In the overall scheme of things, the Shelby Mustang should be but a mere footnote in the annals of Mustang history. Looking at the numbers, Shelby Mustangs represented barely over one half of one percent of the total Mustang production from 1965 to 1970. Yet, with racing success, high-performance engines, handling suspensions, and highly visible racing stripes and scoops, the Shelby Mustangs arguably generated more press than all other '65-'70 Mustangs combined. While the Shelby Mustangs were by no stretch of the imagination a sales success, their very aura contributed heavily to the Mustang's overall 2,568,633 sales during the last five years of the '60s.
Shelby made his initial Mustang mark from 1965 to 1970, on the street with his GT350s and GT500s, and on the track with SCCA and Trans-Am Mustangs from 1965 to 1969. However, he has never been far away from the minds of Mustang owners. In 1975, just five years after the last new Shelby Mustangs were sold, the Shelby American Automobile Club was formed to keep Shelby Mustangs, along with Cobras, Tigers, and other cars from Shelby American, in the spotlight. In 1980, Shelby even endorsed the building of 12 '66 GT350 convertible "continuation" cars. Just two years later, Shelby followed his buddy and former Ford President Lee Iacocca to Chrysler, where the two teamed up to offer front-wheel-drive Shelby Chargers. In 1988, Shelby filed a lawsuit against Ford over the use of the GT350 name on a special-edition '84 Mustang, a car that was rushed into production for the Mustang's 20th anniversary.
By the late '90s, Shelby was back in the business of building Cobras, the CSX4000 Series S/C roadsters. But it would be a Hollywood movie that set the stage for Shelby's return to Mustangs. When the remake of the movie Gone In 60 Seconds featured a modified '67 Shelby look-alike called "Eleanor," the subsequent Eleanor craze convinced Shelby to team up with Unique Performance, from his home state of Texas, to build Eleanor-look GT500E Mustangs for the public. Last year, the model lineup was expanded to include the supercharged Super Snake model and a '66 GT350SR. So 40 years after building his first Shelby Mustang, Carroll Shelby, who turns 82 on January 11 (happy birthday, Carroll!) is back in a big way.
Over the next few pages, we're going to take a cruise through the last 40 years of Carroll Shelby's Mustang creations. Now once again affiliated with Ford, there is a strong possibility we'll see a brand-new Shelby Mustang at Ford dealerships, perhaps as early as 2006.