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SUV with a roadster's soul

A high-performance Ford Expedition is being developed by legendary designer Carroll Shelby.

August 04, 2004|Jim Mateja | Chicago Tribune

Looking to put more life into its lineup, Ford again has called upon Carroll Shelby to perform some magic.

Ford will unveil in November another Shelby concept vehicle, a high-performance version of the full-size Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle, at the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. show in Las Vegas.

SEMA will determine whether there's enough interest to produce the vehicle, according to John Luft, president of Carroll Shelby International Inc., the parent company of Shelby Automobiles Inc.

In 2003, Ford and noted racer and designer Shelby announced they were teaming up as they had in the 1960s, when Shelby developed a limited-edition, high-performance Shelby Cobra Mustang that Ford marketed. Shelby also had a hand in the creation of the Ford GT40 racer in the '60s.

The 81-year-old Shelby will develop new high-performance concepts for Ford to consider for production, as well as performance versions of existing models that could be marketed as niche vehicles to build interest in Ford.

First up was the Shelby Cobra roadster unveiled at Detroit's North American International Auto Show this year, an all-new concept supercar powered by a 6.4-liter, 605-horsepower, V10 engine that paid tribute to the Ford/Shelby partnership in the '60s.

The car could do zero to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and could have a top speed of 195 mph. One reason it was so quick was that it was very light. It had no roof, air conditioning, radio, side windows, door handles or even cup holders.

The Shelby Cobra was more a "what if" concept; a second Shelby venture for Ford is more likely to become reality.

The vehicle, which doesn't have a formal name other than the Shelby SUV, is an upgrade of the Expedition. It will be equipped with a performance engine, suspension and tires and decked out with a lot of plastic ground effects to call attention to it. But no photos yet, Luft said.

"Ford is looking to put some pizazz into some of its vehicles," Luft said. "Performance is a driving factor in the consumer buying decision now."

The Shelby SUV will be powered by the same 5.4-liter V-8 offered in Expedition. Luft said whether the vehicle is built will depend largely on public reaction and whether performance wins out over mileage.

"I don't think it's going to have the same 605 horsepower as the Shelby Cobra," he said, "but we don't know yet. We're working with Ford engineers on that now."

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