With last week's passing of automotive racing and tuning legend Carroll Shelby, most of the retrospectives have focused on vehicles like the AC Cobra, the Mustang Shelby GT 350, and his more recent ventures tuning and modifying late-model Mustangs.
Shelby's automotive ventures went beyond Mustangs or even just Fords. Shelby affixed his eponymous brand to many a Dodge model in the 1980s, including the Dodge Dakota and although it didn't carry his brand name, Shelby was involved in the design and development of the first-generation Dodge Viper, a car many consider to be a spiritual successor to the AC Cobra.
This article is going to take a look at some of Shelby's truck creations. While not quite as famous or prolific as his sports car creations, they too are a fitting tribute for this larger-than-life Texan.
Though laughably tame by today's standards, the Shelby Dakota was one of the sportiest trucks you could get at the time. Chevrolet's 454 SS model would not come out until 1990, GMC's scorching turbocharged Syclone until 1991, and Ford's F-150 Lightning wouldn't bow until 1993. Until the Shelby Dakota debuted, the most powerful engine you could get in a Dakota was a 125-hp, 3.9-liter throttle-body injected V-6 engine.
For this new high-performance variant, the wheezy V-6 was yanked in favor of Chrysler's 5.2-liter V-8. Although it seemed like it would be an easy swap, the first-generation Dakota's engine bay was never designed for anything bigger than a V-6 and some significant modifications needed to be performed to squeeze in the V-8 -- the most noteworthy being the substitution of an electric cooling fan in place of the engine-driven fan to gain the precious few inches needed to allow the engine to slip under the hood. The Shelby Dakota produced 175 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque and was mated to the company's A500 4-speed automatic.
The influence of the Shelby Dakota would permeate the Dakota lineup for years to come. An extended front section debuted on the 1991 model, allowing for the 5.2-liter V-8 as a factory option on mainstream models. The second-generation model, which debuted in 1997, offered an R/T trim level the following year that featured a 250-hp 5.9-liter V-8, sport-tuned suspension, limited-slip differential, and bucket seats.
2006 Ford Shelby GT-150 by Unique Performance
Although vehicles that were only produced in the hundreds are considered rare, the small batch of GT-150s produced by Unique Performance for Shelby
takes the term to a new level: just three of these "proof of concept" trucks were produced. A bidder at the 2007 Barrett-Jackson auction paid $104,500 for one of them. The idea was to revive the spirit of the Lightning truck, which was discontinued in 2004 with the introduction of the new F-150. As a concession to the growing trend of trucks as family vehicles, the GT-150 used an extended-cab truck as a starting point.
Like the F-150 Super Snake that would come later, the GT-150 added a supercharger to the 5.4 liter V-8 to give the concept truck a total of 445 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. But even Unique Performance's quest to keep weight down still resulted in a truck weighing 5369 lb, about 700 lb heavier than a 2004 F-150 Lightning.
2009 Ford F-150 Shelby Super Snake
Although not a full factory-backed effort like the Dakota, the F-150 Super Snake package shown at the 2009 SEMA show in Las Vegas was a rolling showcase of what the company had to offer for American's most popular truck. The truck featured such mouth-watering enthusiast hardware as a Borla exhaust, Baer brakes, specially-designed Alcoa wheels, and a Whipple supercharger. The package, or some variation thereof, could be installed exclusively at Shelby American's facilities in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Truck Trend was able to get hold of the show truck and performed a full battery of tests on it. Thanks to the Whipple-supercharged 475-hp 5.4-liter V-8, the nearly 6000-lb truck was able to pull off a quick 5.8-second 0-60 run and a highly respectable quarter-mile time of 14.3 seconds at 96.9 mph.