I was around three years old when I decided what I wanted my first car to be: a cherry-red Mustang. I don’t know where I would have seen one, or how I knew the name, but for years, I told people that was what I wanted. And of course, when talking with older guys, they always wanted to know what year I was talking about. My knowledge of the Mustang didn’t extend that far, but now that I’m older, I know exactly what I would have told them – I wanted a cherry-red, 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 fastback.
I’m still not sure why it was I wanted one, but I have a suspicion I was going through my horse phase at the time, and of course, any car named after a horse was a must-have in my book. I’ve moved on from the Mustang since, but I do wonder sometimes about what it would be like to own a first generation Shelby. Would I have driven Route 66 with a few friends, stopping over in tiny motels along the route, poking around in privately owned museums, eating at roadside diners, and listening to classic rock? Or would I have realized that this particular model was only ever meant for racing?
When the first Shelby arrived in the mid-1960’s, it was equipped with a 4.7L Windsor V8 engine, a choice between a 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual transmission, and the optional “Le Mans” white stripes. They were all-American made, mostly in California, and were few in number. There were only 562 units made the first year of production. The next year Shelby Mustangs were available in more colors (including that red I wanted), the battery was moved from the trunk to the front, optional rear seats were offered, and the Hertz Corporation made a deal to purchase over 1,000 models, which helped bring the car to the public’s attention.
There was a massive break between production years for the Shelby, due to the original designer Carroll Shelby’s termination of his contract with the Ford company. From 1971 to 2004, it seemed as if we’d seen the last of that particular Mustang variant. Luckily, however, Carroll came back and agreed to design for Ford again, and the Shelby CS6/CS8 was born. Later iterations were named the Ford Shelby GT, and the Ford Shelby GT500, though there were special packages and options for the Super Snake and Terlingua, as well as limited edition models and pacing cars for the racing arena.
The third generation of the Shelby GT has been around since 2015, but there seems to be a few improvements and certain upgrades in its near future. The 2019 Shelby GT350 will come with bespoke tires, new suspension and aerodynamics, a touchscreen, and two new shades of blue paint. It will be available for purchase in early 2019. Perhaps this is my chance to finally appease my inner three-year-old self and drive off into the distance with my own Shelby GT350. Better late than never, right?