What Is A Shelby GT350?

Kevin Cassar
September 3, 2020

Ford Shelby GT350

Chance are if you’re an automotive enthusiast, you know that the 1960s was the start of the muscle car era and beginning of the decade of rebellion. During this time, Ford pushed the envelope in terms of racing, motorsports, automotive design, and making the boundaries on what is capable of an American automotive manufacturer. These events and variables came to the development and inception of the superb sports coupe in American history in the Ford Mustang. Launched on April 17, 1964, the Mustang was the culmination of years of innovation off and on the racetrack while researching what baby boomer teenagers were looking for in a first car. Thanks to icons like Lee Iacocca, Gale Halderman, and most especially the legend himself, Carroll Shelby they together created a segment of cars that would start a revolution!

Shelby is solely responsible for taking the criticized Mustang from mule to racehorse; he always said: “you can’t put a racehorse into a mule,” but luckily, he could do just that. Using years of racing experience, engineering, and vehicle dynamics, he took the 1965 Mustang Fastback from automotive journalists called a secretaries car to a complete turn-key track ready monster. By adding chassis bracing, bigger brakes, upgrading the 289 cubic inch Ford V8 to over 300 horsepower, and giving it stiffer suspension created the infamous Shelby GT350. This pony turned venomous Cobra used the same infusion of technology and innovation that Shelby had already put into the almighty 427 Cobra roadster.

For many years, it has been said if the Mustang never received the help from Carroll Shelby called on by Lee Iacocca, it probably wouldn’t have been the incredible legend and success it is today. Shelby knew above the competition that it would take to put the Mustang ahead of the competition, including Chevrolet and Mopar. Without the Mustang, there wouldn’t be the Camaro and Challenger to compete within the category. Hence why it is the original pony to start the entire segment for decades to come. This knowledge, experience, and winning expertise from the success of the 1966 Ford GT40 win at 24 Hours of Le Mans pushed the boundaries and partnership between both Ford Motor Company and Shelby American for decades to come.

Throughout this article, you will get a complete breakdown of how the Shelby GT350 came to be, and every model to be conceived!

1965 Shelby GT350 1965 Shelby GT350R 1967 Shelby GT350 1969-1970 Shelby GT350 2015-2020 Shelby GT350 2016-2020 Shelby GT350R

1st Gen GT350

1965 Shelby GT350

Shortly after the Mustang shocked the world at the world's fair in New York City on April 17, 1964, people everywhere were raving about the all-new pony to hit the streets. Only one problem faced the Mustang it was deemed a secretaries car by automotive journalists. Of course, during the mid-1960s, you had Ford going to toe to toe with Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the legendary GT40. Heading the charge of that was Carroll Shelby, the man who became a legendary racing driver throughout the United States and worldwide. Luckily, it became a no-brainer for Lee Iacocca to call on the man who led the charge to develop the GT40 to see if he could turn the so-called secretaries car into a formidable racehorse.

Shelby always noted you couldn't make a racehorse out of a mule. With full backing from Lee Iacocca and Ford Motor Company, Carroll went to work with quickly using his expertise, witt, and his talented team at Shelby American. Using the base of a 1965 Mustang Fastback, team Shelby went to work to develop the racehorse Ford had dreamed about from the getgo. Using similar methods as they did towards the GT40. Team Shelby upgraded the standard '65 Mustang Fastback by upgrading components such as braking, springs, suspension, chassis stiffness, engine intake, carburetor, and fuel to finally give the extra gear the Mustang needed to go from mule to racehorse.

The unique thing about the 1965 Shelby GT350 is painted in one color scheme, Wimbledon white with painted blue stripes. Shelby thought he would have something automotive enthusiasts would run to immediately if he could give the GT350 a sense of style with the muscle, handling, and sophistication. Well Carroll was right, from a historical standpoint, most automotive historians pay tribute to the success of the Mustang due to three individuals Carroll Shelby, Gale Halderman, and Lee Iacocca. Shelby took the mule out of the pony, turning into the racehorse, Halderman for the Mustang's original design, and Lee Iacocca creating the vision for America's original pony car. From this point on, the American automotive and racing industry would forever be changed in the name of performance.

Mustang GT350R

1965 Shelby GT350R

If history tells us anything, Carroll Shelby was never satisfied with the status quo of performance throughout the automotive world. Shelby always said that his favorite car was still the next one to ensure the GT350 would stay relevant in the eyes of Ford Motor Company and enthusiasts alike. He had to make sure he went all out by creating a race version in the GT350R. This street version of the already potent GT350 had one purpose in mind go as fast around a racecourse as possible with minimal restrictions. Team Shelby went to work to envision a racer with all the excellent characteristics of the GT350 but amplified to eleven. They completely strip the GT350 of anything not needed, including the back seat, radio, air conditioning, carpet, interior trim, and bucket seats.

65 GT350R

All of this was to ensure they could get maximum power to weight distribution front to rear so that the 289 cubic-inch Ford V8 could use all of its 350 horsepower to its benefit. The GT350R was purpose-built to go racing against the likes of Chevrolet and Mopar. What makes the GT350R so incredible over the standard GT350 is the addition of stiffer suspension, roll cage, free-flowing exhaust, Holley four-barrel carburetor, and cylinder head valve work. These additions to the GT350R helped inject the Shelby venom to which the automotive performance is very accustomed.

While the GT350R competed in races and sanctioning bodies, it became a force to be reckoned with among its competitors. One of the most prominent racers that strapped into the vicious beast is Ken Miles. Like Shelby, Miles became a distinguished name in racing due to the successes he built on tracks across America. Most notably, the victory he accomplished was with Team Shelby in the legendary GT40 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fast-forward to today; the 1965 Shelby GT350R is revered as the original Mustang that started all the success on the racetrack.

GT350 Cobra

1967 Shelby GT350

Moving forward towards the latter half of the 1960s, Ford, Shelby, and Mustang engineers continued to push performance boundaries. After the unbelievable success and launch of the Mustang in 1964 and thanks to Shelby's influence, the original pony car was full-fledged motorsports and performance. So heading into 1967, Ford knew they would have to evolve the Mustang further, and once again, they called on Carroll Shelby to answer the call. Developing on the Fastback profile, the '67 Mustang grew in length with a longer wheelbase, hood, and even more distinctive fastback profile.

Like the original GT350, 1967 turned things up to another level of style, performance, and innovation. Starting at $3,995 with a mandatory $250 list of options to come equipped. There was only one engine option to go with the GT350 in a high output 289 cubic inch Ford V8, continuing the original Shelby's legacy. Producing a whopping 306 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 329 lb/ft of torque at 4,200 RPM, at this time, it was a staggering amount of horsepower for a naturally aspirated engine to come straight out of the factory. To transfer all this power to the ground, enthusiasts and customers had the choice of choosing a C4 automatic transmission, which was the most popular option, or could choose their GT350 with a four-speed manual gearbox.

Putting it all together with the upgraded design made the '67 Shelby GT350 one of the most timeless models to be had even to this day. As decades passed, enthusiasts said in the Mustang and Shelby community that if it weren't for every GT350 model's progression and its big brother in the GT500, American's original pony car might not be still in production for as long as it has been today!

1969-1970 Shelby GT350

1969-1970 Shelby GT350

Heading into the end of a decade of rebellion, triumph, revelation, and innovation, Ford and Shelby knew they had to ensure the GT350 went off with a bang. Ever since the Mustang was introduced to the public, it has grown in size and capability; the 1969 and 1970 aren't any different. The wheelbase, track width, and the hood was the longest of any ponies preceding its forthcoming. To keep the tradition alive of power, elegance, design, and sophistication. Unlike the past two GT350s, the mid-cycle refresh ensured that the Mustang could compete against its competitors such as Camaro, Firebird, Challenger, and Charger.

During this height of the original muscle car era, the big three American automotive manufacturers were throwing punches left and right to see who could produce the most USA muscle possible. Luckily for Shelby and Ford, they have had the edge for years due to the Mustang's innovation and racing legacy. Using the legendary 351 Cubic Inch Windsor V8, Shelby was able to evolve the GT350 into the jack of all trades, including the track, street, and a daily driver. With a completely refreshed look, stunning bodywork, and the muscle to go with it, it became like all other GT350s, a revered image of what the two icons in Ford and Shelby can do together.

Unfortunately, 1970 would be the very last year of the first generation Shelby GT350s to hit America's tracks and streets. After this, both Ford and Shelby would go there separate ways for many years that until 2007 when they finally reunited to bring back the infamous Shelby GT500 to dealers and enthusiasts again.

S550 Shelby GT350

2015-2020 Shelby GT350

Precisely fifty years after the original GT350 launched into Ford showrooms, Mustang engineers knew they had to bring back the iconic American automotive legend. Coming upon the 50th anniversary of the legendary GT350, Ford made it a mission to bring back the track monster to the streets, road courses, and America tracks. To make the S550 GT350 happen, it couldn't have happened without the all-new 2015 Mustang. Using the all-new chassis and independent rear suspension, Ford Performance engineers went to work to develop the most sophisticated rest that had ever been designed for either a Mustang or Shelby.

S550 Shelby GT350

Integrating racecar technology in the form of Magnaride technology into the shocks, dynamic vehicle engineers could precisely take the GT350 to the next level without giving up daily functionality. The key highlight to the 2015-2020 Shelby GT350 is the technological marvel in the 5.2L 'Voodoo" Flat Plane Crank 32V Ti-VCT V8 that Ford Performance engineered. This magnificent engine was the first-ever Ford engine to implement a flat-plane crankshaft, which helped the Shelby to rev out to 8,250 RPM. Unlike a conventional cross-plane crank, a flat-plane crankshaft allows the engine to have a different firing order, which in turn allows the engine to rev more freely than its Coyote 5.0L V8 counterpart. The Voodoo engine produces a whopping 526 horsepower and 429 lb/ft of torque, propelling the GT350 to 60 MPH in only 4.1 seconds. To transmit all this American muscle to the ground is the six-speed Tremec TR-3160, which was the only transmission that could give an enthusiast total engagement while maintaining control at all times.

Altogether, the S550 GT350 laid the foundation for all other Shelbys and Mustangs to follow. Ford Performance committed to living up to the lineage of Carroll Shelby himself. With the combination of style, performance, ingenuity, and USA muscle, the 2015-2020 GT350 lived up the original 1965 and then some.

Shelby GT350 Engine Specs

Measurement Technical Specification
Configuration Aluminum block and heads
Intake Manifold Composite shell with scroll design and charge motion control valves
Exhaust Manifold Tubular stainless steel headers
Valvetrain DOHC (Dual Overhead Cam), 4V Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing)
Valve Diameter/Lift Intake 31mm/8.31mm, Exhaust 30mm/7.42mm
Pistons Cast aluminum
Connecting Rods Forged aluminum
Ignition Distributor-less with coil on plug design
Bore X Stroke 3.70 in. x 3.66 in. (94.0 mm x 93.0 mm)
Displacement 315 Cubic Inches/5.2L
Compression Ratio 12.0:1
Engine Control Sytem PCM
Horsepower 526 @ 7,500 RPM
Torque 429 LB/FT
Recommended Fuel 93 Octane
Fuel Delivery Port fuel injection with twin high-flow pumps
Oil Capacity 10 quarts 5W-50 full synthetic with filter (5,000-mile service interval, 3,000 for heavy use)
Redline 8,250 RPM


2016-2020 GT350R

2016-2020 Shelby GT350R

Like the original 1965 "R," Ford Performance and Mustang engineers alike knew they had to push the boundaries on what a modern GT350R could evolve to become the most prolific factory-built Shelby in history. Starting with the foundation of the all-new S550 chassis, which incorporates a lightweight unibody design integrating with a world-first since the legendary 2000 Cobra R was introduced in the independent rear suspension. Unlike previous modern Shelby's, equipped with a solid rear axle, the IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) revolutionized the S550 Mustang and, most importantly, the 2016 GT350R.

2019 Shelby GT350R

Pushing the boundaries on the foundation on the base GT350, Ford Performance engineers ensured to take things past eleven. Using revolutionary technology such as carbon fiber wheels, which usually found on hypercars such as the Koenigsegg Agera R, it was a first for a sub $100,000 sports car to use this technology. Ford Performance engineers knew that they had to pull as much weight out of the venomous snake as possible, whether rotational, chassis, or interior. Everything was meticulous looked over to ensure form & function.

Unlike the standard GT350, the R comes equipped with heightened aerodynamics, including a standard carbon fiber rear wing to increase downforce at speed while incorporating a larger front splitter to keep the venomous Cobra on the ground while hitting the apexes on the road course. Even further, engineers knew that hardcore racers and enthusiasts alike would need the "Voodoo" engine to sing louder to improve performance. To make this happen, drivetrain engineers deleted the mid-muffler resonators to increase airflow while turning up the volume up to eleven. For reassurance, components such as larger rotor, higher temp brake pads, rear differential cooler, oil cooler, and transmission cooler are integrated to maintain cold temperatures out on the track. Finally, to ensure the S550 GT350R stays stuck to the ground, each is equipped standard with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, basically in plan jane terms street legal slicks. Altogether, the 2016-2020 Shelby GT350Rs is the most potent naturally aspirated track Mustang ever to hit the road or the track!

Shelby GT350R Engine Specs

Measurement Technical Specification
Configuration Aluminum block and heads
Intake Manifold Composite shell with scroll design and charge motion control valves
Exhaust Manifold Tubular stainless steel headers
Valvetrain DOHC (Dual Overhead Cam), 4V Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing)
Valve Diameter/Lift Intake 31mm/8.31mm, Exhaust 30mm/7.42mm
Pistons Cast aluminum
Connecting Rods Forged aluminum
Ignition Distributor-less with coil on plug design
Bore X Stroke 3.70 in. x 3.66 in. (94.0 mm x 93.0 mm)
Displacement 315 Cubic Inches/5.2L
Compression Ratio 12.0:1
Engine Control Sytem PCM
Horsepower 526 @ 7,500 RPM
Torque 429 LB/FT
Recommended Fuel 93 Octane
Fuel Delivery Port fuel injection with twin high-flow pumps
Oil Capacity 10 quarts 5W-50 full synthetic with filter (5,000-mile service interval, 3,000 for heavy use)
Redline 8,250 RPM



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Image Credit: Ford Authortiy, Mecum, Ford Performance, Ford Motor Company, Shelby American




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