Re: U.S.A.:Ford, Shelby tighten knot, may collaborate on new car
FORD AND SHELBY: PARTNERS AT THE FINISH LINE
It might shock many of today’s young racing hopefuls to learn that Carroll Shelby didn’t enter his first automobile race – a quarter-mile drag meet – until he was nearly 30 years old. What’s no surprise, of course, is that the hot rod Shelby drove to the finish line that day in 1952 was powered by a Ford V-8.
Shelby may have started late, but he was a winner from the beginning. Just two years into his driving career, Aston Martin’s racing manager, John Wyer, recruited him to co-drive a DB3 at Sebring. Within months, the chicken farmer from Texas was bumping elbows and trading paint with the likes of Juan-Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill and Paul Frère. He won Europe’s prestigious 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans in 1959, driving an Aston Martin DBR1 with Roy Salvadori.
Early in 1962 Shelby drove his second Ford-powered race car. It was the first mockup for the Cobra, Shelby’s now-legendary marriage of a lightweight British roadster body with a small-block Ford V-8. By January 1963, he had homologated the car under the FIA’s GT Group III class, and that month a Cobra won its first race, beating a field of Corvette Stingrays at Riverside, California.
In January 1965, Ford hired Shelby to lend his expertise to the GT40 campaign. Three cars had run the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but none of them finished.
Shelby began work on installing the more reliable 7-liter stock-car engine in what would be known later as the GT40 Mark II. It proved to be considerably faster than the Mark I, and, although 1965 was another unsuccessful year at Le Mans, GT40 had become, in just two seasons, a strong contender.
Ford and Shelby tested the GT40 Mark II extensively – both in the wind tunnel and on a special dynamometer that simulated a 48-hour run of the Le Mans circuit. At the start of the 1966 season, GT40 began a four-year domination of endurance racing.
While Ford and Shelby took on Ferrari at Le Mans, they fought Corvette at home. The first effort was the legendary Shelby Cobra, a Ford-powered and Shelby-engineered derivative of the AC Ace. Production of the vehicle, which had a one-ton weight advantage over the Corvette, began in June 1962 and continued through March 1967.
The Shelby Mustang
In August 1964, Ford asked Carroll Shelby to develop a street-legal, high-performance Mustang to compete against the Corvette in SCCA B-production road racing. Shelby-American, Carroll Shelby’s Californian racing shop, completed its first Mustang GT350 by September.
The 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 was a fastback production model with a functional scoop in its fiberglass hood and 306 horsepower from the 289-cubic-inch V-8 underneath – an increase of 35 horsepower over the stock Ford engine. Suspension upgrades included a larger front stabilizer bar, Koni shocks and rear traction bars and race-ready features, such as competition safety belts, a large oil-pressure gauge, tachometer and a trunk-mounted battery. It sold for $4,000 and was instantly recognizable by its Wimbledon White paint and blue GT350 side stripes along the rocker panels.
For 1966, the GT350 was offered in white, red, black, green and blue, and Hertz purchased nearly 1,000 special 1966 GT350H weekend "rent-a-racer" models. In the 1967 model year, the 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 version with 355 horsepower. More than 2,000 of those 428-cubic-inch Mustangs were delivered in the first model year.
1968 was the first year the name "Cobra" was officially used on a Shelby Mustang. That year, a convertible body style became available. Although the Shelby Cobra GT350 was essentially unchanged, later GT500s were powered by the new "Cobra Jet" 428 engine and thus became the GT500KR, for King of the Road.
For 1969, the penultimate year of the Shelby Mustang, the engine choices included the optional 351 Ram Air engine, 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 specifications and sold, ending the famed run.
Key Moments in the History of Ford and Carroll Shelby
Carroll Shelby enters his first race at the wheel of a Ford-powered hot rod.
Shelby tests his first Ford-powered AC 260 Roadster – the car that would become the Shelby Cobra.
Shelby-American begins operations in Venice, California.
Cobra production begins.
Ford asks Shelby to develop a high-performance Mustang derivative.
First Shelby prototypes are built.
The 1965 Shelby GT350 is introduced.
Ford hires Shelby American to oversee the GT40 program.
Hertz begins buying GT350H versions for its "rent-a-racer" program.
Ford GT40 Mark II wins Le Mans.
First 1967 Shelby GT500s are delivered.
Ford and Shelby American again win Le Mans.
1968 Shelby Mustang convertibles debut.
1969 model-year production begins.
Shelby Mustang production ends.
Ford and Shelby end their long-term racing agreement.