The Shelby Mustang is a high performance variant of the Ford Mustang which was built by Shelby American from 1965 through 1970.
The 1965–1966 cars were the smallest and lightest of the GT 350 models. These cars are often improperly called "Cobras", which was the Ford-powered AC-based two-seat sports car also produced by Shelby American during the same period. The confusion arises from the use of the Cobra emblem, the paint scheme, and optional "Cobra" valve covers on many GT350s (part of a marketing tie-in by Shelby as well as one of his iconic symbols). All 1965–66 cars featured the K-Code 271 hp 289, modified to produce 306 hp. Marketing literature referred to this engine as the ""Cobra hi-riser" due to its high-riser intake manifold. Beginning as a stock Mustang with a 4-speed manual, the cars were shipped to Shelby American, where they received the high-riser manifolds, had their stock Ford Falcon live rear axles replaced with heavy-duty Ford Galaxie rear axles, and were given larger, metallic-lined rear drum brakes and Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes. The 1965 G.T. 350 was truly a street-legal race car, and as such was not built for comfort or ease of driving. Even more "hairy" were the less than 30 "G.T. 350R" race-spec cars that were built specifically to race under SCCA rules. While the 1966 G.T. 350 was still an extreme and difficult car, it had some of its sharper edges smoothed out for the comfort of casual drivers (i.e. back seats, different colors, automatic transmission). This trend continued every year, with the cars becoming progressively larger, heavier and more comfortable, while losing much of their competitiveness in the process. The 1969 G.T. 350's and 500's were largely styling modifications to a stock Mustang, not at all the light and harsh racers of 1965-67. By 1969 Caroll Shelby was no longer involved in the Shelby GT program, and design was done in-house by Ford. As the Shelby GT's popularity was built on its reputation as an "all-race" automobile, once word began to spread in the street that the newest Shelby's were simply Mustangs with "Shelby" badges and different trim, sales began to slip.
1965–1966 G.T. 350s were delivered from Ford's San Jose assembly plant in body in white form for modification by Carroll Shelby's operation, originally in Venice Beach and later at Los Angeles International Airport. San Jose cars carried an "R" in the Ford VIN denoting that facility. The only year that Shelby Mustangs from the 1960s came from another plant was 1968, where they came from New Jersey, "T" in the VIN, and were modified by A.O. Smith.
1965–66 GT 350s were very successful racers, and had many production-class victories.
All 1965 G.T. 350s were painted Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue rocker stripes. Contrary to popular belief, very few GT350s were delivered to the dealer with the optional "Le Mans" (or "LeMans") top stripes, which run the length of the entire car. According the current Shelby American registry, approximately 28% of the 562 1965 cars built had Le Mans stripes. Dealers often added the stripes, probably at the customer's request. Today, it's difficult to find a GT 350 not so equipped.
Many 1965 cars had the battery relocated to the trunk (which was changed mid year from complaints of fumes), featured over-rider traction bars, relocated A-arms, and other modifications. Over-rider traction bars are named so due to their design being on top of the leaf spring as opposed to underneath them. There was only one transmission available, a 4-speed Borg-Warner T-10 manual. The exhaust system in the 1965 G.T. 350 was a side-exit dual exhaust with glass-pack mufflers. For this one year, the G.T. 350 also featured special 130mph Goodyear "Blue Dot" tires, named for the prominent blue dot on each sidewall. The 1965 G.T. 350 had a full size spare tire mounted in place of rear seats, making it a 2-seat-only vehicle (to be allowed to race under SCCA regulations as "sports car", and rode on either silver-painted steel wheels or special cast-magnesium center "Cragar Shelby" 15" rims with chromed center caps marked with a stylized "CS". There were 562 1965 Shelby Mustang G.T. 350's built, less than 30 of which were the even more extreme "G.T. 350R" race car.
For 1966, the GT 350 lost its Mustang tag and was marketed simply as the Shelby GT 350. 1966 also saw the introduction of non-white colors, including blue, red, green and black. Other changes include special rear quarter-panel windows replacing the factory extractor vents, functional brake scoops on each side and optional automatic transmissions, as well as the addition of an optional Paxton supercharger. The battery was no longer relocated to the trunk for 1966, and the over-rider traction bars were discontinued. A fold-down rear seat was now optional. Where early 1965 cars had black engine blocks, 1966 and later cars had the 289 ci engine painted Ford dark blue. The 1966 Shelby had a full dual-exhaust, rather than the race-type side exit system of the 1965 model, as driver comfort began to take some priority. The 4-speed manual was no longer the only available transmission, with an optional SelectShift 3-speed automatic added.
The first 252 GT 350s for 1966 began as 1965 Mustang K-Code Fastbacks. Often these first 252 1966 G.T.350s are referred to as "carry-over" cars, but this is not the case. These 252 1965 Model Mustangs were specifically ordered by Shelby American for conversion into 1966 GT 350s. They were definitely "left over" from the 1965 production. Upon delivery to the tarmac outside Shelby-American, random cars were pulled for conversion. This is the reason Shelby VINs do not correspond in numerical order with Ford VINs.
The Ford VINs were shipped in 'blocks,' but many differ significantly with the order they were taken into the building. Only SAAC knows for sure, but there have been reports that some carry-over VINs have an earlier number than the last '65 Shelby VINs. They had the 1965 Ford Mustang bodies and 1965 Ford Mustang serial numbers under their Shelby serial numbers. They mostly had 1965 features including standard Koni shock absorbers and engines painted black. Blue engines did not appear in 1966 until after these first 252 GT 350s were produced.
The production for 1966 was 1,373 fastbacks, including two prototypes and four drag cars, and 252 early production models with Ford Mustang 1965 bodies. For Hertz Corporation, 1,003 fastbacks were produced, including two prototypes. Four convertibles were also produced, for a total of 2,378 units for 1966. A small number (recent estimates identify only 11) of the 1966 models were fitted from the factory with Paxton superchargers, but not the No-Spin limited slip differential; with an option price of US$670, the engine was rated at 440 hp (330 kW).
1966 production numbers: GT 350 — 2,378 units (four were special order convertibles for Carroll Shelby, the rumor is that six were made, but only four correct VINs have been discovered).
1966 Hertz Models
Shelby struck a deal with the Hertz Corporation to produce a special line of G.T. 350s for rent that, after their rental-car lives were finished, were returned to Ford, refurbished, and sold to the public. These "GT 350-H" cars are much sought-after today, with some examples selling for more than $200,000.
Shelby produced 1,003 of these cars. Most Hertz cars featured gold LeMans stripes and rocker panel stripes, although a few were white with blue stripes. The first 85 Hertz cars were available with four-speed manual transmissions and Hertz advertised them as "Rent-a-Racer" cars. During rental, these cars were sometimes used as production class cars at SCCA events, and were rumored to have been returned to Hertz with evidence of roll bars being welded in. Hertz ordered the last 800 models with black paint, gold stripes and black interior, as well as automatic transmissions.
When the Hertz cars were returned to Ford to be prepared for sale to the public, the high-performance parts were often "lost" (presumably at the manufacturer) before final sale.
For 1967, the GT 350 carried over the K-Code high performance 289 with a 'COBRA' aluminum hi-rise. The GT 500 was added to the lineup, equipped with the 428 Police Interceptor. These later cars carried over few of the performance modifications of the 1965–66 GT350s, although they did feature more cosmetic changes.
In September 1967, production was moved to the A.O. Smith Company of Ionia, Michigan, under Ford control. Shelby American had substantially less involvement after this time.
For 1968, the Cobra name was applied to both models, and they were now marketed as the Shelby Cobra GT 350 and the Shelby Cobra GT 500. In February 1968, the Cobra GT 500-KR "King of the Road" debuted; under the hood was a 428 cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8 which was rated at 335 horsepower (250 kW).
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