Written by independent automotive journalist Tom Jensen
Army Air Corps flight instructor. Winner, 24 Hours of Le Mans. Dump-truck entrepreneur. Race-car designer. Race-team owner. Chicken farmer. World-class chili chef. Safari tour operator. Recipient of a new heart and liver. All-around raconteur.
Of course, for all of Shelby’s success and accomplishments, what he’s best known for is the cars he created. First came the Cobra and, after that, the 1965 Shelby GT350. At this year’s Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction, some fortunate bidder will leave Arizona with one of just 562 original ’65 Shelby GT350s (Lot #1407), a matching-numbers example that’s been meticulously documented and is in exemplary condition.
First, a little bit of background: Ford introduced the Mustang on April 17, 1964, and it was successful beyond anyone’s wildest imagining. Ford projected annual Mustang sales of about 100,000 units; from the time of its introduction until the end of 1965, Ford sold more than 680,000 Mustangs, as the car captured the imagination of young Baby Boomers.
But the Mustang really wasn’t a high-performance car. Yes, you could order it with a 289ci small-block V8, but the Mustang carried a lot of parts from the low-budget Ford Falcon compact. With General Motors introducing the Pontiac GTO and the Oldsmobile 442 in 1964, and Chevrolet already building several fast cars, Ford needed a high-performance Mustang to compete, especially given that it had recently launched an aggressive public relations campaign under the moniker of “Total Performance.”
That’s when Shelby was brought into the discussion. Ford enlisted Shelby to approach the Sports Car Club of America to find out what it would take to make the Mustang eligible to compete in SCCA road racing.
So in the summer of 1964, Shelby reached out to the sanctioning body’s executive director, John Bishop, who told him that to race, the Mustang needed to have its back seat removed – the SCCA did not allow four-passenger race cars – and could have its engine modified to make more horsepower or beef up the suspension and brakes. But what they couldn’t do is add power and upgrade the chassis.
And, oh, by the way, Ford had to produce 100 examples of the car by January 1, 1965, to comply with SCCA homologation rules and make it eligible to race in the B-Production racing class and challenge the Chevrolet Corvette.
After discussion with Ford boss Lee Iacocca and other executives, the project was given the green light and the Shelby GT350 was born. Shelby’s company, Shelby American, leased two airplane hangars at Los Angeles International Airport and began converting stock Ford Mustang fastbacks to Shelby GT350s, loading each of the them up with a scooped fiberglass hood, side exhaust, competition-tuned suspension and brakes, Cobra steering wheel, black interior and an auxiliary gauge pod.
The first-year GT350s are considered by collectors to be the most desirable, since they mark the model’s beginning and only 562 of them were made in 1965, ensuring rarity. At the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction, bidders will have the opportunity to purchase serial #SFM5S199, which truly is a special car.
Crossing the auction block on Saturday, January 20, at No Reserve, Serial #SFM5S199 is a matching-numbers car that comes with its original 289ci, 306-horsepower V8 engine and aluminum-case 4-speed Borg Warner T-10 manual transmission. It was meticulously restored with just 21,000 miles on the car (mileage not indicated on the title).
It also comes with unquestioned authenticity. This car has been fully documented in the Shelby American World Registry, and comes with ownership history and copies of the original delivery documents to Tasca Ford, a New England dealership legendary for its involvement in racing and high-performance endeavors. The Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) has verified that the Ford serial number and Shelby VIN match.
This car comes with the desirable trunk-mounted battery, a feature seen in only the first 300 Shelbys. It also sports 15-inch Cragar/Shelby wheels. Like every 1965 Shelby GT350, it is finished in the iconic color scheme of twin Guardsman Blue stripes over classic Wimbledon White paint. Simple, clean and unmistakably Shelby.
Astute collectors seek out and pay handsomely for well-restored, matching-numbers cars with extensive collaborating documentation and no excuses. This beautiful 1965 Shelby GT350 has all of that and then some, making it the perfect addition to one’s garage or collection.
For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE.