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Ford Mustang Shelby GT-3


Shelby vs Mustang: What’s the Difference?

Ever since the initial inception of Mustangs, the automotive industry has seen a special bond made between car enthusiasts and Mustang models. However, not all models are made the same. So, the sibling rivalry of Shelby vs Mustang is often discussed.

This article will cover the distinct nuances that make each series unique. It will also offer an automotive showdown of two of the most adored vehicles within the Ford Mustang family. 

Shelby vs Mustang Comparison

To better understand the difference between the Shelby and the Mustang, it’s crucial to look into both individually. This means exploring their history, specs, performance, and cultural impact.

The sections below will explain the difference in appeal and structure of the original design. However, customers today have access to custom Shelby Mustangs and classic Mustang designs. This allows them to curate their vehicle to their liking by choosing a different interior or exterior setup or altering the functionalities.

Mustang overview

The Ford Mustang is a car series that captivated numerous generations of car enthusiasts. The Ford Company expected 100,000 to be sold within the initial year of production. However, their expectations were far exceeded when they sold more than 263,434 by the end of 1964. 

10 Millionth Ford Mustang


The first generation of Mustangs created much buzz in the car-lovers community. Ford advertised their soon-coming car model through all the advertisement tools available. So, people saw it on billboards, television specials, commercials, and more. 

The first Mustang model was under development for three years before it reached the market in 1964. Its debut opened the way for the next seven generations to come. Today, Mustangs are celebrated and well-known as an American classic. 

Initially, only a two-door hardtop and a convertible were available. But within a short time, a 2+2 fastback model was also included in the first-generation lineup.

With time, Ford Mustang models grew in size and power. However, during the 70s, customers seemed overwhelmed by the bulkiness of power cars, which is why Ford introduced a more luxury-themed lineup in their second generation. So, the Mustang became an upscale economy car. 

Models changed their appearance within years to come. However, Ford eventually had to go back to its roots and include more elements of the initial lineup, as this was the design with which many fell in love.

Performance and power

Although the first Mustang series debuted in 1964, during this year, some changes were made in design. This is why there is a difference in the motor and power of the models produced in the first and second half of this year. The engine that the original Mustang lineup featured was a 170-cid straight-six, which was later enlarged to a 200-cid in 1965.

Mustangs were highly customizable even back then, allowing buyers to style their cars according to their taste and budget. For instance, the standard six-cylinder engine could be replaced with a 160 or 210-horsepower V8. The latest 1964 models could also include a “K-code” 271 horsepower engine, which became the most expensive option.

Hence, pairing a 4-speed Mustang and K-code engine meant the car could easily go mid-14-second ¼ mile times. These Mustangs could also go from 0 to 60 within just 6 seconds. 

Throughout the Mustang’s history, the list of customizable options grew longer. It included convenience pieces such as air conditioning and radio and performance accessories such as disk brakes, power steering and power brakes.


Cultural impact

The Mustang immediately became a recognizable icon in American pop culture. Its first appearance on the movie screen came shortly after its debut in 1965. The Mustang Convertible first appeared in the James Bond classic Goldfinger.

The movie featured a Wimbledon White with a red interior, but the Ford company was also commissioned to create a special Mustang Fastback for the movie. This is one of the rarest Mustang models, with an auction price of $139,000.

Other Mustang models appeared in the cinema landscape, with some memorable mentions being movies such as Fats and Furious Tokyo Drift, Basic Instinct, John Wick, and so on. More popular movies that feature newer Mustang versions include Gone and Charlie’s Angels.

Moreover, upon its release, the Mustang received the 1964 Gold Medal for Excellence in American Design and made the covers of Newsweek and Time Magazine.

Shelby overview

In the Shelby vs Mustang comparison, the Shelby always comes second. The Shelby Mustang model came as an effort to revolutionize the already esteemed original Mustang. Mustang created the first vehicle in this series, known as the Shelby GT350, in collaboration with Carroll Shelby

Caroll Shelby


The Shelby model aimed to revolutionize the classic Mustang design and feature a powerful performance suitable for the race tracks and the road. This is why the Shelby GT350 lineup offered two designs, one known as Shelby GT350 and the other Shelby GT350R.

The R represents race specifications; only 35 cars were manufactured from the racing model. The first victory this Shelby racing model brought was in 1965, and it successfully held the title of B-Class champion for three years.

The initial price of the Shelby model was around $4,500, which was not a small price to pay during that time. However, only 513 Shelby Mustangs were produced. Today, these are sold for over ten times their original price.

Performance and power 

The Shelby GT350 displayed impressive engineering. It was equipped with a 289-CID K-Code engine, which could achieve 306 horsepower. The first 300 GT350 models in production held a battery in their trunk. However, the battery was moved to the engine compartment with time. 

Furthermore, those interested in specs should know that the Shelby GT350 featured a modified version of the 289-cubic-inch V8 engine, which is how it got its immense horsepower. Also, the interior of this model included a wood-rimmed steering wheel, a fiberglass panel, and class-designed seat belts.

While the GT350 was a great advancement compared to the classic Mustang, the later GT500 edition was a revolutionary design. Although the GT350 and GT500 are seen as sibling models, sharing many design details, the GT500’s greatest asset came from under the hood. This model held a 428-cubic-inch V8 engine, which produced 355 horsepower coupled with a heavy-duty suspension design to handle this power.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT-2

Cultural impact 

The Shelby Mustang represents the golden days of the automotive industry. One of the main characteristics that gave the Shelby Mustang its timeless appeal is its distinct design. This model’s elongated front and side straps became a staple in the muscle cars industry.

As noted earlier, Mustangs have a long history of cinematic appearances, with different models occupying the screens during different eras. The 1968 Shelby Mustang is one of the most popular Mustangs to appear on screen. Steve McQueen drove it in the hit action drama Bullitt

The Mustang has left a mark both in the automotive industry and cinema. This is evident in single-series Mustangs appearing on set after several decades. Such is the case with the 1966 Shelby GT350 that Tom Cruise drives in The War of the Worlds, released in 2005. 

Which Model, the Shelby or the Mustang, Is More Powerful?

The Shelby Mustang had a more powerful muscle car design. However, its appearance is not the only characteristic that made the Selby stand out. In the Shelby vs Mustang specs comparison, it is always worth noting that the Shelby series features more power than any of its predecessors.

With the initial GT350 boosting up to 306 horsepower and the GT500 reaching 355 horsepower. Compared to the 1964 Mustang designs that primarily had built-in power of a maximum of 271 horsepower.

Stacking up every Mustang model against each other may reveal plenty of differences. Some in esthetics, others in functionalities, but the most obvious difference is the one related to power and performance. This is only logical as the Shelby is a late adaptation of the original Mustang, which aims to alter the already existing success of the Ford brand.

However, knowing which one makes a better choice mainly depends on the driver and their preferences. For instance, if someone is more interested in a pony convertible, then the original Mustang series is the obvious choice.

Those trying to make a comparison based on allure should keep in mind that the Shelby has a more elongated front and features white stripes to enhance its attractiveness.


Comparing Shelby vs Mustang models reveals that both left a great mark in the industry, making Ford a renowned brand both in and out of US borders. These two Ford series have occupied car enthusiasts’ minds for more than 60 years.

Today, they remain a symbol of class in the pony car and muscle car sector. However, which one an individual prefers is a matter of personal taste.

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