Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Ford Shelby Mustang 1965 - 1970: the pony with a bite


In 1964 the Ford Motor Corporation introduced a car that would change the American car market and became a symbol of a revolutionary decade: the Mustang. It was a compact sporty car offered at an attractive price and aimed at youthful starting car buyers. The car immediately made a big impression and it sold very well; the original Mustang still holds the record for first-year new-model sales (680,989 units between April 1964 and August 1965, when it was replaced by the 1966 model).
Still Ford's division chief Lee Iacocca felt that the Mustang's image needed a boost and he contacted sports car manufacturer Caroll Shelby, famous for the iconic Ford powered AC Shelby Cobra and also involved in Ford's GT40 racing car project. Shelby was asked to modify the Mustang in a way so it could win the Sports Car Club of America's national B-production championship. And so a new competition breed of Mustangs came into life in 1965, finished at the Shelby-American shop in Los Angeles, fitted with Shelby badges and trademarks like the Cobra-logo and named GT-350 for no particular reason*.
The Shelby Mustangs proved to be fast, brutal and successful in competition. Like the exotic Shelby Cobras these extremely powerful cars were street legal and were sold commercially. Though the Shelby Mustangs remained rare these cars had started off the "Muscle Car" era: awe-inspiring compact cars fitted with huge engines which accelerated like rockets and were the dream of every American teenage boy. Unfortunately the Shelby Mustang became a victim of it's own success: the enormous amount of accidents with GT cars, the subsequently high insurance rates and the cheaper less refined competition meant the end for the Shelby Mustang in 1970.

These days the Shelby Mustang is a true blooded classic with a devoted and enthusiastic following. Driving these cars still offers a huge thrill, uncluttered by modern gadgets like traction control and automatic brake assist. The impressive roar of the engine and the demanding, involving drive sets it apart from everyday driving and adds a bit of fear to the excitement: this is no well-groomed means of transport but a pony with a bite and it needs an experienced master. I like that kind of character in a car, and that's why I hope you'll enjoy this tour around six years of Shelby Mustangs.

* [note: officially the Shelby Mustangs were regarded as a separate range and didn't carry the Ford nor the Mustang name; the proper designation was "Shelby (Cobra) GT", followed by a model number (and letters). However to clarify the car in its context I've used the more common "Shelby Mustang" or "Ford Shelby Mustang" names to identify these cars in order to avoid confusion with other Shelby sports cars]

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