By 1968, Carroll Shelby, maker of the 1967-1968 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500, was beginning to tire of the business he'd created. He had won the Manufacturers Championship and had overseen the Ford GT effort, culminating with wins at Le Mans in 1966 and 1967. He had also seen many close friends lose their lives on the race track. Meanwhile, competition had grown and new racing technology made it impossible for most specialists to grasp the many new principles and apply them successfully. Racing, Shelby said, wasn't fun anymore. It was business, and building one's own cars had lost much of its original attraction. Ford was now doing most of the Shelby product planning.
At the end of the 1967 model run, production was moved from Los Angeles to Michigan, where the A.O. Smith Company had contracted to carry out Shelby conversions of Mustangs. The cars were renamed Shelby Cobras (now that the original two-seat Cobra sports car was no longer being built), and Ford handled all promotion and advertising.
With the new name came a new look: A redesigned hood brought the twin air scoops up to its leading edge, while the grille, which now carried rectangular (rather than round) driving lights, became a large, gaping mouth bisected by the slim bumper. In back, sequential turn signals (adapted from the '65 Thunderbird) replaced the previous plain lenses.
Also new was the first Shelby convertible, featuring a built-in rollbar wearing an attractive plastic cover. GT-350s now used Ford's new 302-cid engine, but it had fewer high-performance goodies than the old 289, and put out a comparatively anemic 250 bhp. The Paxton supercharger option was again offered, and Shelby brochures now carried a rating for the blown engine: 335 bhp at 5200 rpm. Luxury features like automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, tinted glass, and AM/FM stereo dominated the options list, all of which indicated that Shelbys were no longer the hard-core sports machines they once were.
At mid-year, the GT-500's 428 engine (rated at 360 bhp for '68) was replaced by a 428 Cobra Jet, which had made a name for itself in drag racing. Although the new CJs wore the high-performance intake manifold and cylinder heads from the mighty 427, advertised horsepower somehow dropped to 335 -- though actual output was undoubtedly higher. Cars with this engine were called GT-500KR ("King of the Road"). Due to a shortage of 428s, a few GT-500s were fitted with 390-cid V-8s (much to the chagrin of their owners), while a few others once again got the 400-bhp 427.
As in 1967, the big-block Shelbys were more popular, outselling the GT-350s by 2-to-l. Total 1968 production was 4,450 cars, which would prove to be the Shelby's best sales year.
Get the specifications of the 1967-1968 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500 on the next page.