• Jan 22nd 2010 at 11:57AM
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2011 Shelby GT350 at Barrett-Jackson – Click above for high-res image gallery

The 2011 Shelby GT350 seemed to have a polarizing effect when it debuted at Barrett-Jackson's opening gala event on Monday night. Some of you loved it and others instantly objected to everything from the looks of the car to the $33,995 price tag that doesn't include the base car. With 500 horsepower from the new 5.0-liter V8, there's no arguing that the 2011 GT350 has plenty of performance potential, but is another $60,000+ Mustang what people really want?

The first thing we did when we arrived in Scottsdale last night was to make a bee-line to check out the car in person. We also caught up with Jim Owens, Shelby's Vice President of Marketing and Communications, who talked to us about the car. Follow the jump for what we learned about the 2011 GT350.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

For starters, Shelby did not want to build another Shelby GT. "We asked ourselves what we needed to do to build a car that would live up to the name," Owens told us. "We wanted to deliver on that heritage, and I think we have done that." While other cars might start with a lower price point and the engineers fit everything they can under it, the GT350 was designed the opposite way. A performance bar was set, and then the car was built to meet that expectation. The GT350 had to have more horsepower, which also meant adding additional components like 14-inch, 6-piston brakes to compensate. Add in a custom-tuned suspension, a unique body kit and hood, plus a custom interior and you've got yourself a $60,000 Mustang. It's not a price point that Shelby originally targeted, but that's what it needed to be for Shelby to build the GT350 they wanted to build.

Price aside, what about the styling? The 2011 GT350 takes cues from each year of the classic versions. "It's a lot of things that were historic and iconic that were a representation of the car," Owens told us regarding the inspiration for the design. There's actually quite a bit of the '69 and '70 model in the 2011 model, especially if you look at the rear of the car. We're still not sure if a combination of design cues was the best way to go, and would have liked to see more or even complete inspiration from the simpler '65 and '66 models.

We found a sketch of the original design concept and actually like it better than the real thing. It seems to have a cleaner look that is missing from the final product. Items like the grille and taillights don't necessarily flow perfectly with the design of the car, although Owens was quick to remind us that the car at the auction was still technically a concept. Any or all of the design elements are subject to tweaking, adjustments and changes before it goes to production. We also expect the overall fit and finish to be improved, since the car you see here was put together in about a month.

When it comes down to it, Shelby believes they have built the best GT350 they could. It might cost more than than most Mustang owners can afford, and not everyone will like the way it looks, but we fully expect it to perform like a $60,000 sports car. "It's going to deliver the performance this car deserves," Owens promised us. We'll take his word for now, but we're going to reserve our final judgment until we can get behind the wheel.

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