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Without Carroll Shelby, the Mustang might still be a "secretary's car." The Mustang GT350, also known as the Shelby GT350, was Shelby's attempt to "make a racehorse out of a mule," as he supposedly said to Lee Iacocca. And he damn well did it — from 1965 through to the modern day, the Ford Mustang GT350 is an impressive machine that has stood the test of time.
It’s hard for Mustang fanboys like us to remember, but there was a time when Ford was not synonymous with speed. When the Mustang was first released in 1964, it was not seen as the rip-roaring pony car that we know it as today. However, pushed by a desire unseat usurp Ferrari’s throne as the global racing champions, Ford wanted to develop a proper race car for their performance division, and they wanted to do it with that silly little Mustang.
Shelby had made a name for himself as a racer, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. However, soon after he had to quit racing for health reasons, and by 1962 he'd founded Shelby American as a way to produce custom performance parts and high-end modified cars for private buyers, developing the iconic Cobra brand. And business was good — so good that the Blue Oval came knocking for help making their Ferrari Killer.
The first Shelby GT350 in 1965 was clearly built on the Mustang design, but it had a vibe that was completely its own, right down to the color: Wimbledon White only, along with Guardsman Blue rocker panel stripes and maybe “Le Mans stripes” on top. And while the ’65 Mustang GT350 was sold to consumers, it was built with only one thing in mind: racing. This was not a comfortable daily driver. There was even a variant model made specifically to comply with Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) rules known as the Shelby GT350R.
So, what did the specs look like on the 1965 Ford Mustang GT350? Well, to say that Shelby and his team lived up to the challenge is a huge understatement.
The ’65 Ford Mustang GT350R, of which there were only 35 made, could get up to 360 horsepower. These numbers were absolutely insane in that era, and they allowed Ken Miles, famed engineer and driver for Shelby American, to take home a win in the GT350’s first race. Ultimately, it helped cement the Mustang as a “fast car” in the eyes of the American public.
Ford and Shelby continued producing the Shelby GT350 (this is when it first dropped the Mustang tag officially for a while) through 1970. There weren't any major performance upgrades in this time, although the design went through some changes — particularly to make it a little more friendly for the average driver. 1967 also saw the introduction of the Ford Shelby GT500, a car designed more for straight line power compared to the GT350's corner carving and track focus — a distinction that carries through to this day. By the late 60s, Carroll Shelby had begun to step away from his relationship with Ford, while the Blue Oval continued producing the GT350. And though it was still a powerful machine, it began to lose its racing focus and simply wasn't competitive anymore. The Mustang GT350 was ready for a long nap.
Shelby got back into business with Ford around 2005, but it took a few years for a new Mustang GT350 to show up — just in time for its 45th birthday. The 2011 model had:
*525 hp with manual transmission and a supercharged engine. 624 hp if you were willing to throw the warranty in the trash.
This thing had a lot of damn horsepower, no matter which option you chose. The 2012 model had the same specs. In 2013, the Shelby GT350 existed as an upgrade kit for the Mustang GT.
While Carroll Shelby passed away in 2012, his legacy is alive and well. The Mustang GT350 came back swinging in 2015 — and even more of a surprise, the Shelby GT350R returned, too! A full-blown, racing-focused Mustang available to the average consumer. What beautiful times we live in. This current generation has brought about some incredible performance, particularly with its engine — a variant of the Voodoo Coyote. 2019 offered some key revisions in terms of suspension and aerodynamics. It has all led to the 2020 Ford Mustang GT350 and GT350R.
The regular 2020 GT350 is rocking:
For the racer in all of us, the 2020 Ford Mustang GT350R has:
While these specs aren't wildly different, the GT350R also cuts a lot of weight and adds carbon fiber parts to offer better performance.
At Lethal Performance, you'll find a great selection of 2015-2020 Ford Shelby GT350 parts to give your ride a custom flair that Carroll himself would be proud of. If you have any questions, reach out to us — we're always happy to talk shop.Shop Now