If you haven’t noticed, Shelby Mustangs are expensive. A quick look at the Hagerty Price Guide shows that the valuation of a #3 “Good” condition 1965 model is $415,000. As the owner of a run-of-the-mill ’65 coupe, the idea of selling everything I’ve accumulated over 45 years and living in a ’65 Mustang is as ludicrous as the idea that any ’65 Mustang, regardless of the signature on its dash, is worth $415,000. Saying I can’t appreciate something simply because it’s unattainable to me, however, is the most odious form of reverse snobbery. On the contrary, this Shelby is charisma on Cragar mags.
This example, one of 562 1965 GT350s, was a popular exhibit at the 2022 Motor Muster in Dearborn; indeed, it was hard to take pictures of it because everyone in Michigan likes a Mustang, and a Shelby is not merely a Mustang. You have to give it to Ol’ Shel, he knew how to market his goods. Today’s stratospheric price point of Shelby Mustangs makes the casual onlooker forget how little Shelby American did to the basic fastback to make it a special car. They changed the upper control arm mounting points, added Koni shocks and over ride traction bars, dumped the exhaust through some Tri-Y headers and side pipes, and set the whole thing on a set of Good Year Blue Dots. Sure, there were some other detail touches, such as a longer pitman arm and idler arm to quicken the steering and ensure that every mile was a day at the gym, but it wasn’t like they changed the Mustang’s fundamentals all that much.
What makes this particular Shelby stand out even among Shelby Mustangs is its originality, and the fact that someone used it as a driver’s school mule at the local road course. And nobody has restored it, it oozes the charismatic pheromones of a life spent executing unloaded off-camber turns at the hands of wannabe club racers. It might as well be wearing cut-off jeans shorts and smoking a Salem, as if it’s teleported straight from July 1972 and still reeks of faint blowby and oil on the headers, ticking quietly in the sunlight as another budding Peter Revson waits to climb behind the wooden steering wheel.
This guy might have been driving; perhaps his woodland adventures were no longer enough.
Shelby received his Wimbledon White fastbacks straight from Ford with a K-Code 289 High-Performance engine, four-speed transmission, and a nine-inch rear end with a Detroit Locker. He added the headers, a deep-sump oil pan, a Shelby intake manifold, and a 715 cfm center-pivot Holley to keep the fuel flowing into the jets when the car was rolling onto its doorhandles, passing a 327 Corvette in the kink. Naturally, the wrinkled black “Cobra – Powered by Ford” valve covers were part of Shelby’s marketing plan, as anything with the Cobra name on it was sure to elicit envy from anyone who knew a pushrod from a rocker arm. The GT350 “R” had souped up heads and some other mods, but the street version was fleet enough to knock out the quarter mile in about 15 seconds, which was good going by 1965 standards.
Also notice the “Monte Carlo Bar” across the engine compartment, named after those snorting Monte Carlo Rally Falcons from 1963 and 1964. When combined with an “export brace,” the engine compartment of the Mustang became noticeably stiffer. This Shelby also has a prop rod to hold up its fiberglass hood, another Shelby modification. Early GT350s (such as this one, apparently) had the battery in the trunk for improved weight distribution.
The interior too was changed just enough that the lucky driver knew they were driving a Shelby, as if the side pipes and ratcheting locker weren’t enough to remind them. This one has a radio delete plate, because you can’t hear the radio anyway. Shelby added a special instrument pod atop the basic Mustang dashboard; it houses a tachometer and oil pressure gauge, two things missing from the straight-from-the-Falcon grocery getter instrument cluster. The aforementioned wooden steering wheel and aircraft seat belts evince a “Mulsanne straight, 2 am” vibe, something Carroll experienced for himself behind the wheel of a dashing Aston Martin DBR1.
Also notice the brake pedal: All Shelby Mustangs came standard with Ford’s very good front disc brakes, as one might expect from such a machine. Of course, the man himself signed the glove box door; I can’t imagine that this touch adds value anymore, since his signature has been consigned to ubiquity. Still, if you own a Shelby, why not have the full Shelby experience?
One thing that makes the ’65 model unique, aside from that fact that it’s the least compromised of the entire Shelby run, is that it’s a two-seater. To be labeled a “sports car” by the SCCA and therefore be eligible for “B-Production” racing, the car couldn’t have a back seat. Therefore, Shelby simply removed the seat, added a shelf for a spare tire, and that shelf handily covered the aforementioned over ride traction bars.
This picture shows how those traction bars entered the passenger compartment, and why you might want them covered up as they articulate up and down over bumps.
There is only one problem with this fantastic Shelby, and you might guess what it is. It pulsates with life and history and smells and scars, and all anyone wants to do is heave down that heavy clutch, twist that key with the little horse on it, and listen to those side pipes growl and those solid lifters tick. But it’s worth a clean half a mil. Taking it to the track would be bucket list stuff, but how hard do you push a 70,000 mile original Shelby? Driving on the streets of southern Michigan, with road rage and flying blacktop chunks kicked up by speeding 18-wheelers suffering from tire separation? People weaving in their lanes trying to snap a blurry picture? How steely are your nerves?
I’m personally too anxious to own this car, even if I could afford it, and I think that’s why you see so many clones out there. But the fact that you see so many clones out there is a validation that what Shelby and his group of brilliant mechanics did to this thing was absolutely right. From the optional Cragars to the slight rake to the optional Shelby stripes, this is a greatest hit if there ever was one. Even though later Shelby Mustangs lost the laser focus of the fantastic original, the mystique started here. You rarely see one in the flesh, and it’s even less likely you’ll see one with so much soul. Sure, most people are sick of seeing Mustangs. But maybe this one is truly worth what it costs to own it.
“To drive, or not to drive, THAT is the question!” Once an icon such as this reaches this irreplaceable rarefied state, it would be complete madness to risk a drive in daliy traffic; on the other hand , it seems such a shame to not take it out and really EXERCISE it!! Fortuitously, I’ll never be faced with that quandary! LOL!! 🙂
My daughter and I saw a Cobra yesterday and asked that same question as we discussed if it was an original or a replica. We settled on replica because it would be complete madness to risk a drive in Houston traffic (even on the outskirts of the metropolitan area on a Sunday).
Given the very large number of the various Cobra replicas, one can be very safe in assuming that what it was.
Yes, last I heard the ratio was 3 replicas for every original, and the replica count increases every year…
This might be heretical, but Cobras don’t do much for me. I’ll stop to check out an original, and I prefer the 289 to the 427, but I walk right past the myriad replicas.
It is good to occasionally experience that thing that makes you understand and realize how something with the incredibly hyped-up reputation and aura actually earned it. I have always walked past Shelby Mustangs, figuring that they get so much love and adulation that they don’t need mine too. THIS is a car that would have made me stop and look, and I am so glad you did so and shared it with us.
It is true that every car has a story, but the story of this particular one is extra-good!
You’re welcome, JP. I wish I could have backed up for better pictures of it, but as I said, it was busy.
There’s a simple answer to the somewhat insane prices on a Shelby Mustang. Wait twenty years until most, if not all, of the Boomers have died off, and then go by what a Millennial or Gen Z car enthusiast is willing to pay for it. I seriously doubt it’s going to be anything near half a mil.
And what are 1946 Ferraris and other exotics 20 years older than a Shelby Mustang going for? The ’65 Shelby is a genuine exotic, hand made in very limited numbers. I don’t see its value going “poof” in 20 years.
This is one where we’re going to disagree. While I can see the justification for giving the ‘exotic’ title for a Shelby based on it’s performance and racing history, when you get down to it, it’s a modified Mustang. And pre-2005 Mustangs are Boomer territory. For that matter, 2005 and up Mustangs are Boomer/Gen X cars.
The only Shelby that you can call into Ferrari territory is the Cobra. And, ok, I’ve never understood that one. Drop a small block Ford into a nice but hardly “Jaguar class” British sports car with large tires and some suspension upgrades, and suddenly you’ve got the Holy Grail. Well, I certainly am no market expert, and they did have one hell of a competition history.
Granted, the drop-off on a Shelby Mustang isn’t going to be anything near what’ll happen to a Hemi ‘Cuda (to me, the ultimate in stupid pricing, those cars weren’t as good as the competing Ford and GM products of those years), but they’re still Mustangs. With everything good, bad, and mundane about them.
I think Syke is on to something interesting. Cars and their appeal are generational. I’m 69 and have no interest in model A’s or T’s, but show me a clean 60’s or early 70’s anything and you’ve got my attention.
You just can’t beat Iacocca’s Mustang marketing back in the day. From six-cylinder, 3-speed, strippo coupes, to gussied-up, Pony-interior, quasi-mini-Thunderbirds, to the legitimately race-track ready GT-350, a Mustang could be had in any flavor one desired.
And the GT-350 served its purpose as a true halo car, working its magic for buyers of much more plebian Mustangs. Yeah, it might be a six, but it’s related to a Shelby racecar. No wonder they sold so many Ford ponycars in those first years.
The Mustang is the best evidence EVER that people are, for the most part, sheep. No need to bother with engineering, just fancy styling and flashy advertising, and the cattle will line up to pay over sticker for…a 1960 Falcon! By ANY objective measure (other than styling, which is purely subjective), the Barracuda was a superior vehicle. (Heck, the first Mustangs didn’t have an ALTERNATOR!)
Unintentionally, that Shelby proves it, with the hacked floorpan and band-aid front end fixes.
I was part of the Northern Colorado Buick Club’s guided tour last Saturday of the Shelby Museum in Gunbarrel, Colorado. Best-in-the-world collection. What a place! What a collection! What a wonderfully descriptive tour! Highly recommended!
The early GT-350s have typically been roughly 10 times the price of a garden variety first-gen Mustang, basically from the first day, as a used car. The ratio appears to be widening out a bit, as recent early Mustangs in good shape, but not perfect, go from $25k to about $40k or $50k.
Maybe another relevant question is whether one wants to spend that much for a standard Mustang?
It’s nice to see an example preserved in roughly original condition. It seems as cars move up on the value/rarity spectrum, people tend to do full nut-and-bolt restorations on them. Particularly for a car that is “race car”ish, leaving it as it is looks like a good choice.
Fortunately an increasing number of collectors have come to realize that a car is truly “original” only once, and choose to leave them that way.
Today’s stratospheric price point of Shelby Mustangs makes the casual onlooker forget how little Shelby American did to the basic fastback to make it a special car.
I’d say he actually did quite a lot, all of it strictly to make it faster and more competitive on the track. I think it’s easy to forget that this was the original mission of the GT350, before Shelbys increasingly became profitable hype machines more about the looks than the actual performance. He did what it took to make it competitive and yet keep it reasonably affordable.
I’d forgotten about those rear suspension traction bars; how does one keep water out?
They had a fiberglass cover that went over them with a slit piece of rubber to keep *some* water out on the wheelwell side. Very crude there’s some more pictures in this link if you scroll down
“A lot” or not, they did what needed to be done to make the car as race-capable as possible, and still keep it streetable. The “R” series stepped up the race preparation to the next level, but racing rubber, open exhausts, additional engine tweaks, and driveline gearing changes really took the car well away from anything that could be street drivable.
One very clever element of Shelby’s early work, on the Cobra roadsters and their modified version of the Mustang, was to closely align the “street” versions with the “race” versions in the public’s mind. Arguably moreso than any other manufacturer was ever able to do. Winged Mopar Daytona and Superbird owners, for example, well understood that the NASCAR racers were prepared to a level well away from the street version. Shelby more fully disguised the difference in the public’s mind. That said, the early street versions were taken well in the direction of the “race cars”, and the driving experience demonstrated it (rough, noisy, high-strung). The street versions were a good base for furthering the racing prep. But the actual championship-winning race versions were taken much further in their preparations. Some Shelby fans (and maybe some owners) seem to be a bit blind to the difference.
The closest analogy might be the first Camaro Z-28. A great platform with a high-strung power plant. But not the race car it would need to be, off the lot, to effectively compete. Also a bit further away from “race-ready” than the first GT-350 was.
Yeah, my point was that there’s nothing those guys did that the average enthusiast couldn’t replicate over the course of a week or so in the garage, especially when the car was new. Several of the upgrades came straight from the Ford plant, such as the 9″ rear end and front discs. Drilling new holes for the upper control arms was a template and a sharp drill bit away; new shocks were easy, and even the traction bars were only a torch away.
The overall package was greater than the sum of its parts. Little known trivia: many of these came with steel wheels and no stripes (it might have even been the majority – I’d look it up, but I have to drop some radiators off to be recored) 🙂
The internet made much of these improvements more widespread knowledge than they once were, these were intimate racer tricks in 1965, and even if your average do it yourselfer had the knowledge to do it they probably weren’t about to cut through the chassis of their brand new Mustang to install the override traction bars, if anything opting for the truly crude bolt on slapper bars and even that was more of a second or third owner kind of addition.
Oh, I don’t know, I remember reading about the Shelby mods in my “Mustang Recognition Guide” when I was in third grade in 1985. I didn’t understand a bunch of it, but it was common knowledge before the internet if you cared about these things. Shelby switched to the under ride traction bars in ’66, and I remember seeing reproductions of those when I was fairly young. You could probably get a pair of those fairly easily and they must have worked at least reasonably well.
But I get what’s being said, and I don’t disagree. The ’65 was a car assembled by a bunch of guys with a successful racing record, and that’s the selling point in itself.
Yeah, not internet per say but knowledge spread years after the cars were out of production, but the internet makes it even easier, you can go onto a forum, download and print a PDF and make your own templates for the drop pivots for example.
The edge started getting taken out of the GT350 in 1966 in general when the switch from override bars to underside bars occurred, I’m not sure if they were that much less effective but what came with the change were other retrograde changes, like leaving the battery in the engine compartment, exiting the exhaust at the rear and not even dropping the upper control arms anymore. The automatic transmission even became available. 67s were cheapened even more, using nothing more than a rubber pinion snubber as a substitute to any traction bars
A nice survivor .
Having driven a few irreplaceable vehicles I’d not want to own this car for fear of damaging it, no way would I not want to drive it hard & fast if it were mine .
One could drive all sorts of recently manufactured “sports” and “sporty” cars, or even ordinary passenger sedans, that would eclipse the actual driving capabilities of this car in almost every meaningful way, except for one. That one is the total elbows-out driving experience of driving an older race car at speed, hearing and feeling the car working under and around you in a very crude but somewhat (by today’s standards) effective fashion, and employing lots of driver smarts to keep the car pointed more or less in the right direction at high velocity.
The newer cars are much more of a “video game” driving experience.
That said, actually putting this car through its racing paces is probably not wise. The good news is that many cheaper, older cars can mostly replicate the experience, given some work and some applied know-how. But, beyond the actually going out there and working like crazy to somewhat replicate the performance capabilities of an off-the-shelf new Camry or Tesla, is it worth the effort? Maybe, and maybe not.
Point well taken Dutch ;
This is why I like living in Southern California so much ~ the dreaded tin worm that killed all those wonderful old vehicles in the 1960’s isn’t much of a factor here .
It’s raining here and I’m driving my 1959 VW Bug survivor and loving every moment of it~
I can slide it through corners if I want etc. .
Nothing like driving old vehicles quickly .
When I first met my wife almost 35 years ago, her oldest brother had a nice GT350. Yes, a real one, though I can’t remember if it was a ‘65 or ‘66 (definitely not the next “defused” style). It’s long gone and he’s driving a CUV now.
Thanks for a peek inside these—the intruding traction bars are sure new to me! (I wonder what these are actually like as daily drivers….)
The $1500 deal as an ex-track car was pretty cool. Here’s mid-1966, with one Shelby among many cars I’ve love to buy using today-dollars (though the $3795 was half a young schoolteacher’s yearly salary then):
Wow – a ’63 Falcon wagon was worth more than a ’63 Corvair Monza used!
Peter ~ well into the 1970’s any station wagon still had good value in the used car market because so useful .
Big part of it is providence and folklore, these early GT350s weren’t just ordinary Mustangs converted to look sexy on an assembly line or by an outside contractor(like the 68-70s), these were converted at LAX right alongside the Cobras and GT40s using engineering tricks learned on the circuits from the Falcon racing program. On tracks the 65 GT350 was a formidable Corvette beater in its class, despite its comparable crudeness, and those aspects just play into the Shelby folklore of a Chicken farmer turned LeMans winner, what better car exemplifies that than a humble Falcon based Mustang with a few holes drilled in different spots to make it a winner? These transcend Mustang collectors, these are prices of Motorsport history, and to some extent 60s Southern California history as well.
Shelby or not, the first gen Mustang 2+2 is a masterpiece in my eyes. These have been popular since the day they went on sale. Many fans consider the fastback to be more desirable than the convertibles, and the values have reflected that. The fact that it can be converted into a copy of the iconic Shelby is icing on the cake.
My first car was a ’66 Mustang coupe with V8 and four speed, the Shelby connection was not lost on me, as well as others.
As I’m sitting here writing this, there’s a green Hot Wheels ’66 Mustang 2+2 still in the package, next to my coffee cup! The attraction of these cars has never waned over the years.
Mustang fans were elated when Ford introduced the retro Mustang design in 2005, The fastback roof has a clear resemblance to the ’66. I went and test drove a 2006 coupe ( at Hertz) and was so impressed that I went out and bought a new 2007. I think that the ’05 to ’09 Mustang to be one of the best Mustang designs since the original.
I agree the ’05 – ’09 Mustang is a great design. Unfortunately Ford sort of failed in the engine driveline dept. 2011 saw the 5L Coyote engine. I had a 08 GT, loved that car, Vista Blue IIRC. However it got traded for a 2012 Boss 302. 444 hp, 7500 redline, 6 speed with 3.73 gears. Suspension and brakes have been lightly modified, 10-12 autocross events a year. I do beat on it and does it get the blood pumping. I am also thinking of the collector guy, if it survives me, which it probably will, I’ve saved every original part and have only drilled one small hole in it, so far. Shock tower mod for more camber is calling me.
If this Shelby was mine, it would be maintained and driven, hard. You only live once.
Yeah, what a HUGE difference there is between the three-valve 4.6 and the Coyote. I test drove a ’10 and an ’11 back when my dad was shopping for one, and it was striking how much faster the ’11 was. Your Boss sounds like fun!
I had a 2013 coupe and it “Scratched My Itch” for a classic 1965-68 Mustang even with the base 3.7 V6 and a slush box. I felt the post ’09 restyles went for a more 1967/68 appearance. I felt it was the spiritual successor to the 289 V8 powered Mustangs of that era.
I traded it for a 2018 Dodge Challenger to “Scratch the Itch” for a classic Mopar muscle car/E body Barracuda/Challenger.
Ah, to peruse my old Mustang Monthly magazines from the mid-80’s and look at the car ads. Those ads will show your grade 3 Shelby, like this, going for $4-8K back then. Rarely anything above 10K in those 1983-85 magazines.
Ouch! I still have my box of Mustang Monthly from the ’90s and ’00s; I should look through the classifieds sometime (but that’s a rabbit hole I could get lost in for days).
One topic missing from the conversation about high Dollar cars, is the financial cost of insuring the vehicle to drive on the road. Insurers are shying away from cars like this Shelby Mustang. Too many owners are tempted to push the car’s limits, or at the other end of the scale, all it takes is for one other driver to collide with this Shelby, resulting in a potential half-million Dollar claim.
Cars that now sell for multiple 7 figures are damn near impossible to insure AND DRIVE on the road. My friend Dave Cammack owned 3 [yes-3] Tucker automobiles, but the cost and restrictions on taking them out of his little museum were absurd. About a dozen years ago he said just to take one of the Tuckers out for a day required an insurance payment [up front] of $10k in addition to the cost of insuring them in static display in the museum. So for the last 15 or so years of Dave’s life, his cars almost never left the building.
Every year or so I would help him start one of the cars up, the exhaust routed thru rubber hose to the outside of the building, and we would “drive” the Tucker a few inches just to do things like change the weight points on the wheel bearings, so they wouldn’t spall. As his health failed, I was granted permission to make that short “drive” of a few inches, so technically I did drive Tucker cars.