Vintage R&T Road Test: Two 1968 Shelby GT 350s – Cool And Hot, But Not As Hot As The Z-28

The original Shelby GT-350 was a Z-28 before there was one. It was raw, lean, quick and fast, and handled better than any Falcon-chassis car had any right too—thanks in part to relocated upper control arms. But it quickly went soft and fat and lost its edge. R&T tested two versions of the GT-350; a new base version with a mild 250 hp version of the new 302 V8. It was really not much more than a glorified trim package; in fact the Mustang C/S (California Special) used many of the same body add-ons.

The hotter version had 315 hp on tap, and actually was a pretty quick; actually a hair quicker to 60 than the Z-28, thanks to an engine with a significantly lower torque and power peak, making it easier to launch and quicker at lower speeds. But by the end of the quarter mile, the Z-28 was passing the GT-350 by six mph, very telling proof that it was making a lot more than its rated 290 hp or the Shelby’s 350 hp. But overall, the GT-350 was trumped by the Z-28, which was cheaper to boot. The GT’s days were numbered.


The big difference was of course that Shelby GTs were now being built by Ford itself, rather than being modified at Shelby’s works after the fact. In other words, the GTs had been co-opted by Ford, and that means volume and lower costs were the way to genuine profits, which were obviously very modest—if any—for the original GTs.

The GT350 acquitted itself reasonably well in terms of handling and braking, although not as well as the better-balanced Z-28. And its dead power steering was another deficit. R&T summed it up very cogently: “IF they’re the sort of cars to which you are attracted to, they do they job well enough. We know from long experience with cars of this type that it is well-nigh impossible to take a heavy, bulky car with an unsophisticated chassis  feel-less power assists and turn it into a truly sporting, responsive piece of machinery. In the early days, the GT-350seemed a serious and partially successful attempt to make a sporting car of the Mustang’ but now if anything it accentuates most of the Mustang’s inherent shortcomings. And what’s worse, the Camaro Z-28 is a better example of the same sort of car—for less money.

The Shelby GT continued to devolve into cartoonish caricature of itself until it died from the weight of its excesses.