In February 1968, a new Shelby Cobra GT model became available on the market. It was named Shelby Cobra GT500-KR, and was considered as the ultimate Shelby Mustang car. The new Shelby Mustang had a powerful 428 cubic-inch Cobra-Jet V8 engine under its hood, which produced 360 horsepower! Check out the video above to see this monster!
The added ‘KR’ initials at the end of its name, ‘Shelby Cobra GT500-KR’, meant ‘King of the Road’, and how it came about was quite an amazing story by itself. It was around that time in the late 50’s when Shelby Cobra founder, Carroll Shelby got his hands on internal information – that Chevrolet was about to come out with a marketing campaign that would showcase the 1968 Corvette as the ‘King of the Road’.
Shelby’s team did a quick copyright search and discovered that ‘KR’ and ‘King of the Road’ had not been copyrighted yet. So they immediately made their own brilliant marketing move, secured the copyright and printed thousands of stickers and photos bearing the ‘King of the Road’ motto, assigned to their new powerful Mustang car, the Shelby Cobra GT with the 360 horsepower Cobra-Jet V8 engine.
Watch this original TV Ad from the 60’s for the Shelby Cobra GT 500:
But where did it all start? How and when were the first Shelby Mustangs produced? And what’s their correct name?
Shelby Mustang or Shelby Cobra GT? What’s the correct name?
This question brings about a bit of a complex answer. The earlier and smaller Shelby Cobras, the GT350’s were referred back in 1965 as “Shelby GT350”, and actually with dots in-between like this “G.T.350”. Interestingly, the captivating name “Cobra” did not appear back then, probably in order not to confuse it with the Shelby Cobra Roadster. The Shelby marketing team actually emphasized that the GT’s were a mix of a Mustang and Cobra. However, neither word appeared on the car’s name, but both Mustang and Cobra badges were stapled on the cars.
In 1967, the Mustang badge is removed and replaced by a Cobra badge. Cobra is also added to it’s name, and from then onwards this legendary Cobra car is referred in the literature as the “Shelby Cobra GT”. However, some people still call it the Shelby Mustang, since they were Mustangs that were improved and modified by Shelby.
When was the first Shelby Cobra GT (Shelby Mustang) Produced?
The first Shelby Cobra GT 350’s was produced in September 1964, on American soil. The Cobra car was delivered from Ford’s San jose assembly plant, and sent for modifications to Carroll Shelby’s plant in Venice Beach and later near the L.A International Airport.
The Shelby Mustang was a higher performance variant of the Ford Mustang. These cars were, and still are called “Cobras”, which basically derived from the AC-based Ford-powered two-seat sports car envisioned by Carroll Shelby. The models use the Cobra badge and the optional “Cobra” valve covers on many GT350 models.
The last Shelby Mustang, or Shelby Cobra GT, came out of manufacturing lines in September 1969. The highest production Shelby Mustang was the 1967 Shelby Cobra GT 500 that was also featured in the “Gone in 60 seconds” movies. Shelby produced 2048 cobra cars of this model.
What were the main Shelby Mustang Models? What do their Names mean?
Basically there two main Shelby Cobra GT models: The GT 350 and the GT 500. The ‘GT’ meant that the Cobra car was based on the Mustang GT = Grand Tourism. The number ‘350’ on the other hand, has no definite reason. Some say that it was chosen because it was a larger number than any other number on a car badge back then. The Shelby Cobra GT 500 model on the other hand, used the ‘500’ number in order to emphasize the fact this powerful cobra carwas equipped withagigantic’Ford Cobra’ V8 engine with two four-barrel carburetors sitting on top of a mid-rise Aluminum intake manifold.
There was also a Shelby Cobra GT 350R model, which was actually used for car racing competitions, so the ‘R’ logically stood for ‘Racing’. On top of all those models, there was also a model named Shelby Cobra GT 350H, which was produced especially for the car rental company, ‘Hertz’. Shelby made a deal with Hertz Corporation for the production of a special line of Shelby Cobra GT350s specifically for rent. Hertz advertised these Cobra cars with the motto “Rent-a-Racer”. Following their ‘rental-car careers’, these Cobra cars were sent back to Ford plants, refurbished and sold to the masses as Shelby Cobra GT 350-H.
How did the Shelby Mustang look like? What Body Style did it have?
The Shelby Cobra GT wasn’t built for great comfy driving. It had race-car specs that were designed for racing and competitions. Only in 1966 Shelby came out with a new Cobra GT350 model that included some comfort features like rear seats, optional colors and even an optional automatic transmission. The following years brought about even more comfort changes into the Shelby Cobra GT models, as they became larger, heavier and much more comfy.
The Shelby Mustang had a beautiful ‘Fastback’ body style, also known as ‘Sportroof’. Very few convertibles were made during the late 60’s, and only 33 Shelby Cobra GT 350 Coupe models were made in 1967-1968. By 1969, Cobra cars creator, Carroll Shelby ceased his involvement in the Shelby Cobra GT program, and the design was all done by Ford.
Watch this video clip of the Shelby Mustang getting the Hollywood limelight:
The Cobra Car Comeback
In the summer of 1969, Carroll Shelby terminated his agreement with Ford. In 1970 no Shelby Cobra cars were produced, and it took more than 30 years until in order to revive the Cobra snake car.
In 2006 Ford brought the Shelby Mustang back to life, introducing the new GT-H, which like in the past – was available only at Hertz. The new Shelby Cobra GT 350H was designed in black with gold stripes, equipped with a 325 horsepower engine, and five-speed automatic transmission. The following year, the comeback of the Cobra cars went even further, as 2007 brought with it a new Shelby Cobra GT500, equipped with a 5.4L engine with 500 horsepower, and a Tremec six-speed transmission.
Watch this great TV Ad for the new 2007 model of Shelby Cobra GT500:
For those who wanted to buy the first new GT500, there was an auction held in 2006 at the Barrett-Jackson collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. The lucky buyer paid $648,000 for the revived cobra car, and the money was donated to a childrens’ foundation created by Carroll Shelby.