It would require a book at this point to catalog everything that
Carroll Shelby put his name on (chili mix, anyone?). But to go back to
the earliest days, C. Shelby was a fairly successful race car driver
with a bad heart, so bad he actually kept a nitroglycerin pill under
his tongue during races. His Drs. told him he had to quit. At the
same time, there was 4-cylinder British sports car called the Ace,
built by a company called AC, that was going out of production. Shelby
thought a small block Chevy transplant would make this car come alive.
He created a company called Shelby American to do it. But GM wouldn't
supply him with the engines. So he went to Ford, and Ford agreed to
supply the new for '62 260 ci Challenger engine. Here's a picture of
Shelby watching his helpers assemble the first Shelby American car, in
February 1962: http://www.mustangmods.com/data/9461/untitled_1.jpg
They called it the Cobra. Although some people nowadays call these "AC
Cobras," and although AC in England actually built a few, they are
properly called Shelby American Cobras.
By the time the Mustang came out in April 1964, the Cobras, including a
variant called the Daytona Coupe, had had a lot of success on the
racetrack. So Shelby American was a known Ford performance brand. So
Ford came to Shelby and asked him to produce a performance version of
the Mustang. These cars are properly called the Shelby American
GT-350, and are sometimes called Shelby Mustangs. But they are NOT
In '67 Shelby American started ordering 390 big block cars and
transplanting so-called "Police Interceptor" 428's. These were called
In '68, GT-350 and GT-500 production shifted from the Shelby American
factory in Los Angeles to the Detroit facilities of a Ford vendor
called W.O. Smith. Cobra production ceased. At some point, the data
plates in the W.O. Smith Mustangs started bearing the name Shelby
Automotive, not Shelby American. But they are still properly called
In April 1968, Ford started putting "Cobra Jet" 428's in Mustangs. So
W.O. Smith didn't have to do an engine swap any more. They called
these 68.5's the GT-500KR.
Finally, '69 was the last year for GT-350 and GT-500 production.
Leftover '69's were re-VIN-ed as '70's, but they were built in the '69
By the end of 1968, Carroll Shelby was tired of the car biz, and spent
his time in Africa hunting big game. He returned to the fray with an
association with Mopar in the early '80's, starting with the turbo four
Dodge Omni GLH-S (S for Shelby).