This Shelby GT350 Is a Four-Cylinder Muscle Car Killer
When it was introduced in 1965, the Shelby Mustang GT350 kicked off the muscle car era with a bang. For $4,311 — nearly twice the price of a base Mustang (three times the price in full-on competition spec) — you got one of the most track-ready road cars in the world. In its May ’65 issue, Car and Driver said: “Basically, what Shelby has done is to convert the Mustang fastback coupe into a road-going version of a NASCAR stocker.” Road & Track declared: “For the racing driver, it will also be a source of great amusement, as it should enable him to laugh all the way to the winner’s circle in SCCA’s class BP racing.”
And why wouldn’t they heap praise on such an incredible performance car? It had a 305 horsepower 289 cubic inch V8 mated to a four-speed manual transmission. It could sprint from zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds, and run the quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds at 95 miles per hour, and top out at 126, though according to Car and Driver, its “special, semi-racing Goodyears, with low-angle nylon cord; [are] safe at sustained speeds up to 130 mph.” It was seriously impressive stuff for 1965. Today? Not so much.
Half a century after the GT350, Ford introduced an all-new Mustang lineup, including the EcoBoost, which has exactly half the cylinders the Shelby did. With its 2.3-cylinder turbocharged inline four and six-speed manual, it’s anything but a consolation prize; in fact, its 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque take the car from zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds, run the quarter mile in 13.9 seconds at 98 miles per hour, and top out at an electronically-limited 149 miles per hour. And for the icing on the cake, it gets a combined 26 miles per gallon.
So from a pure performance standpoint, the $27,000 EcoBoost would roast the 50-year-old GT350s, which are now worth just under $300K on average. The vast majority of us will probably never own one of these mid-century gems, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t millions of gearheads out there that still lust after them. So if you’re in the market for a relatively affordable Shelby, but don’t want to be embarrassed by a well-equipped Camry at a stoplight, Oklahoma-based Classic Recreations has the GT350 for you.
In early December, Congress passed The Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015, part of the larger Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. It opened the door for companies that build replica cars to now begin selling them as turn-key vehicles. Until the law passed, these cars needed to be sold as rolling kit cars for customers to finish. Now, as long as the engines meet current EPA standards, these boutique manufacturers can stuff whatever they want under the hoods of their cars.
Enter Classic Recreations. The only licensed manufacturer of replica GT350s, the company has announced that alongside its current range of available Ford V8s (ranging from 420 to 1,000 horsepower), it will offer both the EcoBoost four and V6 engines in its tribute Shelbys.
“For years we have proudly hand-built the only officially licensed Shelby Mustang continuation cars in the world, but that doesn’t mean we are stuck in the past,” said company owner Jason Engel. The V6 engine may have been new to American cars when Carroll Shelby and his team were developing the GT350, and it’s not likely they would’ve ever considered one for any of their ’60s-era cars. But the 3.5-liter EcoBoost six shares its bones with the one powering the 2017 Ford GT supercar, so it isn’t likely to disappoint. According to the company:
The 3.5L twin turbocharged V6 EcoBoost comes from the factory with 365 horsepower and 420 lb/ft of torque, thanks to high pressure direct fuel injection, variable cam timing, forged internals and dual water cooled Honeywell/Garrett GT15 turbochargers. Thanks to all-aluminum construction, the engine offers a substantial weight reduction compared to the iron-block V8 originally equipped in the car. The combination of a virtually flat torque curve and light weight along with the modern suspension options will make this one of the best handling muscle cars ever made. For those seeking more power, the 3.5 can be tuned and equipped with larger turbos to produce over 600 horsepower while maintaining reliability.
And if the idea of a GT350 with a four-banger still scares you, don’t worry; Classic Recreations is reserving it for the Chinese market for now. And while the current-generation EcoBoost Mustang is the closest analogue to the small-motor Shelby, its engine will be sourced from the Focus ST, not the current Mustang.
While Classic Recreations’s continuation GT350s are a bargain compared to the real deal, the process starts by meticulously restoring an original Mustang Fastback, then works largely in the same way Shelby American did back in the ’60s. As a result, its current crop of V8-powered cars doesn’t come cheap — in fact, they start at $139K. So if you want the classic Shelby attitude mixed with modern-day track presence, you could pick up a brand-new 2016 GT350R at the Ford dealership for less than half the price. But if you want the old-school looks and attitude with more performance than the original, but don’t care for that intoxicating V8 burble, Classic Recreation’s retro-futuristic Shelbys could be the dream car for you.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.