Those familiar with Carroll Shelby’s full body of work know that V-8-powered cars weren’t the only vehicles he was able to tune. Now, Shelby American has unveiled its latest car, and – believe it or not – it’s not a Mustang (though the specialty car builder did unveil a Mustang at the same time). Instead, Shelby unveiled the 2013 Ford Shelby Focus ST – a modern-day take on the original turbocharged Shelby hot hatch, the Dodge Omni GLH.
The new Shelby Focus ST represents the first car in Carroll Shelby’s “playbook” for the future of the brand. Starting at $14,995 (plus $24,495 for the donor Focus ST), the pocket rocket gets Shelby-spec brakes, a Ford Racing suspension, Borla catback exhaust, upgraded interior, new wheels and tires, and your choice of three different graphics packages (the race-inspired checkered series is especially sweet). Power – for now – remains unchanged at 252 hp out of the 2.0-liter turbo I-4. Shelby’s currently working on a performance tune for its Focus that will boost power between 30- and 60-hp, while still remaining emissions-legal and running on pump gas.
The Focus ST is a step in a different direction for the brand that’s better known in more recent years for producing Mustangs and continuation Cobras. The Focus ST was built to get younger buyers into Shelby vehicles. The first question many enthusiasts will ask is, “Why didn’t Shelby call its new Focus ST the GLH?” The answer was quite simple – because the GLH and GLH-S monikers still have too much of a Mopar connection.
After the Shelby Focus ST’s debut, I had a chance to catch up with Shelby president John Luft. According to Luft, Shelby had such fond memories of his old Dodge Omni GLH-S that he insisted a Shelby-modified Focus ST be the first car in his playbook. Further down the line, Luft tells me, the company plans to pay tribute to icons like the Daytona Coupe, 427 Cobra, GT350, and GT500 for their respective anniversaries. Shelby will likely also pay tribute to the Mustang’s anniversary next year. Logic dictates a race-ready R Model, with a rear-seat delete, rear-seat-mounted spare tire, and limited 37-model run is also in the cards.
As for what’s next in the Shelby game plan, Luft told me to wait until the New York auto show, where the company will debut a new car. Sources at Shelby tell me the upcoming car isn’t going to be based on the Mustang, Focus, Fiesta, or Fusion. Seeing as Shelby showed off an F-150 Super Snake last year, a tuned F-Series pickup doesn’t seem like a likely choice either. That leaves vehicles like the Taurus SHO or Edge Sport as the more likely candidates – though secretly we’re all hoping for a Shelby-modified Transit Connect panel van. Stay tuned.