Carroll Shelby was a guy who built cars the way that they should be built. This meant that every single Shelby creation was a masterpiece. He is best remembered for the 1963-1966 Cobra, but he also built many more cars that are noteworthy. The racer-turned-chicken-farmer-turned-respected-tuner was an amazing guy who did much, much more than make fast cars go faster. After his heart transplant, he started a foundation. His foundation, Carroll Shelby Foundation helps fund heart surgeries for children.
- 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-350. The Ford Mustang was an affordable musclecar. It was fast in a straight line, but it wasn’t meant to go around corners. When Lee Iaccoca called Carroll Shelby in 1965, Carroll Shelby told Iaccoca, “Lee, you can’t make a racehorse out of a mule.” Yet, the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT-350 was one of the fastest cars of the decade. It used Ford’s all-aluminum 289 cubic-inch V8, a Muncie M-22 “Rock Crusher” transmission, and tons of suspension and chassis modifications. It was available through a “Get it Friday, Race it Saturday and Sunday, and Drive it Back Monday” program through Hertz. The GT-350K was the highly successful racing version.
- 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe. The Shelby Cobra is one of the world’s most iconic cars, let alone America’s. It used a stylish, lightweight British AC Ace body and chhassis, a Ford V8, and way too much fun for one person. The most iconic Cobra was the 427 Cobra, which utilized Ford’s new, all-aluminum 427 cubic-inch V8 that was designed to compete with the 426 Hemi (the engine Shelby originally wanted for the Cobra). That turned it into one of the fastest cars ever. In late 1964, the 427 Cobra enjoyed massive racing success, but it didn’t have enough aerodynamic oomph for the long straights at Le Mans. So, Carroll Shelby had Peter Brock design the Cobra Daytona Coupe. The Daytona Coupe made a 1-2-3 finish at Sebring International Raceway, and it then went on to win the same finish at Le Mans, putting it 4th overall behind three Ferrari prototypes.
- 1965 Shelby Cobra 427. Arguably the most iconic Shelby ever built, the 427 Cobra was a monster. It used Ford’s race-proven 427 cubic-inch V8, and your Pontiac GTO or Chevrolet Camaro RS would run for mommy. The 427 Cobra was a fairly neutral car in terms of handling, even when you got your foot into it. Even then, it was predictable. Yet, when those 480 pound-feet of torque kicked in at 6,000 RPM, you’d better be holding onto something and have a lot of road ahead of you. It tipped the scales at just over 2,700 pounds, and the big Ford V8 made a beautiful sound when you nailed it.
- 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR. The GT500KR used Ford’s all-new 428 Cobra Jet engine, which was kind of a loud, torquey boat anchor in stock form, but Shelby had a few tricks up his sleeve. He took the cylinder heads and manifolds from the 427 racing engine, and raised the redline by 1,000 RPM. This engine gained almost 30 horsepower just by that. Car Life said of the car in 1968, “At 6000 RPM, the Cobra Jet will pull a semi trailer up Pikes Peak. At less than 2000, it wouldn’t pull the petals off of a daisy.” People still rave over the engine almost 50 years later. It was docile under 2,000 RPM, but it came alive above that.
- 1986 Dodge Omni Shelby GLH-S. The little Dodge Omni was a pretty decent little car, but Carroll Shelby slapped a turbocharger and suspension upgrades onto this little car. It started the hot-hatch craze, and it still shames many hot hatches today. It was a sleeper. Many automotive magazines said that it would leave two very skinny, long tire marks through third gear. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.
- 2002 Shelby Series 1. The Shelby Series 1 was the last Shelby to actually be built from the ground up by Shelby. It used an Oldsmobile Aurora V8, a GM 700R4 transmission, and a Ford 9-inch rear-end. Many people complained about the fact that it felt like an unfinished car. You know what? Let them yammer. it was fast, fun, and stylish.
- 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. This Mustang deserves to be on this list. It was the last car to have personal oversight by Carroll Shelby, and it shows. Shelby took the supercharged 5.4-liter V8 found in the 2012 GT500, and stroked it out to 5.8 liters. It gained 112 horsepower with the stroking of the engine and other tricks. It uses Mahle pistons, a Tremec TKO600 transmission, a single-overhead-cam, a special Comp Cams valvetrain, and a big 2.3-liter Eaton supercharger. The engine only gained about 50 pounds, thanks to extensive use of aluminum and titanium. Ford claims that it will go 200+ miles an hour. Motor Trend got one up to 197 mph, but I bet that if it was given enough open road, they would see at least 200. When it was dyoned, it topped the dyno out at 211 mph, and it was still pulling.