Growing up, my family had a special connection with cars that extends even to today. As such I got to drive some amazing and strange vehicles during my youth. But the one that stands above the rest vehicles was my dad's 1968 Shelby Mustang GT 350.
The Legacy of Carol Shelby has been covered by many others who know it much better than I, so I will keep it short. Shelby was a race car driver and engineer who worked with the automotive industry giants, most notably Ford, to produce some legendary special edition vehicles. The AC Cobra and the Mustang Shelby Cobras being the most famous. My parents got ahold of this beautiful car in the mid 90's. Incredibly rare, one of only 1,175 sold in 1968 the car felt unique. 1969 and 1970 would see a massive over-hall of the Mustangs design and the eventual end to the partnership between Ford and Shelby So in a way this car represented the last chapter of the special partnership.
You see, in 1968 things were changing within Ford. The 68 racing season was kind of a disaster due to Ford deciding that, rather than letting Shelby build the engines from Ford parts, they would assemble them at Ford and Shelby would only install them. This led to reliability issues that publicly embarrassed Shelby and led to consistent victories of the Camaro over the Mustang on the track. Ford also hired a new corporate president, former General Motors employee Semon Knudsen. Knudsen did not care for Shelby, likely because the Mustang in his hands was trouncing the Corvette during his time a GM. He began development of the Boss 302 and the 429. Only a few months later Shelby sold the Cobra name to Ford for only one dollar.
In a real way, this car represented the last good year in Ford and Shelby's partnership until they reunited in the early 2000's. The GT 350 came with a 302 cubic inch engine mated to a fours speed automatic. Distinguishable from the 67 model by the rectangular fog lights, instead of round, the one my family had did not have the blue racing stripes often seen on other versions with white paint. The black interior was complimented with lots of wood trim and the horn on the steering wheel had its own special bar under the center binnacle that could be pressed with the palms. Ours also had racing shoulder straps that functioned like straps on a backpack partnered with a single lap belt. Yes back in the 60's seatbelts where options. The long thin red taillights gave the car an understated appearance from behind but from the front the car is all business with to huge scoops and racing latches for the hood.
The last few years the value of these cars has skyrocketed and now falls into the 100,000 dollars or more range for a good one. But even in the 90's the car was expensive and as such I did not often get to drive it. The 302 produced 250 bhp with 310 ft-ib of torque and could reach sixty in under 7 seconds and a quarter mile in under 16. Certainly, there are faster cars, even from the era, but the car had plenty enough grunt to shred the tires when you wanted to. I drove it home from the detail shop the last day that my family owned the car with my dad right behind me. At the last red light before my turn off a green fox body pulled up next to me and revved the engine. The only thing that kept me from shredding the tires one more time was the knowledge that Dad was right behind me.
Looking at the sticker of one of these cars today I doubt I will ever get to drive one again and they become more and more rare to see at car-shows much less on the road. They have become essentially a museum piece, which is a real shame to me as the cars practically beg to be driven. The Mustang and Ford in general was about to change a lot in the 70's and in a way the 68 Shelby represented the last of a dying breed. But on the rare occasion I do see once of these beautiful cars I always go back in time to that one last red light, and I wish that I could have that moment back, without my Dad sitting behind me of course.