By 1960, doctors had ordered Texan Carroll Shelby to retire from motor racing because of his weak heart.
He’d already abandoned his chicken farm years earlier, and he began casting around for something to occupy his mind.
Approaching AC Cars in Britain and Ford in the US simultaneously Shelby talked his way into forming a partnership that became legendary. He fitted a Ford V8 into the lightweight AC Ace sports roadster in 1962, creating the Cobra – a monster on the racetrack and streets.
The car put Shelby’s name in lights in a way that no amount of racing success could. So when Ford, which had launched its Mustang in 1964, was looking to inject the new car with some serious street cred, it called in Shelby.
During their Total Performance era, Shelby and Ford had enhanced their reputations enormously taking on Ferrari with the Daytona Coupes and later, the GT40s in Europe, and in America the Cobra swept all before it. So it didn’t come as any surprise that Ford execs wanted to see the Mustang kicking butt in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing.
But there was a catch: in the SCCA’s eyes the new four-seat Mustang coupe didn’t qualify as a sports car. But that didn’t stop Ford or Shelby. They read the SCCA’s fine print carefully and Ford production rattled off 100 standard Mustangs for Shelby to homologate for the B production class.
The cars were trucked to Shelby’s small Venice, California works during the middle 1964 complete with 271 hi-po motors but with no bonnet, rear seats, exhaust, grille bars or badging. But not only would 100 cars be required – two versions were necessary so a small number of R models were produced strictly for competition use.
Starting with the race car Shelby American Competition director Ken Miles improved the chassis, adding new front and rear suspension parts and lowering the ride height by 25mm and fitting 11.3inch front disc and 10.0inch rear drum brakes.
Two wheel options were available: 15-inch Kelsey-Hayes stamped steel or the better known Cragar units. They were fitted with Goodyear Blue Dot tyres. The engine was warmed over with a Cobra aluminium high-rise intake manifold and Holley 715cfm carburettor, Cobra aluminium finned valve covers and a Cobra cast aluminium oilpan.
Power reached 306bhp (228kW) and torque peaked at 329ft/lb (446Nm). An aluminium T10 four-seed manual gearbox, Detroit Locker diff and low-restriction mufflers with a side exhaust system
completed the mechanical spec. The GT-350 could now run the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds and hit 96km/h in 6.8s.
A wheel-replaced the rear seats to qualify the car as a sports car. The first generation Shelbys only came in Wimbledon White with black vinyl interiors. The GT.350 logo on the car’s flanks was a decal but the Guardsman Blue stripes were painted on. The central or Le Mans stripes were Cobra Daytona designer, Pete Brock’s idea and were installed by dealers. Shelby had a car but no name for it.
There’s nothing 350 on the car but Shelby says that to cut short a boring meeting, he asked his chief engineer Phil Remington what the distance was between the company’s production and race shops. He was told “about 350 feet” so that’s what Shelby called the car, saying that the name simply felt right.
Shelby’s 1965 production was pretty skinny by American standards with 521 street production models, four drag cars, and 34 competition R models. Our featured 1965 Shelby GT-350, chassis S467, belongs to Sydneysider Chad Parrish whose records show it was received by Shelby American from Ford on June 10, 1965.
Work began on it the following week, and on June 23 it was shipped to City Motors in California.
The car went to Australia in 1997 where Chad saw it not long after it arrived. US magazine Road & Track had run an August 1997 story on the GT-350 legend, photographing this car for the spread.
The story featured Carroll Shelby posing on the boot of the car and before leaving he signed the dashboard. Chad has also tracked down the original order form, delivery receipt, warranty records and owner’s manual.
Parrish has been a Mustang fan since childhood.
“I got into Mustangs because the family had them when I was about seven-years old I used to go on all the Mustang runs and I used to think about all the cars I wanted to own. The number one cars that I fell in love with were the ’65 Shelby and Boss 429s.” His passion for Mustangs led to him going into business restoring mainly high-end Mustangs 14 years ago.
“The first time I saw this car was at a Mustang concours just after the car came into the country. I met the original (Australian) owner who I later became great friends with. I said to him, ‘mate I want to own it.’ He just laughed and said ‘yeah you and everybody else here.’
“But about nine years later he rang me up and said ‘the car’s yours.’ When everybody else found out the car was on the market people started offering more money but the guy sold it to me because he knew I had waited nine years.
“This was the best car to buy at the time,” says Chad. “There wasn’t another one in the country. It had never been lying in a paddock, it had never been raced or smashed – it had been looked after. So I wanted this actual one. It’s got its original engine, gearbox and diff – it even has its original spare tyre.
“The Shelby Mustang started here (with the 1965 model),” says Chad. “Not knowing that they were going to sell [well] Shelby only made 500-odd of them.
“It’s raw – there are no back seats, it’s got inside tramp rods and aluminium T10 Borg Warner gearbox, different ratio steering box, side pipes, the tacho on top of the dashboard and the horn doesn’t work on the steering wheel – there is a little toggle switch on the dashboard.
“The biggest horsepower engine you could get out of a standard Mustang was from the K Code which was 271bhp and these (GT-350s) are 306bhp. These have bigger brakes fitted from the Galaxie wagon. It’s the beginning of the real muscle cars.”
Chad has driven and enjoyed the car on the road and track. “Of all the cars I own – I also have a GTHO Phase III, Brock and GTS-R Commodores and Mazda rotaries as well as a 1966 GT-350, 1967 GT-500 Shelby a 1968 GT-500 KR convertible and a Boss 429 – I can say that this is the ultimate car. It is a lot rawer.
I can’t leave it in the garage with mothballs because I actually love driving it.” Chad’s biggest smile is reserved for the time when his car’s creator breathed a little special magic on it: “the photoshoot for Road & Track magazine with Carroll Shelby [sitting] on the bonnet has become quite a well known picture in Shelby circles. “What I really like about it is knowing that Shelby has actually been in the car and has driven it.”
Story by David Dowsey
Photos by Mark Bean