What Is the Shelby Europa?Last Updated August 8, 2023 | C.J. Tragakis
It’s well-documented that America’s love affair with the pony car began the day the first generation of Mustangs appeared in dealerships: April 17, 1964. Overseas, however, drivers took a lot longer to warm up to the Mustang’s charms. The interesting history of the Shelby Europa is in many ways indicative of the struggles European importers faced when trying to spread the pony car gospel.
The only two genuine Shelby Europa convertibles are currently both owned by Dr. Rauno Harvima of Finland, who kindly provided these images in conjunction with Wolfgang Kohrn of Germany, a noted classic Mustang enthusiast who maintains the Shelby Europa registry.
Claude Dubois and the Birth of the Shelby Europa
The Shelby Europa story begins with Claude Dubois, a Belgian Mustang fanatic and owner of one of the first Shelby dealerships in Europe. Dubois, who made his fortune as a racecar driver on the Gran Prix circuit, began selling Mustangs in 1966 and eventually expanded his sales territory to include all of Western Europe.
When the original run of North American Shelbys stopped production in 1970, Dubois approached Carroll Shelby to inquire directly about licensing the car for the European market. The resulting cars ended up being produced initially by Bob Ford, a Detroit-area Ford dealer. Produced for the 1971 model year, a handful of Shelby Europa Mustangs were exported across the Atlantic. Based on the Mach 1 platform, they could be outfitted with either a 351 CID Windsor or 428 CID Cobra-Jet engine, which had been used in the GT350 and GT500 respectively.
Other features of the Shelby Europa included Koni shocks, front and rear spoilers, and an adjustable front suspension designed for racing. Special striping was included that featured the Shelby Europa logo. The cars were estimated to deliver either 360 (GT350) or 400 (GT500) horsepower. Because it did not meet federal emissions regulations at the time, it was impossible to legally re-import the Europa back into the US.
Despite the best intentions of everyone involved, only nine Shelby Europas were ever produced (it was originally thought that 14 were built). Of these, two were convertibles and seven were fastbacks (or as Ford called them back then, "SportsRoofs"). Due to high tax rates and fuel prices throughout Europe, the market for a high-performance pony car was weak in most countries. It didn't help that, including taxes and adjusted for inflation, the original MSRP of these cars was in the low-six-figure range. The Shelby Europa did enjoy a small following in Scandinavia, which is where most of the existing cars can be found today.
One of the three Shelby Europas sold in the Netherlands, a red coupe, was reported stolen in 1987 and never found — leaving Mustang enthusiasts of Europe to keep an eye out for this rare muscle car.
Image Credit: car-from-uk.com