The Shelby GT500: A Look at a Legend

  • 3 months   ago

The Shelby GT500 is a unique Ford Mustang model. Today, these are collector's items because they are hard to find. Since the GT500 came from Shelby America, which had lower production numbers, and not Ford, which had larger capabilities, it stands out from the other Mustangs. 

It was incredibly successful when it launched. This vehicle's stylings and power drew consumers in, especially those looking for something new in the pony car class. It had a distinctive look about it that still stands out generations later. 

Many in the industry feel it's one of the best American-made cars in history. It lasted for three generations of production, and even found its way into Hollywood films. 

Background on the Shelby Mustang

The Shelby Mustang was an offshoot of the Ford Mustang. It went into production in 1965 and continued until 1970. The original Shelby-built models were only available for the 1965 to 1968 models because Ford took back production from Shelby America in 1969.

It's worth noting the years if you're a collector because it makes the '65 to '68 Shelby Mustangs even rarer and sought-after. You should also know that in 2005, Ford brought back the Shelby name for a 5th generation Mustang. However, it isn't an authentic Shelby-built vehicle since Ford managed it completely, and Shelby America wasn't involved in the production process. 

Introducing the GT500

The first Shelby GT500 came out in 1967. Ford also had a 1967 Mustang on the market. When it came to the styling, the two cars were alike in many ways, but the GT500 had some unique aspects that helped make it unique.  

The GT500 had a V8 engine. It also introduced a lot of fiberglass into the body construction. The hood, side scoops, front end, deck lid, rear tail light panel, and quarter panel extension were all made of fiberglass, which was a material that was really taking off during this period, as auto manufacturers were moving away from other materials. 

One note about GT500s you may find on the market today is that they may have replacement parts that aren't fiberglass. The industry has now moved away from this material as it isn't strong enough or safe enough for use on modern cars. 

Shelby America only made 2,048 of the GT500s in 1967, and in 1968, the name changed. The GT500 became the Shelby Cobra GT500 due to Ford's decision to install a Cobra Jet engine into the car. 

Again, this is something to note as a collector. This is a rare vehicle. Finding a true 1967 Shelby GT500 is tough. The limited number produced only makes things harder since all of the 2,048 cars likely didn't make it through time. With a fraction of those still out there, it's pretty hard to get your hands on one. 

About the Cobra Engine

The Cobra engine was a calculated move on Ford's part. Ford got the idea for the Cobra engine and the GT500 after Carroll Shelby's victory in Le Mans in 1966. Ford wanted to introduce something that had more power and was more impressive.

Car and Driver explains that it was a racing engine that didn't make for a good everyday engine. They burnt a lot of oil and were extremely noisy. While Ford really wanted the power and to introduce a big block pony car, in the end, the GT500 came out with a smaller engine that didn't burn oil but also wasn't as fast. That didn't stop Ford from getting a complete redesign of the model to fit the Cobra engine it originally wanted. 

GT500 Design and Style

Originally, Ford needed to make room for the bigger Cobra engine, so it had to redesign the Shelby Mustang. Ford did the redesign to the body to slightly enlarge it, but then relied on the engineers to do the rest. 

What would become the GT500 started with a throwback to the Fastback Mustang. It had rear brake scoops. However, Ford wanted a very distinctive body design. While the company wanted to install a race car engine into the model, it didn't intend for the car to race. It was looking for something modern and comfortable. 

To bring Ford's vision to mind, the engineers added fiberglass to the body. They crafted a new hood design, front end, side scoops, and spoiler. They did reimagine the tail lights from the T-Bird to help it stand out from other Mustangs. 

A unique aspect was the top side window scoops. These acted as an exhaust that extracted air from inside the cabin. They also developed a new emblem for the Shelby Mustang. It was the coiled snake that went on the trunk and the fenders. 

There were parts of the original design that didn't last. The GT500 originally had twin high beam lights near the center of the grille. However, some states had laws that required the headlights to be towards the sides of the vehicle, so there was a redesign for cars sold in those states that moved the headlights to the sides of the grille. Another change was the removal of the red side marker lights that were originally in the design. 

It's also worth noting that as Ford was developing this car, it still referred to it as the GT350. It worked with a few ideas before settling on GT500. The company wanted to distinguish it from the GT350, which had less power and a different design.

When Ford finally introduced it, the car was the 1967 Shelby GT500. It was a true work of art that stood out from the other Shelby Mustangs and Ford Mustangs. 


Carrying on a Legacy

Despite the Shelby GT500 not ending up with the Cobra racing engine, it still made a splash in the automotive world. Since Shelby didn't have large production numbers, it only adds to this vehicle's rare nature. 

Those collectors who want a unique car to add to their Mustang collection often mark the Shelby GT500 as a goal. It draws people to it as much now as it did when it first debuted in 1967. This Mustang's legacy is sure to continue as collectors seek out the few remaining models and turn them into highly sought-after treasures.