The Strange Story Of How The Legendary Shelby GT350 Mustang Got Its Name

Caroll Shelby is one of the most famous names associated with performance cars. Arguably, he's right up there with Enzo Ferrari and Ferry Porsche. Matt Damon even played Shelby in the movie "Ford v Ferrari." He was not only an accomplished race car driver, but he was also partly responsible for making the Mustang the muscle car icon it is today. 

Historically, Shelby Mustangs represented the best Ford had to offer with those iconic blue stripes and capability on the track. Earlier this year, a 1965 Shelby GT350R went for $875,000 at auction. It's impossible to overstate Shelby's impact on not only Ford but cars in general. 

Today, the Shelby Mustangs are toe-to-toe with wild muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Chevy Camaro ZL1 that produce dizzying amounts of horsepower, tire smoke, and noise. 

Ford has not always been the most creative with vehicle names. But with cars as legendary as the Shelby GT350 and GT500, one has to ask what the numbers in their respective names mean. It may give you a peak into one of racing's greatest minds. 

A logical step

Nearly 60 years ago, when Shelby was first practicing his wizardry on Ford Mustangs, he was tasked with naming his new creations. However, Shelby was more concerned about the car itself than the name attached, according to Ford Authority

GT350 is not an alpha-numeric code like the ones used by Porsche, and the number 350 doesn't have any significance in Shelby's storied racing career. The "350" refers to the number of steps from the corner of Shelby's shop in Los Angeles to the property line of Los Angeles International Airport (via Ford Authority). "GT" refers to the fact that it's a grand-touring car. 

The GT500 earned its name because 500 is a bigger number than 350 and should thus be attached to a faster car. It's really hard to argue with that logic. GT350 and GT500 don't need fancy names because their performance speaks for itself. Just the Shelby name tells you all you need to know. 

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one. When you're a legend like Carroll Shelby, you can name a car whatever you want.