L.A. Auto Show: Shelby American relaunches Shelby GT Mustangs

The hot-rod maker that bears the name of late automotive icon Carroll Shelby announced it is bringing back Shelby GT Mustangs after a five-year hiatus.

Shelby American Inc. announced its plans to build the car, which is based on Ford Mustang GT, on Thursday at the L.A. Auto Show.

“The Shelby GT was one of the most important vehicles in modern-day Shelby history,” said John Luft, president of Shelby American. “It kicked off Shelby’s rebirth in Las Vegas by putting a Mustang-based small block car into Ford dealerships. Ever since the Shelby GT went out of production, people have clamored for its return.”

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Shelby and Ford Racing created the Shelby GT in 2007 based off a 4.6-liter Mustang. The cars were shipped from Detroit to Las Vegas for modification. In all, about 8,000 Shelby GTs were built.

The new Shelby GT is operates under what’s called “a post-title program.” Ford dealers will send a customer’s stock Mustang GT to Shelby for upgrades.

“Entry-level package upgrades include a Ford Racing suspension, Shelby branded exhaust, intake and engine tune for 430 horsepower, specially designed wheels and tires, short shifter, hood and Le Mans stripes that make it uniquely Shelby,” the company said.

The 2014 Shelby GT starts around $45,000. For $10,000 more, buyers can get the 624 horsepower Shelby GT/SC version. The company said it’s expected to blast from zero to 60 mph in about 3.7 seconds.

The quarter mile? In the mid 11-second range.

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“No other carmaker offers this level of performance, heritage and iconic styling at this price, making the Shelby GT the best all-around American car in its class,” Luft said.

In March 1962, Shelby launched Shelby American Inc. from a red brick shop in Venice Beach. That year, Shelby, a retired race car driver, took a lightweight two-seat roadster and married it with a powerful V-8 Ford Motor Co. engine.

The first Shelby Cobra sports car was born.

In the mid-1960s, Ford hired Shelby to pump up the performance of its Mustangs. Before he got his hands on the car, Shelby called the Mustang a “secretary’s car.” By 1966, Shelby Mustangs were winning on racetracks and drag strips across the country.

To keep up with production, Shelby later moved his company to a larger facility near Los Angeles International Airport. Over time, the value of original Shelby Cobras skyrocketed.

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Shelby was caught in controversy in the early 1990s after he sold several Cobra 427SC cars that he billed as original 1965 versions cobbled together from long-lost parts — for hundreds of thousands of dollars — when it was discovered that the chassis were in fact new. This meant they were worth far less than the true original Cobra 427 models.

After the fallout, Shelby relocated his company from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. He focused his attention on building and selling the chassis and fiberglass or aluminum bodies of the Shelby Cobra, which the company  sells today starting at $80,000.

A decade later, Shelby and Ford rekindled their relationship. Shelby American now makes the cult classic GT350 and GT500 Cobra, as well as other vehicles.

The GT500 kicks out 662 horsepower, making it the most powerful production V-8 in the world. It's the only pre-titled car — meaning officially a Ford product — with the Shelby name. Ford pays Shelby a licensing fee.

Shelby died in May 2012 at age 89.


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