby convertible did not debut until 1968.

The ’66 GT350 convertibles were painted in different colorsgreen, yellow, red, and bluewith white tops. All four survive today, including Cliff Hornback’s green version (pictured), which was featured in Mustang Monthly in 1982.

In 1966, Carroll Shelby used one of the convertibles as his personal vehicle, which he recalled as one of his favorite cars after it was sold while he was away on a business trip. In 1980, Shelby commissioned Beverly Hills Mustang to build 12 GT350 convertible continuation cars, which were essentially used ’65-’66 Mustang convertibles restored to ’66 GT350 specifications.