Home The Shelby Connection

The Shelby Connection

HomeThe DeTomaso Cars2020 Shelby GT500
Sunbeam Tiger2007+ Ford Shelby GT 500 2015+ Shelby GT350

Shelby American touched a number of other cars. Sunbeam Tigers, de Tomaso Panteras, to name only two. But you need to also consider the influence the Shelby Cars had on future Ford performance cars especially the Mustang.

Table of Contents

This section has a place in the discussion of Ford Powered Shelby cars. During the 60’s a lot of interesting things were going on with street cars. The car makers learned there was a market for such sports cars. The trail was blazed by people like Carroll Shelby, Phil Remington, Ian Garrad, Lance Reventlow, Briggs Cunningham to name only a few. Hot rodders in the US, mostly in California, were stuffing big American engines in big American sleds to make them go faster. Some were taking old Fords, Pontiacs & Chevy’s and converting them to street rods with updated engines and suspensions.  Enthusiasts wanted faster cars and they wanted cars they could customize. 

Eventually Lee Iococca convinced the powers that be at Ford that the youthful buyers wanted a sporty car that could be ordered customized from the factory, thus the Mustang was born. Also during this time, a number of people familiar with how well the European sports cars like the MG’s,. the Jaguars, Porches, AC Bristol’s handled were aware that American cars were no competition in that department. But one thing the US had was bigger, mass produced engines with more horses and torque than the small four cylinders of Europe. The Corvette was introduced in the late 50’s, an American car that handled like a European sports car but with more American horsepower. The first Vettes had six cylinders that grew to small block V8’s and later ground shaking 427 big blocks. 

Shelby had been racing on the continent driving some of the best cars Europe had to offer. After he retired from racing due to his health, he returned to America with a dream of stuffing an American V8 in a European sports car. All he needed an engine and a body. First he went to GM to se about using their small V8, but GM had no interest having just introduced the Corvette. About this time, Ford offered a new 221 cid V8 as a truck engine in Canada. And Shelby learned also that AC Cars, Ltd. had lost access to the Bristol engines for their AC Aces. The timing was right. Ford was ripe to join with Shelby as was AC. Carroll convinced the two firms to  work with him to produce, a Ford powered British sports car. The AC Cobra was born. 

Other people were stuffing American engines in foreign (European) cars. The Cobra was not the only hybrid sport car racing the streets of California or the rest of the country. This section is dedicated to those cars. As time permits, more cars will be added here. I’ll start with cars that were Ford powered and Shelby influenced either by direct involvement or as a competitor. We should also include some cars whose very existence can be attributed to the influences of the Shelby years, like the Mustang Mach 1’s and the Boss Mustangs. Cars that eventually competed with the very cars that demonstrated the market for them, the Shelby Mustangs. Stop back regularly and check the list to see what has been added. Better yet, if you have information and some original images of one you want to see here, let me know, there is plenty of room.

  • The Sunbeam TigersIan Garrad, the west coast manager for the a hot little British sports car called the Sunbeam Alpine Tigers. The Tiger was a sports car in need of a bigger engine. As a race car, it needed more horse power to compete with the small engine MG’s and Triumphs. Garrad saw what Shelby was doing with the AC Cobras and wondered if the same magic would work with the Tigers. He convinced his company, Rootes, to talk to Shelby. Rootes offered Shelby $10,000 to work on shoehorning the 260 Ford small block into a Tiger. Shelby gave the project to Phil Remington. The V8 Tiger was born. Now the competition for the V8 version of the Sunbeam Alpine was Jaguars, Corvettes and even Cobras. 
  • The DeTomas Cars – Ford tried unsuccessfully to add a European car to its stable of cars by buying a European manufacturers.  In 1965, Ford talked to an Argentinean born Italian named Alejandro de Tomaso about using Ford engines in his cars. Another marriage made in car heaven. de Tomaso started with a car he called Vallelunga powered with a Ford Cortina 100 hp four cylinder. Shelby knew de Tomaso from racing in Europe and asked him to build a car to replace the big block King Cobra. That design was the foundation for de Tomaso’s next model using a Ford V8. He called it a Mangusta, Italian for Mongoose, a Cobra killer. His last model was called the Pantera.
  • The Ford Shelby Mustangs – Ford pretty much ended up owning Shelby American including the Cobra name. Ford used the Cobra name for a special series of Mustangs (and other Fords) over the years. In 2005 Ford introduced the fifth generation of Mustang which included a very special SVT Shelby Mustang. Some pretty cool and awesome Ford version of Shelby Mustangs have been offered since. With the introduction of the Coyote engine and the S550 body style, Ford took their version of the Shelby GT 350 and now the 2020 Shelby GT 500 to a new level of performance.