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THE ORIGINAL SHELBY AMERICAN crew has long been characterized as a bunch of hot-rodders. Yes, most of them started out in 1960s Southern California, but Carroll Shelby didn't pick great hot-rodders-he found guys who had incredible talent, then gave them free rein to use it. Their passion, and a lot of trial and error combined with genius, produced world-beating cars that were more than the sum of their parts.

Take, for example, the 1965 Shelby GT350. Concerned that his new Mustang would quickly fade from the spotlight and be seen as a boring "secretary's car," Ford boss Lee Iacocca hired-no, commanded-Shelby to build a performance Mustang eligible for competition. The result, the 1965 GT350R, went on to win an SCCA national championship and help save the Mustang brand.

As time passed, the focus shifted. The rough edges of Shelby Mustangs were softened, resulting in cars with far more comfort and far less athletic ability. Ford moved production to Michigan in 1967, but even then, no Shelby vehicle sold in large numbers. As much as people like hard-core performance cars, few ever sign up for the reality.

The Super Snake moniker dates to 1967. It was first applied to a GT500 prototype fitted with a 427 V-8 in GT40 Mk II trim. Shelby planned to sell 50 such cars, but the idea was scrapped when it was discovered that they would need to be priced at $7500-427 Cobra money-to turn a profit. (The prototype made history as part of a 500-mile Goodyear tire test, clocking a 170-mph top speed and a record 142-mph average.)

The name was next used in 1968, on a twin-supercharged 427 Cobra touted in a classified ad penned by Shelby's right-hand man, Al Dowd, as "Carroll Shelby's Personal Super Snake." It was one of two such cars built-the other was sold to Bill Cosby, who rejected it. That car killed its second owner, careering off a cliff when the throttle stuck open.

By the end of 1970, Shelby Mustangs of any strength were no more. The Super Snake designation lay dormant. In 2003, Shelby and Ford mended a long-broken fence and rejoined forces. In 2006, they developed the first new Shelby Mustang in more than three decades, when Shelby, now located in Las Vegas, tuned 500 GT-H Mustangs for rental-car giant Hertz. They brought a similar car to the masses in 2007 -- the Shelby GT -- and, for owners of Ford's then-new GT500, a "Super Snake" conversion package offering either 600 or 725 hp. This was a post-title conversion, meaning you bought the car and then gave it to Shelby for modification.

Read the rest here: Shelby Super Snake Road Test
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