Racing Legend Puts Stamp of Approval on Ford's Newest Mustang
By: Chris Kassab | Ford Communications Network
SVT director Hau Thai-Tang (left) and autmotive icon Carroll Shelby stand in front of the 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 at the AutoAlliance International plant in Flat Rock, Mich. Find out more about the Ford Mustang at fordvehicles.com and the GT500 Concept at caranddriver.com.
FLAT ROCK, Mich.-- Employees at the AutoAlliance International (AAI) plant in Flat Rock, Mich., were a little star-struck recently when car and racing legend Carroll Shelby stopped by for a rare visit.
"This is the next best thing to being next to God," said Samuel Crawford, who works in the body shop at the plant. "I've always wanted to meet Carroll Shelby. I've followed his career from an early age. In my life, I never thought I would have the chance to get this close."
Shelby, 82, visited the plant to meet and thank the people who worked to build the Shelby Cobra GT500 prototypes.
"One of the most important things about building anything is the people who build it," said Shelby. "I want them to know that their work is appreciated and that they're the backbone of this company."
Shelby recounted stories of his early days growing up in Texas, his lifelong relationship with Ford Motor Company and his passion for sports cars. There was complete silence in the room as he spoke. Clearly, the group was mesmerized.
"These are the kind of things that make it all worthwhile," said Beth Calhoun, vehicle line specialist, Vehicle Operations, referring to Shelby's visit. "The long hours, the late nights, the dedication -- this brings it home."
"This is a great chance for the people at AAI who have worked so hard on this car to meet Shelby and get to know the man who inspired the product," said Hau Thai-Tang, director, Advanced Product Creation and SVT. "He's been very much engaged from the beginning not only in terms of providing design input, but really helping to inspire the team to understand what the Shelby name stands for and what it means in the marketplace."
In many ways, the Shelby Cobra GT500 is very reminiscent of the 1968 Shelby Cobra, and that's no accident.
"You'll see a lot of physical resemblances like the hood execution with the two scoops, the front grille and the body stripes down the middle as well as on the sides of the car," said Thai-Tang. "All of those things are inspired by the original Shelby Mustangs."
Under the hood, the GT500 will be equipped with a 5.4-liter DOHC supercharged V-8 engine, producing an extraordinary more than 450 horsepower and more than 450 foot-pounds of torque.
"This is going to be the best Mustang ever," said Thai-Tang. "The GT500 is going to be the most powerful Mustang to ever wear the Ford, SVT or Shelby badges."
Shelby recognized the success of the Mustang and predicts an enthusiastic response to the GT500 when the car is launched in the fall of 2006.
"We're selling more Mustangs now than we can make," said Shelby. "The company needs a spark plug like that to give it some morale. We're going through some hard times. And I hope just about the time that trails off a little bit, which we know it will someday, the GT500 is going to give it another kick in the pants."
Shelby signed hats, books and posters before taking a tour of the plant. His influence on the automotive industry have led some to describe him was "living legend."
"I'm not a legend. I'm just a lucky country boy who loved what he did and was fortunate enough to be able to do that all my life," said Shelby.