Shelby president John Luft on the development of the Shelby 1000 and the future of Shelby Mustangs
At the New York Auto Show last week we sat down to talk with Shelby American president John Luft to talk about the company’s latest vehicle, the 2012 Shelby 1000, as well as the future of Shelby Mustangs.
MD: How involved was Carroll with the Shelby 1000 project?
JL: Carroll’s handprints are all over this car, more so than others. Carroll always reviews our product plans every time we come out with a new product, but he basically took his size 12 boot and said ‘we will build a 1000 horsepower car’ and we actually did. Upon the completion of the 800 horsepower Super Snake we took him around the track in it and he was excited and he jumped out of the car and we all stood there expecting to get a big ol’ Shelby hug and he looked at the development team and said ‘ok, when are we going to have 1,000?’ Carroll is all about horsepower. His involvement in the Shelby 1000 was from the day we put a pencil to paper to the day we took it around the track.
MD: What did Carroll think of the 1000 once it was done?
JL: When Carroll was taken around the track during the first test of the car it rolled back into the pits he jumped out and said ‘this is the most power I have felt in the seat of my pants, ever.’ Coming from Carroll Shelby that is a big deal. But he was involved every step of the way. Carroll hates meetings. His ideal meeting is about five minutes, but we sat for over two hours how we were going to name this car. He was there for all two hours, which had to have been painful for him, but he was so involved and so excited about it that he endured the meeting to be a part of the naming.
MD: Is the subtle look intentional? For example, there’s no stripes on the car.
JL: For years now we’ve had people who buy our Super Snake who have asked for a stripe delete because they want to stay below the radar. But we stay true to our build on our Super Snakes so we don’t do a stripe delete. In the development sessions on the Shelby 1000 we sat there and thought that we should let this vehicle be understated as it relates to styling cues and identity and let’s let it speak for itself when the guy puts his foot into it. So it was all done by design.
MD: Was there any thought about basing the 1000 on the 2013 GT500?
JL: It would have taken too long. The 2013 GT500 is in job one now and it hasn’t even gone to the dealers yet. We still haven’t received out development car yet. We’ve learned to move forward and not stop and start again based on what may or may not be in the production queue with Ford. We just wanted to go with what we know works.
MD: How many Shelby 1000s will be produced?
JL: We’re only going to build 100 of them. That’s it. Very collectable.
MD: Does Shelby already have plans for vehicles based on the 2013 GT500?
JL: Now the 2013 GT500 will be exciting. Just imagine – we’re starting with 650 horsepower. If you think about the incremental gains in horsepower we were running on an average of 100-125 horsepower is what we typically took from the base to the next level Super Snake. Now to take the 550 horsepower GT500 to take it to 800 was a big leap. We probably won’t be able to maintain that same amount. So when it comes to the 2013 generation of Super Snake, maybe there won’t be as much gain under the hood as we’ve had in the latest version, but where we make it up is in the styling, braking, handling, cooling, etc.
MD: What can we expect from the next generation Super Snake?
JL: With the base car being such a performer, it’s going to cause us and push us to look at where we can gain in the handling performance. That’s going to be the suspension, the braking, the weight in the vehicle. We are doing a lot with composites and carbon fiber. We’ll look for opportunities like that. The bottom line is that a Shelby has to be distinctly different than the base vehicle. That’s our obligation, and if we can’t give you as much under the hood then we have to find places to increase performance elsewhere.
MD: Looking ahead even further, does Shelby have plans for the next generation Mustang in 2015?
JL: Yes, in fact we have a product plan through 2020. Now think about this – this year was the 50th anniversary of the company and the Cobra – that’s just the beginning because that’s 1962. We have a lot of anniversaries coming. The GT350 has an anniversary coming. The GT500 has an anniversary coming. In our future there are going to be 50th anniversary celebrations of certain products.
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