Shelby American announces the end of an era for a popular muscle car

Paul Sancya / AP

The 750-hp Shelby GT500 Super Snake, left, and the GT350 are shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012.

A highly sought-after muscle car is going the way of the T-bird.

Shelby American announced today that this will be the final year of availability for its limited-run Shelby GT350.

“It’s time,” said John Luft, president of Shelby American, based in North Las Vegas. “This is common in the industry, especially with specialty vehicles. It will preserve (the GT350's) legacy.”

Orders will be taken through Dec. 31, and production on other Shelby American cars will continue.

The company also is planning to debut a new high-performance vehicle.

“We always look at the opportunity to not only repeat history but create new history,” Luft said.

Orders for the GT350 already are pouring in.

“The sales have always been brisk,” Luft said. “But when collectors and consumers hear that a model is going away, the phones ring a little more.”

The most recent production of GT350s began in 2011 to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the muscle car, which originally was built in the 1960s. That run lasted only three years, from 1965 through 1967.

Today's GT350s look very similar to the originals. Shelby American produced only a limited number of both to keep inventory down and increase the appeal for car collectors.

“We’re insuring the collectibility,” Luft said. “Historically, they have always been an appreciable investment. Keeping limited production runs helps in keeping that future.”

But Luft admitted that the door isn’t closed for a possible Shelby GT350 comeback. The vehicle could have another limited run in the future.

“We’ve learned to never say, ‘Never say never,’” Luft said.

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