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First Test: 2007 Ford Shelby GT

Time Machine: Been there, done that, doing it again

By Matt Stone

Photography by Wesley Allison




1966. There was a Texan in the White House, a guy named Andretti earned Rookie of the Year honors at last year's Indy 500, and a former oilfield roughneck and retired chicken farmer named Carroll Shelby was building hot Mustangs.


2007. There's a Texan in the White House, a guy named Andretti earned Rookie of the Year honors at last year's Indy 500, and a former oilfield roughneck and retired chicken farmer named Carroll Shelby is (once again) building hot Mustangs.


After decades of licensed replicas, so-called "continuation" cars, and aftermarket conversion jobs done by dealerships and even the Shelby American Automobile Club, our September 2006 issue told the story of how Mustangs are once again being converted into Shelby Mustangs at a Shelby Automobiles facility in partnership with Ford. The first effort of the new venture-the famously black and gold GT-H-also signaled a renewed relationship with the Hertz Corporation, bringing back the original Rent-a-Racer notion of 1966. The idea was to build 500 of them and see if anybody cared.


A helluva lot of people cared. So much so that Ford and Shelby couldn't ignore the cry. While the GT-H can be rented only at select Hertz locations, the for-purchase Ford Shelby GT can be bought through any Ford dealer. At a base MSRP of $36,970, it slots in above the Mustang GT and below the supercharged Ford Shelby GT500


Four-decades-old Shelby design cues still work: Le Mans stripes, aluminum grille, all-business hood scoop, and five-spoke alloy wheels. The wood-rimmed steering wheel in Mike Querio's early 1966 GT350 is now worth more than what then-girlfriend Linda paid for the entire car in 1974.


The philosophy, process, and hardware of how a Mustang GT becomes a Shelby GT are similar to those of the GT-H, although there are numerous detail differences and expanded equipment choices. Ford ships cars from its Flat Rock, Michigan, assembly plant to Shelby Automobile's facility in Las Vegas for the spa treatment. As with the GT-H, the GT is offered only in the coupe body style, with metallic silver Le Mans stripes instead of the Hertz-specific gold. While all GT-Hs are black, the GT comes in white or black. White cars get polished aluminum wheels; black GTs have black wheel centers.


All the GT's performance hardware is the same as that on the GT-H. Which means a Ford Racing Powerpack, consisting of a 90mm cold-air intake system and more aggressive calibration of the engine management system, mandating the use of premium fuel. Ford Racing performance mufflers and an X-pipe, replacing the standard H-shaped crossover, complete the powertrain mods. Although output was originally estimated at 325 horsepower, Ford has since recertified the package at 319 horses and 330 pound-feet of torque.


Underneath, Ford Racing provides new struts and shocks, which reduce the ride height about an inch and a half. Stiffer anti-roll bars improve body control and make for flatter cornering. And a race-inspired twin-tube strut tower base increases chassis rigidity in the engine bay and sharpens up steering response. The Ford Racing bits are factory developed, well matched to each other, and warranted by Ford. Last, the entire rearend is swapped for a new unit carrying a 3.55:1 diff ratio; it's cheaper and faster to change out the entire axle than to open up the pumpkin and replace the ring and pinion.


Here's where the GT and GT-H diverge. While the rental can only be obtained with an automatic transmission, the GT is offered with your choice of the same five-speed autobox or a five-speed manual. The latter sports a stubby Hurst shifter wearing a white shift knob that looks right out of the 1960s. The GT-H you rent from Hertz has its traction-control defeat switch, er, defeated (these folks aren't stupid). But since the Shelby GT owner will burn rubber at his own risk, its traction control can be switched on or off. The Hertz model runs "Bullitt"-style 17-inch alloys, but the GT gets a factory Plus One combination of 18-inch wheels and lower-profile tires.


There are stylistic differences, too. In our September story on the GT-H, we groused about the presence of a rear wing, since original Shelbys had no such thing. We won't be so cheeky as to say they made the change because of our suggestion, but we're pleased to report the GT wears no such appendage. The GT-H has its own unique Shelby hood, while the GT uses the factory aluminum hood fitted with a riveted-on hood scoop. This scoop's size and shape is close to that on the mid-1960s 427 Cobra, and in our opinion, the treatment is preferable to the GT-H's bulky-looking fiberglass hood. Both cars have the same aluminum replacement grille, front fascia (borrowed from the California Special), and individual Shelby letters on the decklid. The "Hertz" badge on the GT-H's front fenders is replaced with one stating "Powered by Ford."

Things are standard GT fare inside, with a little Shelby jewelry added. All interiors will be black, and Shelby mods consist of machined-aluminum sill plate badges, Shelby GT floormats, and an aluminum number plate on the I.P. that proclaims the car to be officially produced by Shelby Automobiles and its Shelby serial number.


Once the cars arrive in Las Vegas, they're checked in and checked over. The striping is the first thing to be applied. Then it takes two-man teams about five hours to swap out the rest of the hardware, completing the conversion. After a road test, quality-assurance check, and sign off, the newborn Shelby GTs are shipped to their respective dealers. Shelby offers a "Museum Delivery" experience for $500, which means you can pick up your car at the factory, see how it was built, buy some goodies in the shop, and check out Carroll's personal collection of vintage Shelby tin.


Whether on the test track, highway, or your favorite stretch of mountain pavement, you'll notice a substantial difference in the way the Mustang performs in Shelby GT trim. Given a 19-horsepower increase, you wouldn't expect a huge drop in acceleration times, but we got consistent 0-to-60 runs of five seconds flat, a nip better than the usual 5.1-5.2 seconds for the stock GT. But the sensations make it feel like more. There's a deep, throbbing intake roar from the open-element air filter and wonderful subwoofer noises courtesy of the exhaust system. You'll be driving this thing through parking garages just to set off a few car alarms. The stouter rear gear helps, too; the car launches harder, revs up quicker, and midrange passing power again feels like more than 19 ponies' worth. The Hurst shift cures the stock unit's side-to-side slop when in gate. Baby it, and it feels notchy, but treat it like a precision rifle bolt, and it snaps from gear to gear.


The passage of time is apparent under the hood. Overhead valves, solid lifters, and a four-barrel Holley carb have given way to overhead cams, three valves per cylinder, and fuel injection. But it's still a small-block Ford, connected to the rear wheels, as it should be.


Handling improvements are more tangible. The combination of the decreased ride height (hence lower center of gravity), stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, and 18-inch rolling stock gives the Shelby sharper responses and higher limits. We've not previously tested a stock GT with the 18s, but the unmodified car with the standard 17s pulled a 0.87g grip number on the skidpad. The Shelby GT sticks all the way to 0.91 g. The MT figure-eight time also improves, from the Mustang GT's 26.4 to the Shelby GT's quicker 25.7-second blitz. This number tells us how effective all the mods are, as it synthesizes acceleration, braking, and handling performance. As you'd expect, there's a ride penalty, but not to the point of making the car unstreetable, or even unpleasant. Bumps and road chop are more prevalent, especially on poor-quality surfaces. Also be sure to keep that now-inch-and-a-half-lower front spoiler away from curbs and parking blocks.


And what of the mouth-watering 1966 GT350 in these photos? It's been a part of Bay Area resident Michael Querio's family for more than three decades. "My then-girlfriend, Linda, bought it as her everyday driver in 1974. She paid $2000 for it." Mike liked it so well, he bought one, too. Mike and Linda later married, and the gas crunch of the late 1970s, kids, and other life distractions caused them to sell his and park hers. By the end of the 1990s, it was in need in of a full restoration, which it got in 2001-2002. Linda Querio saw the finished jewel just prior to her passing in November 2002, and "it brought a huge smile to her face." Is it for sale? Don't even ask.


The Hertz Shelby GT-H that you can't buy is a well-conceived and executed package. But the Shelby GT that you can is even more so, and the evolutionary hardware changes Shelby and Ford have made this time around are right on. They say they'll build as many Shelby GTs as people will buy, capping the production at 10,000 units to maintain exclusivity. They'll peg that meter easily, as the car carries legit Shelby cachet and is a surefire collectible. More important, there's tangible content and performance improvement over a standard GT, at a price that make sense. The look-and the sound-turns heads, wherever you drive it.


After four decades, what's changed about building hotter Mustangs? Quite a bit. But then again, maybe not so much.





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:blink: Car and Driver does a bad right up...Motor Trend does a good one and no comments????



It really comes down to expectations and what your thinking is around what the car is and what part of the market it's trying to address. I think the MT guy got it right in that the car is what it is. A great fun to drive well balanced Mustang with an awesome heritage.


The CD guy I think had an agenda. He seemed to assume the car, and this may be the fault of Ford PR/Marketing, fit in between the GT and GT500 in Ford's Mustang line-up. While that's true, it's not a mid point position in design. If that were the case the car would have around 375-400HP etc. It seemed to me the CD guy was looking for, or had an expectation of, what we all think a GT350 would bring. He was obviously disappointed.


I lay the blame for the CD article solely on Ford PR that obviously didn't prime this properly and for what ever reason didn't understand this themselves.


For all the talk about HP and performance this car is about much more. It's a fine daily driver car that tweaks the Mustang to be the best all-around price/performance option out there.

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