The Ultimate Ford Mustang Shelby Guide

Whether you’re a lifelong enthusiast or just interested in the Ford Mustang Shelby, this is the ultimate guide for you. The iconic muscle car has an incredible history of breaking the style rules and harnessing astonishing power. Let’s explore everything there is to know about the Mustang Shelby, from its historical beginnings to present-day powerhouses. See the amazing stats behind all your favorite Mustang Shelby models, including the GT350, the Mustang Shelby Cobra, the CS6/8, the Terlingua, the GTS, the GTE, the Super Snake, and more. 

What is the difference between Ford Mustang and Shelby?

Makers of the Ford Mustang Shelby logo on a red car.
Ford Mustang logo | Getty Images

The Ford Mustang is a pretty impressive ride, but the Shelby is an entirely different stallion. In fact, the Mustang Shelby is considered the high-performance variant of the traditional, stock Ford Mustang. There are key distinctions between the two, along with the more aggressive-looking front fascia and other style features.

The stock Ford Mustang may take cues from the Mustang Shelby, but there are a few differences under the hood. You could buy a six-cylinder Mustang if you wanted or bump up to the Mustang GT Premium, which Ames Ford says comes with a 5.0-liter V8. Buying a Ford Mustang Shelby means having a significant performance upgrade, including the 5.2-liter Ti-VCT V8 on the Shelby GT350.

With the 3.73 TORSEN® limited-slip rear axles, dual exhaust, and a differential cooler, additional performance enhancements don’t stop there. Bumping up to the Shelby GT500 means supercharging that 5.2-liter V8 and swapping out for a TREMEC seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. The Shelby GT500 is the absolute highest-performing Mustang to ever roll out of the Ford production line. 

First generation Shelby Mustang models

Ford Performance shares the history behind how the iconic Mustang Shelby came to be. The very first Mustang launched in 1964, but Lee Iacocca wanted something more. He reached out to racing legend Carroll Shelby for collaboration to create the most revolutionary performance car.

The very first Mustang Shelby GT350 was born in 1965 and intended to improve Ford’s racing performance. As CJ Pony Parts states, this first Shelby was sometimes called the Cobra, the dream moniker Carroll Shelby had for the fiercest Mustang of all. There were two variations of this first Shelby, one being the GT350 and the other the GT350R, signifying racing specifications. 

The 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 featured a 289-CID K-Code engine variation, capable of harnessing 306 hp. Carroll Shelby’s Cobras dominated even the Corvettes of the time. In 1965, this Shelby creation won the World Manufacturers’ GT Championship, defeating Ferrari and still holding the distinction of being the only American vehicle maker to ever do so, according to the history provided by Shelby itself. The first-generation Ford Mustang Shelby models became fan favorites for those model years, 1965 through 1970, and continue to be highly sought after by collectors today. 

Some notable changes throughout the first-gen Mustang Shelby models include the 1996 dropping of the word “Mustang” from the title and adding rear quarter windows and brake scoops. The ’66 model also brought back seats and an optional automatic transmission.

The Mustang Shelby 1967 model year was what Carroll Shelby considered his best, with the GT500 featuring a 427 CID engine. But it was 1968 when the car rebranded as the Shelby Cobra GT350 and GT500. These models have shorter hoods, new grilles, and engine upgrades to the 427 Cobra Jet. The top-of-the-line Shelby for that year was the GT500KR with even more improvements to the ram air hood scoop, providing torque ratings of 440 ft-lbs at 3,400 RPMs.

By 1969, Shelby lost the Cobra label again, reverting to Shelby GT350s and GT500s. The bodies for these model years got longer by four inches. And many leftover 1969 models were sold as 1970. A special European production, known as the Shelby Europas, brought an end to the first generation Mustang performances. Ford still had big plans for the second and third generations of Mustang Shelby models in the decades that followed.

Second generation Shelby Mustang models

The Ford Mustang Shelby seemed to take a hiatus for a few years. According to Classic, Ford responded to public demand by renewing its partnership with Carroll Shelby to introduce the second generation of Shelby Mustangs. Each new model between 2005 and 2014 brought remnants of the first-gen style and more in the performance department.

The 2005 model rebirth of the Ford Mustang Shelby included the GT350, the GT500, and the introduction of the Shelby GT. The new Shelby models came in two different evolutions, often referred to as the S-197 and the S-197-II. At the 2005 SEMA show, Shelby announced its modified V6 Mustang as the Shelby CS6. The CS8 was built around the Mustang GT’s 4.6-liter, 3-valve V-8, morphing into the Shelby CS8.

According to CJ Pony Parts, 2007 through 2009, Shelby GT500s were monstrous beasts, with their Tremec 6060 transmission and modular 5.4-liter engines capable of 500 hp. From 2011-2012, the Shelby GT350 came with a 5.0-liter supercharged V8. While a few new exterior colors were available, you could also get this car in convertible or coupe form with the throwback, white with blue stripes design.

The Mustang Shelby GT500 changed again from 2010-2014 when Ford added another 40 hp and a four-cam, 32-valve V8. This Mustang could race 0-60 in just 4.6 seconds. This car weighed 100 pounds less, with the aluminum engine block, too. Ford even installed Electric Power-Assist Steering and dropped the car’s stance, providing an even more powerful experience.

And Ford wasn’t done improving yet. The 2013-2014 Shelby Mustangs got another boost under the hood. Imagine 662 hp, 631 ft-lb of torque, and top speeds of 200 mph. This 5.8-liter, 32-valve supercharged V8 redefined the GT500 for those years. 

Third generation Shelby Mustang models

The third official generation of the Mustang Shelby launched in 2015, introducing the ground-breaking Shelby Super Snake. The Shelby GT was back, too, with more aggressive styling, carbon-fiber components, and loads of upgraded tech. Is the GT500 a Shelby? Yes, it is. Continuing the Shelby tradition, the GT500 and the GT500KR also rejoin the lineup.

Edmunds breaks down some of the upgrades you’ll find on the Shelby GT350 over the years, starting with its racecar heart transplant in 2017 in the form of a flat-plane crank, 5.2-liter V8 engine. By 2020, the Shelby GT530 may have looked like a regular Mustang, except it could put the reins on 529 hp at an incredibly satisfying 8,250-rpm redline. Top Speed says even the supercharged V8 of the 2016 Shelby Terlingua impressed with racing-like chops.

Special and anniversary edition Shelby Mustang models

You can’t have an ultimate Mustang Shelby guide without highlighting the various special editions and anniversary rides over the years. For example, the 2006 and 2007 Shelby GT-H models were designed as rental cars for Hertz. This Shelby had an FR1 Power Pack and an extra 25-hp. It was 2007 to 2008 when the Ford Shelby GT came back with the old-school hood scoop, sports bar, billet grille, racing packages, and those iconic stripes.

From 2008 to 2010, Ford produced the GT500 Barrett-Jackson Edition Mustangs, paying tribute to Barrett-Jackson’s contribution to the car’s history. This special edition car is believed to be one of the rarest Mustangs of all.

Other rarities include the 2008 to 2009 GT500KR, with its supercharger, as a 40th-anniversary car. From 2007 to 2009, you could buy the Shelby GT500 Super Snake, the unicorn of the Mustang lineup. In 2009 you could buy the Prudhomme Edition Super Snake, paying homage to Don Prudhomme with street-illegal, drag racing packages.

The 2011 to 2014 GT500 Super Snakes came with a host of upgrades and 660 hp and enhanced the driveshaft throttle body to accommodate 750 hp. In 2012, the Mustang Shelby had a lot to celebrate. The Shelby GTS offered conversions for both V8 and V6 engines and added Borla exhaust, Baer brakes, and new exterior styling. And 2013 brought new colors for the Super Snake, including the triple-gold stripe accent.

So, what’s new for the Mustang Shelby this year?

Current Ford Shelby Mustang models

If you want a Ford Mustang Shelby today, you’ll still be impressed with what the Mustang can deliver. Modern-day Mustang Shelby models are bringing to bear even more of the must-have performance you’d expect. And according to Ford, owning a Shelby GT500 also provides the opportunity to learn how to drive it with training from professionals at the Ford Performance Racing School.

According to Motor Authority, the 2021 Ford Shelby GT500 is quite possibly the best performing Mustang yet. And Edmunds carves out the various packages you might like to add to your 5.2-liter supercharged V8 with 760 hp. But you’ll say goodbye to the Mustang Shelby GT350. MotorTrend announced the car’s discontinuation last year, saying that the special edition Mach-1 would be the next candidate up for introduction.

Future Ford Shelby Mustang models

With all the hype surrounding the highly innovative Ford Mustang Mach-E, some wondered if Shelby would still have a badge in the future lineups. And some sources say yes, even the Mustang Mach-E will see a Shelby variant. And other reports, including Evo, confirmed the announcement.

There are also expected to be Shelby versions for the 2022 and 2023 model years. MotorTrend also talked about Shelby American producing a Shelby Super Snake directly. And it’s more than just a GT500 with a Shelby nameplate. This Shelby will feature the Predator 5.2-liter V8, capable of 825 hp.

How much is a Shelby Mustang worth?

According to Shelby, you can buy a 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby at a starting price of $62,310, based on the manual transmission. A 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 price range is anywhere from $74,000 and $95,000. That’s a far cry from the original Shelby Cobra price of $7,500. However, that same original car is said to have sold for almost $6 million in today’s market.

Motor1 shared some of the highest auction prices for various Mustang models over the years, including a 2008 Shelby GT500KR that sold for $550,000. Ford once offered up the first production of the 2007 GT500 to the highest bidder, who paid $600,000 to take it home. And a 1969 Shelby GT500 Convertible, once owned by Carroll Shelby himself, sold at auction for $742,500.

Of every Mustang Shelby in the impressive history, only 34 Shelby GT350 R models were ever made. One of those unicorns went to auction in Monterey back in 2012, where it sold for a whopping $990,000. And for all you movie buffs, the iconic “Eleanor” of Gone in 60 Seconds fame sold for $1 million. It wasn’t the most expensive auction listing for the Shelby name. A 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake rolled through with a winning bid of $1.3 million.

Not all classic Mustang Shelby models will sell for those record-breaking auction prices. But they’re still worthy investments. A regular 1967 Shelby GT500 can be found for private or dealer sale for anywhere between $100,000 to $200,000. Of course, condition and mileage will come into play on classic Shelby pricing. Many sources suggest well-preserved or beautifully restored models of first-generation Shelby variations will typically list for an average of $100,000.

Mustang enthusiasts tend to revere the Mustang Shelby models as top performers. And there is a long, all-American history of the Ford and Carroll Shelby partnership that continues to improve how muscle cars look, feel, and chomp pavement. The Mustang Shelby is still an iconic legend in its own right, regardless if you prefer the GT350, the GT500, or the other models in the Shelby family. And now you have the ultimate guide to help you find one to park in your garage.

RELATED: The Top Mustang Models of All Time