FLAT ROCK, Mich., July 1, 2005 -- Employees at the AutoAlliance
International (AAI) plant 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.
"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
"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 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
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. He
is often described by his fans as a "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.
Yet another $.02 worth from a proud owner of a 1970 Mach 1 351C @