You knew it had to happen sooner or later. After the past half-decade of GT500s, Hertz cars, Shelby GTs, and Super Snakes, Carroll Shelby has dusted off his original and most famous Mustang moniker of all for a brand-new 2011 version of the fabled GT350. And like the original, it will have more horsepower than the standard Mustang GT (much more this time around) and it will be built at Shelby American.
Yes, you read that right. This is the first car from the new Shelby American, formerly Shelby Automobiles. According to Carroll Shelby, reverting to the original Shelby American name, as used from 1962 to 1969, will better connect the company's current vehicles to the historic Shelby vehicles of the past, including the GT350.
The GT350 name is special to Carroll Shelby. He remembers how he came up with it for his performance version of the '65 Mustang Hi-Po fastback: "We had about 12 meetings with Ford to name the car," Carroll told us. "I finally asked someone how far it was to the building across the parking lot. He said, 'About 345 feet.' So I said, 'It's the GT350-we don't have enough time or money to keep discussing it.'"
Timing had a lot to do with holding back the GT350 name. "Right now is the right time for a new GT350," said Shelby American president Amy Boylan. "We wanted to wait until Ford came out with the upgraded performance for the Mustang GT (412hp from a new 5.0-liter engine for 2011-see page 16). And it's a 45th anniversary model, so everything is aligned perfectly."
The original '65 Shelby GT350 was introduced to the automotive press at Riverside Raceway on January 27, 1965. The 2011 GT350 was slated to be introduced almost exactly 45 years later, on January 18, 2010, during the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the first orders will be taken.
Like the original, all 2011 GT350s will be white with Guardsman Blue stripes and manual transmission, in this case a new six-speed. However, unlike the originals, which were basically race cars for the street with loud side exhaust and no back seat, the 2011 version showcases modern performance technology. In '65, the GT350's Cobraized small-block boasted 35 horsepower more than the Mustang's regular-production 289 High Performance engine. This time around, thanks to Ford Racing's Whipple supercharger, the GT350 will sport nearly 200 more horsepower than the 2011 Mustang GT's new 5.0-liter powerplant.
Like the original '65 GT350s, the 2011 GT350s will be built at Shelby American, only this
"To be honest, we don't have the final power numbers yet," Boylan confessed in late December. "We're hoping for 600. In fact, Carroll is demanding 600."
As you'd expect from a car with such a performance heritage, the new GT350 will be equipped with the latest handling and braking technology. Shelby American's Vince LaViolette used his experience in developing post-title Super Snake and Shelby SR packages to add a Ford Racing suspension plus caster/camber plates for precise alignment. Brakes are from Baer, incorporating 6-piston front calipers and Eradispeed rear rotors, both cooled by functional ducting.
For the exterior design, Boylan recruited her old friend Larry Woods from Mattel. A Hot Wheels designer for 40 years, Woods worked with LaViolette to create the GT350's unique front fascia, hood, side rockers, and rear fascia, all of which will be supplied by Classic Design Concepts. "It was a great team effort," Boylan says. "It looks retro but still looks new and modern. The thing we're most excited about is that it incorporates all of the greatest elements from Carroll's best Mustangs of the 1960s - things like the '65 R-Model front fascia, '67 hood scoop and grille, and '69 center-exiting exhaust."