One of the most iconic sports cars sold in North America, the Ford Mustang still creates a stir whether it is pulling up to the lights or taking a few laps in an XFINITY NASCAR race. But did you know that the brand is 55 years old and it has always offered a souped-up version? The 1965 Shelby GT350 helped this iconic machine launch a legendary production run.
Delivering on the Promise of an Approachable Sports Car
During the 1960s, the love affair with horsepower and performance took off in the North American car market. As the cars and engines saw some serious improvements, the cost skyrocketed. However, the manufacturers knew that the younger hotrod generation wanted to take part in the muscle car revolution. The Ford Mustang debuted in 1965 as a compact sports coupe that delivered a spirited ride without the exorbitant price tag. For just $2,368 you could hop behind the wheel and put the pedal down on fun. Now, for the more serious road racer, Ford brought legendary car designer Carroll Shelby on board. Together, they released the 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350–a revved-up version of their debut pony car priced at around $4,000.
What Sets the Shelby GT350 Apart from the Stock Mustang?
A batch of stock Mustangs was shipped straight from the Ford factory to the Shelby American shop in Venice Beach, CA. There the back seat was removed and a wealth of performance upgrades installed. It received a 4.7L V8 engine topped by a Holley 715 4-barrel carburetor. It featured the iconic high-rise manifold and tri-Y headers. Finally, a set of beefy rear drum brakes and high-performance Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes were added. Every GT350 appeared in Wimbledon White with bold blue stripes running along the rocker panels. It had dual side exhaust pipes with two glass pack mufflers. The suspension was modified with unique A-arms and over-rider traction bars. In all, 562 Shelby GT350 cars were built for the 1965 model year.
The Shelby Stripes: Hit or Myth?
Wait…don’t all Shelby cars come with those Shelby stripes that run from the nose to tail over the hood, roof, and trunk? Actually, the ’65 GT350 was not sold with those iconic graphics. Known as a “Le Mans” stripe package, it was often a requested dealer upgrade. Of course, everybody wanted their sports car to have them, so over time, many GT350s had them added.
The Race Ready GT350R
In the mid-60s, Ford was focusing on making a name for themselves in the international auto racing world. This meant that they wanted their new two-door sports coupe to make some noise across North America. Shelby produced 34 modified GT350 machines that met the regulations for the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). It stole the SCCA trophy for the B-Production segment for the years 1965 to 1967. Adjustments to sheet metal, the gas tank, and other parts whittled down the weight by nearly 200 pounds and increased its top speed to 184 mph clocked in 1968 at Daytona International Speedway.
The Machine that Knocked the Bullitt off the Podium
When the 1968 Bullitt Mustang was sold at auction back in January of 2020, it scored a stunning $3.74 million bid. Collector car enthusiasts thought this would hold the spot for the most expensive Mustang ever sold for years. But then a prototype 1965 Shelby GT350 took to the auction block in July 2020. With a racing pedigree longer than a quarter-mile, it turned the heads of both classic car fiends and racing aficionados. When the gavel sounded at the Mecum Auction, it sold for a cool $3.85 million.
Are you looking to purchase a 1965 Shelby GT350? Before you sign on the dotted line, have the ride checked out by a classic car expert. The popularity of this ride has created an abundance of kit-car look-alikes on the market. An authentic Shelby GT350 will have the original 289 Windsor engine and a T10 Borg-Warner 4-speed manual transmission.