1969 Shelby GT-350 & GT-500


Mustang not only gained a facelift in 1969, but also its own hot versions such as the Mach 1 and Boss 302/429.
Mustang not only gained a facelift in 1969, but also its own hot versions such as the Mach 1 and Boss 302/429.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1969 Mustang retained the original 1965 wheelbase, but dimensions were generally increased throughout. Surprisingly, roadability improved too; car for car, a '69 handled better than its predecessor, and the Cobra Jet Mach 1 and Boss 302 were the fastest production Mustangs yet produced. Tradition demanded that Shelby Mustangs, including the 1969 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500 be somewhat faster, but it wasn't going to be easy.

By 1969 the Federal government had introduced serious exhaust emission standards and safety requirements. Meanwhile, insurance premiums in the region of $1,000 were being quoted for 25-year-old males who drove fast automobiles. The taste of buyers had also changed: luxury was becoming more important than performance. Vietnam, ominously, was siphoning off thousands of young men.

Carroll Shelby saw all these developments and reconsidered his position. Ever the individualist, he had begun in 1965 by building a car he himself wanted to drive -- the original GT-350, a hairy, noisy, no-holds-barred American grand tourer for the sporting driver, as opposed to the driving sport. The market for such cars was limited; more buyers wanted luxury, and between 1966 and 1968, the Shelby Mustang had gradually evolved in that direction. Of course, it was still a very potent high-performance grand touring car -- but it wasn't like the original.

Neither did Shelby enjoy making decisions in committees where accountants and lawyers usually overruled designers, engineers, and test drivers. Between Ford management and the Federal government, there were more bosses in his hair by 1969 than he'd ever encountered before. Ford, furthermore, was intruding on his turf with cars like the Mach 1 and Boss 302.

Nevertheless, Carroll lent his name to yet another Shelby series, the 1969 GT-350 and GT-500 (the KR suffix was dropped), though they now suffered the indignity of being built alongside regular production Mustangs in Southfield, Michigan.

Read about the design and performance of the 1969 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500 on the next page.

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Continued

Lacking the ability to make extensive mechanical changes, 1969 Shelbys instead leaned more toward visual differentiation, sporting a distinctive fiberglass front end in addition to the usual taillight modifications.
Lacking the ability to make extensive mechanical changes, 1969 Shelbys instead leaned more toward visual differentiation, sporting a distinctive fiberglass front end in addition to the usual taillight modifications.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The designers of the 1969 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500 made the heavier, longer, busier production car look considerably more rakish. They extended the hood, fitted another fiberglass front end with a large grille cavity, used fiberglass front fenders to reduce weight, clipped off the tail, and added a spoiler and sequential turn signals.

The GT-350 received the new 351 Windsor (Ontario) engine rated at 290 bhp, while the 428 CJ engine continued for the GT-500. A total of 3,150 Shelbys were registered as '69s, and convertible versions were scarce: just 194 GT-350s and 335 GT-500 ragtops.

Fuel injection had been considered for '69, but was never adopted. A moonroof and reclining seats were other ideas that never made it into production. While Carroll Shelby hadn't cared much one way or the other about the convenience options, he did think that injection or supercharging (the latter having been an option since '66) were important developments that should have been considered. Ford thought otherwise -- again.

Who needed it? At the end of 1969, Carroll Shelby called it quits. Production and design had become almost wholly Ford's responsibility anyway, and competition both from within Ford Division and from other makes was terrific. Shelbys weren't being raced much anymore, and the later models weren't his idea of a racing car anyway. Ford Division executive vice president Lee Iacocca agreed to terminate the Shelby program with no penalties or hard words. The association was at an end -- at least for awhile.

Since the Shelby's popularity had declined along with its all-out performance character, some 1969s remained unsold at the end of the year and were reserialed as 1970 models. To differentiate them from the '69s, they were fitted with black hood stripes and Boss 302 front spoilers. Only 315 GT-350s and 286 GT-500s were "built" for 1970, after which the once-heralded Shelby Mustang was quietly and unceremoniously laid to rest.

In retrospect, it was good that Carroll Shelby quit when he did. Considering what happened to cars like the Camaro Z-28 and Boss Mustangs as the 1970s wore on, one can only imagine the hollow shell of a car the Shelby GT would have become. Shelby left with all flags flying, renowned for having built some of the finest performance cars of the '60s.

Go to the next page to get the specifications for the 1969 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500.

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1969 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500 Specifications

As consumer tastes shifted from performance to luxury, Carroll Shelby's 1969 Shelby GT-350 and GT-500 marked the end of the Shelby Mustang production era.

Specifications

Engines: all ohv V-8; GT-350 351 cid (4.00 × 3.50), 290 bhp; GT-500 428 cid (4.13 × 3.98), 335 bhp

Transmissions: 4-speed manual; 3-speed automatic optional

Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs

Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs

Brakes: front disc/rear drum

Wheelbase (in.): 108.0

Weight (lbs.): 3,000-3,200

Top speed (mph): 119-121

0-60 mph (sec): 5.5-8.0

Production: GT-350 fstbk 1,085; cvt 194 GT-500 fstbk 1,536; cvt 335

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