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Shelby Cobra

The story of the Ford Shelby began in 1965 Ford needed to boost the image of its Mustang. To do this, Ford called on Carroll Shelby, the famous American racecar driver. Because of a serious heart condition, Shelby had retired from auto racing in 1960. But Ford financed one of its projects based on Carroll's great abilities as an auto constructor: having already transformed the AC Bristol into the AC Cobra, with a V8 engine "Made in America" on a roadster chassis. In addition to its sleek lines, the performance of the V8 engine in a lightweight car (960kg), propelled sales of the model. It was an immediate success. The COBRA legend was born...

Carroll Shelby's goal was to create a sports car that was able to compete with Ferrari on the track. One year after the launch of the Ford MUSTANG in 1964, a project was launched to make it competitive with the Chevy Corvette and especially the Camaro, and the Plymouth Hemi on the SCCA racing circuit. At the time, the Ford Mustang was not capable of competing with the other models.

The director of the Mustang project, Lee Iacocca, contacted him to transform the Mustang Fastback coupe in the Shelby-American assembly shop in Venice, CA. Shelby proceeded to make several changes: a more powerful 289 cu in V8 engine, special exhaust pipes, a compression ratio of 11, a new carburetor and crankshaft. The suspension was reinforced, and front disc brakes were installed. This helped boost the power from 271 to 306 hp. Renamed the Shelby GT 350, it was clocked at over 200 km/h (124 mph). Its results were impressive and sales, initially pegged at 100, were 500 units.

The Ford SHELBY GT350 was quickly followed by the GT500, before the line being discontinued in 1969, with the end of the contract for Ford, and due to a drastic strengthening of highway safety regulations in the United States. Carroll Shelby later joined Lee Iacocca for a Chrysler project, the famous Dodge VIPER. It took until 2005 for the collaboration with Ford to be restarted, with the Ford Shelby making its triumphant return. Unfortunately, the death of Carroll Shelby in 2012 put an end to the prestigious line.

A racecar driver turned car designer turned business titan, Carroll Shelby left a definite mark on auto history.

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