On this day in 1965, the original Shelby GT350 debuted.

The development of the 1965 Shelby GT350, a high performance variant of the Ford Mustang created by Carroll Shelby, is fairly well documented. When Ford decided it needed a racing version of its newly minted Mustang, it decided to homologate the Mustang for SCCA B/Production competition. The company believed it would gain more credibility among buyers by beating General Motors’ small block Corvette on track. So it turned to Shelby, a racer and successful car designer.

And the rest is history.

That’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the story. For a complete history, including exclusive interviews, accounts, and vintage pictures and brochures, we recommend Colin Comer’s Shelby Mustang Fifty Years book. In this excerpt from the book, you get the inside scoop on how the Shelby GT350–the name, Shelby GT350–came to be.

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 enamored 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.

With only 562 made in 1965, the original GT350 is one of most collectable, sought-after cars around. Again, we recommend you check out the 240-page book, Shelby Mustang Fifty Years, for a more comprehensive history–a history that began in earnest 50 years ago today!

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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.