I read on Jalopnik this morning that the Shelby GT350 was released on this day (January 27) in 1965. About a year and a half ago, I encountered the very first Shelby GT350 street car ever built. I wrote about it on my LeMons team’s blog, but think this audience (all 5 of you) might also find it interesting. Here it is,
shamelessly copied uncut and in its original form. Click any of the pictures for ginormo-sized views. Happy Birthday Mustang GT350!
The conventional wisdom among Seattle folk is that Opening Day of boating season heralds the start of summer, with the apogee of summer in the great northwet being Seafair. In my house, summer doesn’t begin until the third weekend of May, when the University District Street Fair crowds “The Ave” with more blindingly white people in shorts and t-shirts than mankind was ever meant to see. My lovely wife and I always visit the Street Fair on Saturday morning in an attempt to beat the crowds. We make a point to devour the best Piroshky in the world and look for our favorite vendors before escaping the crowds.
Typically, we park our Miata and stroll through quiet streets to the freshly pitched easy-ups of the vendors. This year was different. As we were strolling down Roosevelt, approaching Scarecrow Video, I noticed an unusual car parked on the street.
My first thought was that this was a vintage race car out for a weekend joy ride. As we walked past, I slowed to check this car out. It quickly became evident this was a unique Mustang.
While Carroll Shelby has done other things, the 1965 Ford Mustang GT350 stands out in my mind as an icon in his portfolio. The GT350 is a more usable car for the average person to own than was Shelby’s other project of the time, the AC Cobra. The GT350 enhances the great looks of the Mustang fastback with suspension tuning by Ken Miles (yes, the Ken Miles of GT40 fame at Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans), a package of weight reduction and redistribution, and some good old hot rod improvements (big carb with Cobra intake and headers) which gave this pony 35 extra ponies to take dancing on a race track or curvy road near you.
This particular car is the first GT350 street car that was built, number 5S003.
Wait, shouldn’t this car be ‘5S001’? Well, it is, sort of. The first three Mustangs given to Shelby for the GT350 program had their numbers written on their firewalls. The plan was to build two factory racing cars and one street car. The street car was built using the chassis with ‘5S001’ written on its firewall. However, when it came time to apply the number tags to the cars, the firewall markings were long gone. It has only been through the research of the car’s current owner, who is a great steward of these cars’ history that this story has been unraveled and this car verified as truly the first of its kind. Early photos taken at the Shelby shops show the first GT350 with a unique rear view mirror mounted forward of typical on the driver’s door. While 5S003 currently has its mirror in the standard location, there are visible patch marks (awesomely of race car quality) on the inner side of the door that reveal this car’s birth story.
This first street car was used to develop marketing material by Pete Brock. In addition to his work producing marketing material for Shelby American, Mr Brock is know for having designed the world’s most beautiful racing car. I was not aware of Pete Brock’s involvement with the GT350 program. He also has signed 5S003’s hood.
Another interesting Pete Brock touch on this GT350 is the vented back window. This is an aerodynamic device aimed at venting the cockpit and reducing the negative pressure, and ultimately lift, behind the car at speed. Note how the window dips down beneath the roof of the car.
I was at the 1985 Monterey Historics and saw this car racing on track. I remember it vividly, as I loved the GT350 then as I do now. Small world? The roll bar’s collection of event tech inspection stickers reveal a little bit of this car’s story.
This car is a piece of history. I feel lucky to have encountered it and gotten a chance to understand what it is. As a bonus, the owner started it up for us to hear its unmuffled, 12:1 compression voice. What a treat! This car idles with a deep cackle and revs with the quickness of a racing engine. The side exit exhaust smells lightly of racing fuel, some streetable fuel mixture clearly used to balance the engine’s thirst with this car’s occasional jaunts around town. The owner takes it out to give his kids rides, setting off car alarms along the way. He gets it; this car is loved and shared with the world.
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