Shelby American has broken new ground in announcing their first ever electric vehicle. The company best known for performance-enhanced V8 Mustangs has officially moved into the EV space, announcing a limited-edition version of the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT SUV in April.
Released this year in honour of the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Carroll Shelby, the Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT is an upgrade package for Ford's Mustang Mach-E GT that will be limited to 100 units and, unusually for a Shelby vehicle, will only be available in Europe.
“We elected to initially offer the Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT only in Europe because sales of EV’s are growing much more rapidly there than in the USA,” said Aaron Shelby, Board Member of Carroll Shelby International and grandson of the company founder. “And from 2016 to 2021, the number of public EV charging stations increased by 431 percent across Europe. It just makes good business sense for Shelby American.”
An EV bearing the Shelby name may seem anathema to many Shelby purists, but Joe Conway, CEO of Shelby American, says that Carroll Shelby’s vision always embraced new [and in this case returning] technologies.
“Carroll was an early proponent of exotic materials and the integration of advanced technologies, including electrification,” Conway explained. “In an interview published by Ford Performance before his passing, Carroll looked forward to electric vehicles.
“The first production Shelby EV fits perfectly into our goal to maintain Shelby American’s position as a leading manufacturer of distinctive, small volume performance vehicles.”
Applicable to MY21-MY23 Mach-E GTs, the Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT is primarily a cosmetic package, defined by signature Shelby striping and extensive use of carbon fibre, as well as the application of Shelby lightweight alloy wheels.
Much of what’s seen on the vehicle date back to a concept Shelby created in collaboration with Ford and presented at the 2021 SEMA automotive aftermarket industry show in Las Vegas. Some things that didn’t make the transfer from 2021 concept to 2023 production vehicle include bold wheelarch flares, a deeply ventilated bonnet and unique front fascia.
The Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT’s cosmetic features include colour-coordinated ‘Over the Top’ vinyl stripes, as per what adorned the first Shelby Mustangs in 1965, with additional bodyside striping and Shelby badges outside. Shelby floor mats and a Shelby CSM numbered dash plaque are added inside.
Carbon fibre parts include the lower door trims, upper grille insert, front splitter and mirror caps, while the entire bonnet is a carbon fibre piece, too, created by Shelby American. To what degree these parts reduce the Mach-E GT’s 2,198kg weight is unknown.
Shelby forged alloy wheels complete the exterior makeover, and while these were bright metal on the 2021 concept, they’re finished in black for the production model.
Shelby American make no changes to the Mustang Mach-E GT SUV’s electric drivetrain, which is a dual motor set-up, producing 358kW and 860Nm (480hp and 634lb/ft). Nor does Shelby alter things like the brakes, but they do fit a set of Shelby performance lowering springs, which drop the ride height by more than an inch.
These, along with the carbon fibre parts and lightweight wheels, are claimed to improve the aerodynamics and handling of the vehicle without the need for additional body elements, like a wing or rear diffuser, or pulling weight from other areas of the SUV.
“This is our first foray into a production electric vehicle, so we spent a great deal of time testing EV’s on the track to understand their unique handling dynamics,” said Vince LaViolette, Shelby American Vice President of Operations. “Based on that experience, we lowered the SUV over an inch, cut weight off the top of it, reduced rotating mass to enhance stability and enhanced the aerodynamics.”
Arguably the most contentious element of the Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT is its V8-mimicking sound. Developed by exhaust specialists Borla, this ‘Active Performance Sound System’ was unveiled at SEMA last year and uses a proprietary algorithm “with state-of-the-art audio processing and amplification technology" to replicate the sound of a high-performance internal combustion engine with “hyper realistic” accuracy.
The Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT will be the first production vehicle fitted with Borla’s system, which includes strategically-mounted speakers inside and out, as well as the relevant software, to perfectly match the EV motor status and other vehicle dynamics with the aural sensation of an ICE vehicle.
“Sound, vision and touch are the three senses we use for sport driving. Without the real-time feedback of motor and vehicle dynamics through soundwaves and vibration, much of that experience is missing,” said David Borla, CMO for Borla Performance Industries.
“This product is an instrument, in more ways than one. It's like an audio tachometer that provides drivers with real-time feedback, and it's also like a musical instrument that plays an exciting soundtrack that enhances the driving experience, giving the vehicle personality and a sense of soul.”
Shelby’s LaViolette adds: “One of the biggest complaints about EVs is the lack of sound, which is an important visceral component to motoring enthusiasts. That is why we integrated Borla’s Active Performance Sound System into the Shelby Mustang Mach-E. This ‘auditory connection’ really intensifies the sensation and excitement of EV driving.”
Available in Europe from July, the Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT package costs 24,900 Euros (AU$41,000 approx.) over the base vehicle and is only applicable to the MY21-MY23 GT, which is the top-spec Ford Mustang Mach-E variant.
Expansion of this anniversary package to other markets, or making it available as a regular production Shelby model, had not been confirmed at time of writing, although Shelby American say they will be doing more work on EVs.
“We’re excited about our first production EV and plan to roll out other electrification programs in the near future,” said Gary Patterson, president of Shelby American. “We are already seeking ways to substantially push EV performance, expand the product line and work with partners.”
Shelby’s traditional vehicles and customers won’t be abandoned, though.
“Shelby American continues to be firmly committed to cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines. We’ll introduce several new models over the next 12 months to keep V8 fans revved up,” Patterson added.