At Shelby, 50 years of making great American muscle cars (pictures)

This year marks a half-century since Carroll Shelby began selling road-ripping super cars. In 2012, they're as hot as ever. CNET Road Trip 2012 got a G-force ride.

Daniel Terdiman
1 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

First Cobra

LAS VEGAS, Nev.--If you've seen one on the road, it was probably leaving you in the dust somewhere. That's because cars made by Shelby are some of America's most powerful, with some boasting more than 1,000 horsepower, and top speeds well higher than most.

This year marks 50 years since Carroll Shelby produced the first Cobra. According to the Shelby museum, located at its headquarters in Las Vegas, Shelby "took the antiquated AC 'Ace' chassis, inserted a new small block Ford engine, and re-engineered the car to handle all the additional power. Weighing only 2,020 pounds, the Cobra easily vanquished sports cars from Jaguar, Chevrolet, Porsche, Aston Martin, and others. And in 1965, Shelby's Cobra team wrested the sports car racing world championship from Ferrari."

This is the first Cobra ever produced, located in the Shelby Museum, and according to the company's vice president of operations Gary Patterson, Shelby America recently turned down a $25 million offer for the car.

2 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Cobra aluminum

Though Shelby may perhaps be better known these days for its muscle car modifications of Ford Mustangs, it still produces Cobras. The cars are made to be faithful to the original design and style.

This is an aluminum Cobra body on a stand in the Shelby factory.

3 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

New GTS V8

If a Shelby blows past you on the freeway, you might not immediately know it, since most of the cars are modified Ford Mustangs.

This is a Shelby GTS, featuring a supercharged V8 engine that delivers 624 flywheel horsepower.

4 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

GTS V8 engine

This is a closer look at the supercharged V8 engine in a Shelby GTS.

5 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Pro-charger Mustang

Although the company turns out many cars under its own nameplate, it also has a shop that will modify almost any vehicle, turning them into super cars.

This is a 2005 Ford Mustang that has been significantly modified with a new 4.6-liter engine and super-charger. Much of the car is stock, but has all-new panels in back, as well as a new hood, brakes, and a few other components. Carroll Shelby signed the car's interior himself a year ago, shortly before he passed away.

6 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Pro-charger Mustang engine

A closer look at the engine and supercharger of the 2005 Mustang seen in the previous photograph.

7 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

50th anniversary Super Snake

This is a 50th anniversary GT 500 Super Snake. The company is making just 50 of a black finish version of the car, and 50 of a version in performance white.

8 of 28 Shelby American

Shelby 50th anniversary Super Snake

The 50th anniversary Super Snake costs $60,000 (not including the base Mustang). For that money, buyers get a long list of features including a 750-horsepower engine, a supercharger, carbon fiber body components, and more. The car also can come as a convertible.

9 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Super Snake engine

A close-up look at the engine of a Super Snake that is on the Shelby assembly floor. On average, it takes the company 60 to 90 days to complete the work on one of its cars.

10 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

GT 350 with front off

This is a Shelby GT 350 that is in the middle of the assembly process. The car already has its new engine, but many of its components, including the front fender and other parts, have yet to be added back on.

This car delivers 624 horsepower at the flywheel.

11 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Shelby 1000

This is a Shelby 1000, owned by the company and used at promotional events, that is having some minor maintenance work done. The Shelby 1000 is designed with more than 1,000 horsepower, and can go more than 200 miles an hour.

"This is the standard by which all other muscle cars will be measured and special enough to receive its own branding," reads a Shelby 1000 pamphlet.

12 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Fiberglass Cobra body

Another Cobra, this one with a fiberglass body, sits on the assembly floor, waiting to have many of its additional components and parts added on.

13 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Cobra painted

This is an aluminum body Cobra that has been sanded and painted.

14 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Finished Cobra 427

This is a Cobra 427, a vehicle that is designed to match the specifications of the original, 1960s-era Cobra.

However, because such cars don't meet emissions standards in most states, Shelby does not ship them with the engine installed. Instead, buyers can either have their local dealer finish the installation -- meeting the standards in their state -- or do it themselves.

15 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

No engine

A look at the empty engine compartment of an otherwise-complete Shelby Cobra 427.

16 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Assembly floor

The main assembly floor, where Shelby American puts together most of its modified-Mustang cars.

17 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

GT 350 at the beginning

This is going to be a Shelby GT350, but as seen in this picture, it is still a Ford Mustang. Although many of its stock parts have already been pulled out of the car, it hasn't had any of the Shelby modifications done to it yet.

18 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Parts pile

This is a pile of the stock parts that have been pulled from the Ford Mustang seen in the previous photograph.

19 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

GT 500 engine going to be Shelby 1000

This is a GT 500 engine that Shelby is tearing down in order to make a Shelby 1000 engine. When finished, the Shelby 1000 will cost a buyer of the 1,000-horsepower-plus car at least $150,000 on top of the price of a stock Ford Mustang.

20 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Three engine blocks

Three engine blocks (the one on the left is made from iron, while the two others are made from aluminum).

21 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Cylinder heads

Two cylinder heads sit side by side, ready to be worked on at the Shelby American Speed factory.

22 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Complete engine rebuild

This is a double-overhead cam supercharged Shelby 1000 engine in the process of being built. When done, the engine will generate more than 1,000 horsepower.

23 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Everything missing

A Shelby 1000 up on a lift is missing its entire drivetrain, which is being built nearby.

24 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

House of Lights GT350

A Shelby GT350 in what the company calls its "House of Lights," where every completed car gets a thorough inspection.

25 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

GT350 interior

This is the interior of GT350 in the previous photograph.

26 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Super Snake

This is a GT 500 Super Snake logo plate on the side of one of the muscle cars.

27 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Cobra tires

A stack of tires that will be used on Shelby Cobras sits near the Cobra assembly area at the Shelby factory in Las Vegas, Nev.

28 of 28 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Golf cart

Since Shelby is one of the most accomplished car modification companies in the world, it should be no surprise that in order to get around the company's many buildings, executives can drive a golf car modified to look (a bit) like a mid-'60s Shelby GT350.

More Galleries

Behind the Scenes With a Teen Robotics Team Aiming for Glory

Behind the Scenes With a Teen Robotics Team Aiming for Glory

10 Photos
Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

16 Photos
CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

9 Photos
2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

14 Photos
Best sound bars under $300

Best sound bars under $300

18 Photos
2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke reports for diesel duty
2018 Ford F-150 diesel

2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke reports for diesel duty

22 Photos
Music-friendly cell phone accessories

Music-friendly cell phone accessories

11 Photos