The Shelby GT350’s Namesake Is Way More Random Than You Think

The Shelby GT350’s Namesake Is Way More Random Than You Think
Photo: Ford

The animated and opinionated car reviewer Jason Cammisa has a new shakedown of the Shelby GT500 Mustang. It’s fairly cinematically impressive, but to me, the most interesting nugget of knowledge he shares is the origin of the original GT350’s name.

The GT350 didn’t have 350 horsepower or 350 cubic inches of displacement. The name was pretty arbitrary: The distance between Carroll Shelby’s two shops was 350 feet.

The car site OnAllCylinders has a little elaboration on this piece of history, specifically an excerpt from Colin Comer’s book Shelby Mustang Fifty Years:

This new Shelby Mustang needed a name. Carroll Shelby has told the story many times of how the GT350 name came to be. Shelby wasn’t enamoured with the name “Cobra-Mustang” that Ford had been tossing around. Nor was he impressed with any other names that his team kicked around, like “Mustang Gran Sport” and “Skunk.” In fact, he wasn’t really concerned with naming the car at all, but Ford needed a name for legal and marketing reasons. According to Shelby, nobody could agree on any of the many names thrown about, and in one of numerous meetings held on the subject, Shelby, no doubt frustrated with corporate politics, turned to Phil Remington and asked him what the distance between the race and production shops at Shelby American was. Remington’s response was “about three hundred and fifty feet,” to which Shelby said, “That’s what we’ll call it–GT350.”

Shelby’s reasoning for such a hasty decision? “The name wouldn’t make the car, and if it is a bad car, the name won’t save it.”

A generic alphanumeric name that signified nothing also had practical applications: Shelby could upgrade and improve the car whenever it wanted without having to change the name and let the competition know what it was up to.

I kind of like “Mustang Skunk,” but that’s probably why I don’t work in marketing. Obviously, 350 was a hit because it seems as good enough for 2020 as it was for 1965.

As for the rest of Cammisa’s video, the conclusion you might have guessed from “ICONS” in the title is that the present-day Mustang GT500 is a beast. Significantly, Cammisa and company found out that “less than two tenths of a second separate the Ford Mustang GT500 and Porsche 911 GT3 RS” on a flat-out track test. Wow.