Carroll Shelby may be 88 years old, but that's not stopping him from chasing dreams and brainstorming ideas that would be over the top for anyone half his age. Or even a quarter his age. At today's Shelby American, his crew is working on a 5.4-liter engine that will produce 1,000 horsepower for Carroll's GT500 Super Snake. They're also fitting his Ford GT supercar with twin turbochargers because Carroll says he wants to drive it at 230 mph before he turns 90. In other words, there's not a nursing home anywhere that can hold Carroll Shelby.
Carroll is also taking care of some missed opportunities from the past. This one began with a phone call to Stephen Becker, vintage Shelby broker and long-time friend of Carroll's.
"Carroll called and told me he always wanted to put a Paxton supercharger on the 351 Windsor in a '69-'70 GT350," Becker says. "It was the car he never got around to building in the 1960s."
By 1969, Shelby's involvement with the Mustang that carried his name was little more than his stamp of approval. Beginning with the '68 model year, Shelby Mustang production moved from the Shelby American facility in LA to the A.O. Smith Company near Detroit. By 1969, the design of the Shelby GT350s and GT500s had completely moved to the Ford design studios, resulting in a Shelby that looked less like a Mustang and more like a European sports car. When Shelby saw the writing on the wall for the future of performance cars, he ended the Shelby Mustang era and took off to hunt and travel in Africa. Ford discontinued Shelby production in 1969 but converted 789 leftovers into '70 models by adding black hood stripes and a chin spoiler.
Becker had the perfect car for Carroll's supercharged GT350 project-a low-mileage '70 GT350 convertible, with four-speed and air conditioning, in survivor condition with original paint, interior, and top. "I bought it from a lady in Alabama," Becker says. "Her husband had given it to her as a 40th birthday present in 1986. It was her dream car, but when she decided to retire, she asked me to find it a good home."
You can't find a much better home for a Shelby than Carroll Shelby's garage.
With Shelby American Motorsports running full-steam ahead with late-model projects in Las Vegas, Becker enlisted his shop in Atlanta to pull, rebuild, and detail the engine in preparation for the Paxton installation. The search for a vintage Paxton supercharger ended with a call to longtime Shelby expert Craig Conley, who was willing to dig into his stash to provide an original white-case Paxton for the project. Better yet, it was a rare Shelby version with the "manufactured exclusively for Shelby American" tag still intact.
Installing a Paxton supercharger on a Ford small-block is typically a no-brainer. However, the '70 Shelby presented a couple of challenges. Because the supercharger mounts on the driver side, the first obstacle was moving the A/C compressor to the opposite side. Secondly, Paxton only offered installation components for 289s; the wider 351 required different brackets. To solve the dilemma while maintaining a factory appearance, Becker called on Jim Cowles at Shelby Parts and Restoration in Wisconsin for technical assistance. Cowles created the mounting brackets for the Paxton and Sanden A/C compressor, while Classic Auto Air took the provided measurements to build the needed A/C hoses. For clearance, the battery was relocated to the trunk using a Boss 429 tray and cables.
The entire project was completed in just three weeks. "Should have taken six months," Becker laughs. "But it was great to help Carroll realize one of his ideas and make it happen."
With the engine back in place, the one-off GT350 was delivered to Shelby's office in Gardena, California. However, when we talked with Carroll about it, he had not had a chance to drive it. "It's a unique little car with the Paxton on it," he told us. "That's what I would have done back in the 1960s. I am going to drive it to make sure that Paxton is working right!"
Becker test-drove the Shelby before delivery. "We kept the 3.00 gears because we didn't want to overheat the engine with the supercharger and A/C," he says. "It really wakes up in Second gear. And the A/C blows ice cubes!"
For Carroll Shelby, the supercharged '70 GT350 is yet another realized dream in a lifetime of fulfilled fantasies. As he's done with many projects, he plans to sell or auction the car in the future, with proceeds going to the Carroll Shelby Foundation.