Text by Austin C. Craig & photos by Austin C. Craig and Shelby American, Inc.
It was over 45 years ago that Shelby American introduced the 1965 Mustang GT350 at Riverside International Raceway in Southern California. The GT350 was conceived, designed and engineered to build a performance image for the hot selling Mustang. The previous summer Lee Iacocca, Ford Division General Manager was pleased with the new Mustang’s sales, but was worried that the car with modest performance attributes, was being imaged as a “secretary’s car.” Iacocca had Ray Geddes, Ford Sports Car Manager, contact Carroll Shelby to transform the Mustang into a sports car. With Shelby American’s race and production business running at full capacity and the company’s facilities in Venice, California, bursting at the seams, Shelby was reluctant to take on more programs. He eventually agreed to build a performance Mustang.
Six months later the Mustang GT350 was introduced at Riverside Raceway, not the typical venue for the usual new car announcement. The GT350 was not however the usual new car. To establish a performance image for Mustang the GT350 would have to beat the best sports cars of the day, Corvette Stingray and the Jaguar XKE. The performance of the GT350 showcased that day at Riverside was validated all season long as the latest performance car from Shelby American dominated its competition during the 1965 season. Jerry Titus capped this very successful year by winning the SCCA B Production Class National Championship at Daytona International Speedway that November.
The GT350 built a performance image for the Ford Mustang, but the car also built a following among enthusiasts. In 1965 Shelby American built five times as many street versions as had been originally planned for.
Although the last Shelby GT350 rolled off the assembly line in 1970, enthusiasts never forgot the original Shelbys, with their balanced performance and handling and desired a return of the GT350 on a current Mustang platform.
In January their wait was over. Shelby American unveiled the new 2011 GT350 during the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction Opening Night Gala in Scottsdale, Arizona. Once again Shelby American chose a different venue from the traditional auto show to introduce the new GT350.
Knowing that Carroll Shelby has a long history of working with Barrett-Jackson I was interested to find out why the site was chosen. Thanks to Scott Black, President of TPR@M Marketing, located in Dallas, Texas, the marketing agency for both Barrett-Jackson and Shelby American, I was able to interview Steve Davis, Barrett-Jackson President. While being one of the key people in the growth of Barrett-Jackson, Davis is more than an outstanding businessman; Steve is an avid Mustang enthusiast. As a youngster growing up in San Mateo, California, Steve would visit his local dealership and check out all the performance cars on the lot. As he got older, Davis started collecting Mustang parts looking everywhere from swap meets to “dumpster finds” and soon parlayed his interest for the brand into a business. His first Shelby was a 1967 Brittany Blue GT350; he was so passionate about Shelby Mustangs he took out a second mortgage to buy the car! Since that time Davis has bought and sold such notable Mustangs as the Green Hornet, 1970 Kansas City Twister, and many 1969-1970 Boss 302 Mustangs. He has not forgotten the 1974-1978 Mustang II models or the 1984-1986 SVO Mustangs and has owned many. Today Steve’s wife, Janie, drives a 1966 Mustang GT fastback as her daily driver in California.
Steve’s experience buying and selling Mustang served him well throughout the years. He bought Shelbys and Mustangs and started selling them at Barrett-Jackson. Steve’s knowledge and understanding of the collector car market, while being an enthusiast, not just a car dealer, led to his joining the firm in 1996. During his tenure with Barrett-Jackson the company has become the number one collector car auction in the world. The Scottsdale venue is the crown jewel, with SPEED Channel broadcasting the event in prime time.
Being a Shelby enthusiast led Davis to establish a relationship with Carroll Shelby in the ’90s that has grown and flourished ever since. Some of the notable Shelby cars sold at Barrett-Jackson have been Carroll’s 1967 427 Cobra with twin Paxton superchargers, his 1969 GT500 convertible and Shelby’s Series 1 sports car.
The first GT500 and the later the First GT500KR were sold at Barrett-Jackson with the proceeds from all these cars going to the Carroll Shelby Foundation that has helped countless children over the years. The fact that the cars would be seen by thousands of viewers on SPEED was not lost on Steve Davis or Carroll Shelby. The exposure helped everyone, the cars, Shelby American and the Carroll Shelby Foundation.
During the past five years, Shelby American Inc. has grown under the dynamic leadership of President Amy Boylan and a dedicated team of enthusiasts. With the advent of the 2011 Mustang GT, its new 5.0L engine and new six-speed manual transmission, the Shelby American team knew they had an outstanding platform from which to create a new Shelby GT350.
The team had worked with Barrett-Jackson and Steve Davis on the 2008 Barrett-Jackson Shelby GT, which sold out immediately after being introduced at the Scottsdale auction. With this in mind Shelby American and Barrett-Jackson planned for the unveiling of the 2011 GT350 during the Opening Night Gala. In addition to the thousands of enthusiasts at the Opening Night Gala, the event uses a number of communication channels that would give the new Shelby instant coverage and exposure to key market segments. SPEED broadcast the unveiling as a vignette during prime time on Saturday evening, a time slot that attains the highest viewership of the week.
The unveiling of the GT350 was spectacular. Rick Titus, championship race driver, well known broadcaster, Ford product spokesman, and whose dad, Jerry Titus, was Shelby American’s leading team driver from 1965-1968, was master of ceremonies. The audience resounded with thunderous applause when Carroll Shelby was introduced. The American icon delivered a wonderful presentation on the 1965 GT350, Jerry Titus’ driving talents and the new GT350.
Amy Boylan followed with an excellent presentation about Shelby American and the performance legacy of the company. She then unveiled the stunning 2011 Shelby GT350 to a loud and long standing ovation.
What the audience saw as the cover came off was a return of an American legend. Steve Davis told me that he had never seen so many people up on stage that kept looking at the car and never left. He said they had to ask people to return to the floor as they were afraid the stage would buckle.
The 2011 Shelby GT350 is visually striking with content to match its aggressive stance. Like the 1965 GT350, the 2011model has been designed and engineered for both the street and track enjoyment. The Shelby is loaded with functional performance equipment from the front fascia air scoops that feed the intercooler, front and rear brake duct and cooling kit to the unique center exit exhaust. As was the case in 1965, Goodyear performance tires are mounted on unique Shelby/Cragar alloy wheels.
The GT350’s 5.0L engine is equipped with a Shelby/Ford Racing/Whipple supercharger that will produce over 500 horsepower. With this entire horsepower the Shelby/Baer six-piston front brake kit and Shelby rear ERADISPEED rear rotor upgrade will handle the car’s deceleration with ease.
The Mustang’s suspension has been enhanced with new Ford Racing springs, struts, sway bars and adjustable caster/camber plates, resulting in crisp handling, excellent ride characteristics and balanced performance.
The 2011 GT350 also receives a new front fascia, taillight trim, front splitter, rear decklid filler panel and rear fascia. Functional scoops are located on the side rockers and hood. GT350 badges on the outside and inside include a Shelby serial number.
As with all the GT350 enhancements, functionality is the key, there are not any fake scoops or appendages on this Shelby.
The interior appointments including the optional premium exclusive interior features leather seating surfaces with contrasting stitching with red/white/blue inserts on the front seats. Since 1965 engine monitoring has been a must for a Shelby and the 2011 edition does not disappoint with an A-pillar mounted gauge package complete with fuel pressure, oil pressure and boost.
“The 2011 GT350 balances heritage with modern necessity,” Said Shelby American President Amy Boylan. “The new Shelby is a complete performance package.”
Like the 1965 GT350, the 2011 model comes in one color, white with Shelby Guardsman Blue Le Mans stripes and GT350 side stripes. The standard equipment of the new GT350 is impressive as are the options; including Shelby/Kicker performance audio system, Watts link rear suspension and painted Le Mans stripes and GT350 side stripe kit.
Judging from the excellent response and large number of orders placed by both Ford dealers and consumers during the Barrett-Jackson Classic Week the GT350 will a big success.
HOW TO ORDER A 2011 SHELBY GT350
The 2011 Shelby GT350 is a post title program and here is how the program works. To get a GT350 customers need to contact Roger Sorel of the Shelby American Team by calling (702) 942-7325, e-mailing email@example.com, or go to the GT350 website at www.GT350.shelbyamerican.com. The team will provide all the information you need to go to a local Ford dealer to order a 2011 Mustang GT. Once ordered the Mustang GT will be drop-shipped to the Shelby American facility in Las Vegas. Only a limited number will be built during the 2011 model year. The Shelby GT350 up-fit completed by Shelby American has a MSRP of $33,995 and does not include the price of the base Mustang GT. The Shelby will then be shipped back to the customer’s Ford dealership or they can arrange to have delivery at the Shelby American Museum located at the company’s facility in Las Vegas.
The Presidents talk. Steve Davis, Barrett-Jackson President and Shelby American President, Amy Boylan, discuss the Opening Night Gala while Scott Black, President of TPR&M, the marketing company that handles both the Shelby American and Barrett-Jackson accounts looks on.
Carroll Shelby’s presentation included some interesting and funny stories about Jerry Titus, as Rick Titus Shelby Program Master of Ceremonies (r) and Vince LaViolette, Shelby American lead test driver, enjoy his story.
The 2011 GT350 and 1965 GT350 shown at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway during a test session for the latest Shelby.
The 2011 GT350 at speed. Note the rear brake cooling ducts on the side rockers.
The aggressive front of the GT350 is all about function. The ducts in the fascia feed cool air to the intercooler while the front splitter makes the Shelby more aerodynamic.
Shelby American has reworked the back end of the GT350 with unique fascia, rear deck filler panel, Shelby American emblem and Shelby/Borla unique center exit exhaust.
The new for 2011 Ford 5.0L engine is fitted with a Shelby/Ford Racing/Whipple supercharger and will produce 500 horsepower. Blue Shelby GT350 cam covers and billet caps enhance the under hood appearance of the Shelby.
The GT350 interior is in keeping with the high performance nature of the GT350 with gauges to monitor all engine functions and enhanced interior appointments including exclusive 45th Anniversary embroidered front floor mats.