At Interstate speeds, the GT350 is rough and ready. It's not a luxury car by any stretch of the imagination. The suspension is stiff, wind whooshes by the open side windows, and header heat rises off the floor pans. The car even smells fast. And did I mention that it's loud? At 65 mph and 3,000 rpm, the blown-out glasspacks drown out any attempt at passenger conversation.
As we roll into the Marriott parking lot, I am thankful to see Jeff Yergovich there to guide me to a spot in front of the hotel lobby. I'm even more thankful when he offers to park the car. I have no desire to jump the curb again.
Less than 24 hours after driving Wick's survivor '65 Shelby GT350, I found myself climbing into an '11 GT350 for a much different type of drive on the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit road course. The name may be the same, but the '11 GT350 is a totally different car than the original. If the '65 GT350 was a race car for the street, then the '11 GT350 is a street car for the racetrack.
Shelby American brought a pair of new GT350s to Hallett, one naturally-aspirated and the other supercharged. I drove the non-supercharged car, with MCA President Steve McCarley as my passenger/instructor. If you haven't driven an '11 Mustang GT, which the GT350 is based on, then you owe yourself a visit your local Ford dealer for a test drive. The latest Mustang is both comfortable and fast. Shelby takes it up a notch for the GT350 with a Ford Racing suspension, Baer brakes, and Borla exhaust, which sounds great both inside and outside.
I join my open-track session a bit late, but that works to my advantage because I have clear sailing in front of me, giving me an opportunity to press the Shelby hard without worrying about other cars in front of me. As I accelerate onto the track, I can't help but notice the power from the new 412hp 5.0-liter engine. It's totally different from the '65's 289 Hi-Po-smoother, stronger, and much quieter. McCarley offers driving advice-when to brake, when to turn in, when to accelerate. By the second lap, I'm more comfortable with the car and the track. The GT350's handling and braking is fantastic. I expected it to be good, but not this good. There's none of the harshness that you expect from a car that handles this well.
Although it's a totally different car, the new GT350 lives up to its name.