|Carroll Shelby has always
been a fierce competitor, both on the track and in business. He does
not like to lose.
the only thing I like less than losing is losing and not learning
from it," says the racing great.
That philosophy sums up how Shelby,
superchargers and Mustangs came together in the first place.
The story begins in 1965 when a supercharger
manufacturer tried to interest Shelby in putting its product on
his then-new GT350 Mustang. At the time, Shelby’s plate was
full with building, selling and racing cars. He declined.
Then the manufacturer’s rep showed
up at Shelby’s shop in the shadow of the Los Angeles airport
with a supercharged GT350. Shelby agreed to a race on the vast expanses
of empty concrete that surrounded the airport. He jumped behind
the wheel of a 289 Cobra roadster – a vehicle much lighter
than the 289 GT350 – and soundly lost.
"Well, I figured if that rep was
going to teach me a lesson I might as well profit from it,"
he says. "So for the 1966 model we made a supercharger a factory
option on the GT350 as well as an aftermarket accessory."
A supercharger remained in the Shelby
catalog right through the end of production of the original Shelby
Mustangs. It was offered on GT350 models. In 1966 and 1967 these
were powered by the 289 cubic-inch V-8. In 1968, displacement was
boosted to 302 cubic inches. Beginning in 1969, the GT350 sported
Ford’s then-new 351 cubic-inch V-8.
Using a Blower to Call Down
However, these were not the first – nor, obviously, the last
– production Ford passenger vehicles to be supercharged.
Thunderbird and supercharger have long
been synonymous. The relationship began in 1957 when a supercharged
version of the "Y-block" 312 cubic-inch V-8 was offered
as a more powerful alternative to the two non-blown engine choices.
Output of the standard Thunderbird four-barrel 312 was rated at
245 gross horsepower. A dual four-barrel version generated 270 gross
horsepower. However, the supercharged engine topped them both with
a gross rating of 300 horsepower.
Thunderbirds and superchargers would
not meet again until the 1989 model year when the Thunderbird Super
Coupe was introduced. This time around, the engine was a V-6 displacing
3.8 liters. From 1989 through 1993, the Super Coupe carried a net
rating of 210 horsepower and 315 lbs.-ft. of torque. This was upgraded
to 230 horsepower and 330 lbs.-ft. for the 1994 and 1995 model years.
SVT Finds Special Uses for
Superchargers have also played an important role in the history
of the Ford Special Vehicle Team.
SVT’s first production vehicle
to use a supercharger was the F-150 Lightning. An all-new F-Series
platform gave SVT engineers a "clean-sheet" opportunity
for the 1999 model year. SVT started with the smallest, lightest
F-150 chassis for optimum acceleration and handling – the
sporty short wheelbase, Regular Cab FlareSide configuration. Engineers
lowered the truck two inches in the rear and half an inch in the
front, added big brakes and a sport-tuned suspension as well as
unique front and rear styling treatments.
However, the big news was a special
SVT-developed supercharged 5.4-liter Triton™ V-8. Output was
an arresting 440 lbs.-ft. and a mighty 360 horsepower – 40
more horsepower than even SVT’s flagship 1999 Mustang Cobra
generated. Needless to say, the 1999 SVT F-150 Lightning set new
standards for full-size sport trucks. For 2001, SVT bumped up the
Lightning’s output to 380 horsepower and 450 lbs.-ft.
Meanwhile, engineers were learning
the lessons that eventually would pay off in the form of the 2007
Shelby GT 500.
Introduced as a 2003 model, the SVT
Cobra took Mustang horsepower to as-yet unseen heights with a new,
Eaton supercharged DOHC 4.6-liter "Terminator" V-8. Rated
at 390 horsepower and 390 lbs.-ft. of torque, it was among the most
powerful Mustangs ever to leave the production line up to that time.
It also featured a 6-speed manual transmission, redesigned front
and rear fascias and a new "heat-extraction" hood.
A blueprint for the future had been