Detroit's North American International Auto Show is typically all about automakers’ latest and greatest new car offerings, but sometimes a representative of brand heritage is needed to show just how far things have come. Ford did exactly that with the launch of the 700+ horsepower, 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500, enlisting the help of three vintage, first-generation models to showcase the car’s robust, horsepower-laden lineage. Check out the photos below to see how Ford created a red, white, and blue display of horsepower.
The Shelby GT500 debuted in 1967 and showcased a shift in attitude between the earlier road-racer GT350s, to the all-out muscle surging beneath this new breed of pony. Much like the 2020 model, the design features additional scoops, lights, hood pins, and contrasting stripes to set itself apart from the rest of the herd.
With a 355-hp, 428 “Police Interceptor” V-8 propelling the car to a claimed 6.2 second 0 to 60 mph time and 14.5 second quarter mile, it was clear that this Shelby was all business when it came to straight-line speed.
The 1968 model followed the same formula from the debut model of ‘67, but offered more of everything. Hood vents increased in size and moved forward, while grille opening expanded, now encompassing a pair of squared-off fog lamps.
The KR variant, short for “King of the Road”, was powered by a revised 428 Cobra Jet V-8, possessing what many consider to be a rather underrated 335-hp rating. The lower horsepower number, however, produced better acceleration, with the sprint to 60 mph dropping to 5.4 seconds and quarter mile to 13.9—respectable numbers even by today’s standards.
Ford gave the GT500 a major styling refresh for 1969, further differentiating it from the rest of the Mustang lineup. The new exterior featured unique front fenders, grille, and hood with complete with a pair of NACA ducts. Powertrain options remained the same as the prior year’s KR, with the high-performance 428 Cobra Jet as the only engine to settle between the framerails.
The summer of 1969 marked the end of the Shelby-Ford partnership, leaving the Blue Oval with a number of unsold ’69 models. New VIN tags, a pair of black stripes, and addition of chin spoiler quickly differentiate 1970 cars from the year prior. The separation between the two parties finally ended with the introduction of the fifth-generation Mustang, eventually leading to the resurrection of the storied GT500 nameplate in 2007.