In August 1964 Ford had asked Carroll Shelby to develop a street-legal, high-performance Mustang to compete against Corvette in SCCA B-production road racing. By September, California-based Shelby-American had completed the first Mustang GT350.
The 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 was a fastback production model with a functional scoop in its fiberglass hood and 306 horsepower from its 289-cubic-inch V8 – an increase of 35 horsepower over the stock engine. Suspension upgrades included a larger front stabilizer bar, Koni shocks and rear traction bars, along with race-ready features. It sold for $4,000, and was instantly recognizable by its Wimbledon White paint and blue GT350 side stripes.
For 1966 the GT350 came in white, red, black, green and blue, and Hertz purchased nearly 1,000 special GT350H weekend “rent-a-racers.” In 1967 Shelby Mustangs sported unique fiberglass bodywork that extended the front end with an aggressive dual scoop and finished the trunk lid with an integrated spoiler.
But most important in 1967 was the new GT500, a big-block with 355 horsepower. More than 2,000 of those 428-cubic-inch Mustangs were delivered that first model year.
1968 was when the name “Cobra” was first officially used on a Shelby Mustang, and that year a convertible bodystyle became available as well. Although the Shelby Cobra GT350 was essentially unchanged, later GT500s were powered by the new Cobra Jet 428 engine and thus became GT500KR – for King of the Road.
For 1969, the penultimate year of the Shelby Mustang, engine choices included the optional 351 Ram Air, and the bodywork incorporated a total of nine scoops – five on the hood, one at the front of each fender and one on each quarter panel. In 1970, with sales slowing, the final Shelby Mustangs built for 1969 were updated to 1970 spec and sold. The famed run had come to an end.