When a race car driver heard that America needed sportscars, he turned entrepreneur and automotive designer – marrying AC Cobra with Ford V8s and producing the finest sports cars in 'Murican history. Later he hitched AC Cobras with Ford Mustangs and created the legend of the Shelby Mustang as well. He partnered extensively with Ford and Dodge to produce many wonders on wheels.
Frankly, we could not find fault with any of Carroll Shelby's cars though experts would say he produced both hits and misses in his lifetime as an automotive enthusiast. On that note, here go five Shelby cars that upped the ante, and five that may have missed the mark a little.
10 Worst: 1983 Dodge Shelby Charger
The Dodge Charger was a decent enough car in the 60s, but the 80’s Shelby version became more of a disappointment than a performance-oriented car. The Charger ran on a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine and Shelby tweaked its compression and camshaft to raise the horsepower to 107, and the torque to 127ft-lb. A 0-60mph run for the Shelby Charger was 9 seconds which was still pretty average for any 80s “muscle” car. What Shelby did do, successfully, was better the handling of the car by putting in better tires and shocks. Since Shelby was so restricted in power, he tried to make the car better looking which helped but by 1987, the Shelby Charger, undeserving of the Charger name, retired.
9 Best: 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake
Imagine a 1966 car with a 0-60mph speed of just three seconds. Enough to shame a Tesla Roadster! But that is what Carroll Shelby wanted to achieve with the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 “Super Snake” – he wanted it to be the fastest thing around, and be kickass even forty years down the line.
Suffice to say, he succeeded with the Super Snake. In 2015, the only surviving Super Snake, technically the CSX 3015 Roadster, sold for a whopping $5.5 million! That’s how special this car was, and that’s why they don’t make them like this anymore. Two Paxton superchargers on a 4.2-liter V8 engine made this little beauty jet out 800 horsepower!
8 Worst: 2006 Shelby Mustang GT-H
A racer himself and a lover of all things fast, Shelby co-created a rather unique program with Hertz in 1965 dubbed “Rent-A-Racer”. This did not mean you rented a racing car driver, but it did mean you could rent a Shelby racer from Hertz, as part of their fun collection of wheels. The car in question was the 1966 GT350H, but in 2006 it was the Shelby GT-H which came equipped with a Ford Racing FR1 Power Pack. Somehow, having 500 of these around with Hertz rent-a-car stickers on them took the fun out of a Shelby, and disappointed many a Shelby car owners who had paid an arm and a leg to own one of these unique rides.
7 Best: 2013 Shelby GT500 Mustang
The 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which is a pretty long name for a car, was the last Shelby car that Shelby himself saw launched. And perhaps that’s why its all the more special. This production car managed 662 horsepower with a 5.4-liter V8 engine, and Ford confirmed that at the time, it was the most powerful production car around.
There was another special car made by the “friends of Carroll Shelby”, namely Ford, Shelby American, and Ford Racing. This car was also called the Shelby GT500 Cobra with a 5.8-liter engine managing to oomph out 850 horsepower – impressive does not even begin to describe this one.
6 Worst: 1963 Cobra Dragonsnake
A far cry from the Super Snake that fetched $5.5 million at an auction, the Dragonsnake Cobra was an eight-car production in 1963. To say the car was fast was an understatement as it was a quarter-mile drag car that could whiz from 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds flat, way faster than the fastest Ferrari of the time. The problem with the car was while it was great on the tracks, you couldn’t handle curves in it with any finesse. Technically, this was just a straight line accelerating the car, a far cry from the Cobra it was based on. In 2011, one of these sold for $875,000 in an auction – as we said, far removed from the Super Snake.
5 Best: 1965-66 Mustang GT350
Forget the GT 350H, which were Shelby Mustangs meant for Hertz. The actual wonder was when the 1964 Mustang, technically a re-bodied Ford Falcon was handed over to Shelby to redesign, and repower.
So Shelby added in a Holley carburetor and spruced up the 2.8-liter V8 from a 271-horsepower one to a 306-horsepower lean machine. Of course, he changed the exhaust and the transmissions well, and the tires and the braking and just about everything. In 1965 562 of these were built but for the 1996 model year, 1001 GT350H models were made. Most of these cars fetch $300,000+ on auctions.
4 Worst: 1987 Shelby Lancer
The Dodge Lancer was Chrysler’s take on European cars, built on the H platform. It was more or less well-received in the states but Lee Iacocca wanted the Lancer to be known as a performance car, and impress the customer base that was still loyal to European performance cars. So he handed over the Lancer to Shelby. Shelby spruced up the 2.2-liter turbo engine and took horsepower and torque to a neat 175. Suspension, brakes, tires – everything was upgraded and Lancer seemed to be on its way up. The next two years, Dodge sold Shelby’s version as the 88-89 Dodge Lancer Shelby but an outdated design, and Chryslers take on the Shelby Lancer soon killed off this car.
3 Best: 1964 Cobra Daytona Coupe
The Shelby Cobra, so equipped with the small-block V8 did pretty well in the States, both on-road and track. But in Europe, it was unable to compete with the likes of the Ferrari 250 GTO simply because its rounded body lacked that aerodynamical sleekness most Ferraris innately possessed.
So Shelby went back to the blackboard and took apart the body and chassis of the Cobra – remodeled it in a more snub-nosed format and landed up with the Cobra Daytona Coupe. This car went on to win the GT class at the Sebring 12 Hours and the 1964 Hours of Le Mans, outing Ferrari’s complete domination of the GT-class racing. Only six of these were ever made, so more’s the pity.
2 Worst: 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota Pickup
The problem with the Shelby Dakota is the same that also exists with the GMC Syclone, in that they look like trucks, but do not behave like trucks. So if you got a Shelby Dakota to race around the track and pretend to be Flash on wheels, cool, you picked right. But if you wanted to use it as a pickup, an epic fail there. The original 3.9-liter engine was replaced with a 5.2-liter V8 which gave this nifty little pickup, a 16.5 second quarter mile time flying in at 82mph. 995 of these were built in red, and 480 in white and while it was a high performing one, it wasn’t a pickup truck, honest.
1 Best: 1964 Cobra 289 (Mark II)
In the 1950s, many car enthusiasts felt that there was no good American sports car – muscle cars yes, but no true blue sports cars. At the time, there was a driver who won the Le Mans 1959 driving an Aston Martin. This driver decided to experiment a bit and put in an all-American V8 in a lightweight British car, the AC Cobra. This was the birth of the Cobra, and the legend of that driver, Carroll Shelby. For the Mark II, he replaced the 2.6-liter V8 of the Mark I with the 2.8-liter V8. At the time, the output was 271 horsepower but the 907-kilogram Cobra fairly flew under the expert hand of Shelby. The rest, as they say, is history. Auctions for this have gone as high as $1.7 million.