RETRO-RACER
The Shelby GT350 Mustang Lives!

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RETRO-RACER … LIKE NEW OLD STOCK
THE SHELBY GT350 MUSTANG LIVES!


LACar was recently invited by the folks at Carroll Shelby Licensing and the Motor Press Guild out for a visit to Shelby west coast headquarters in Gardena.

The reason was to celebrate the rebirth of the iconic Shelby car that blasted into our lives (and deep into a lot of psyches, like mine) what seems like a very short time ago … in 1965.

The classic Shelby GT350, was a fastback 2+2 Ford Mustang that literally traipsed in one door of the Shelby shop as a very cool (slightly underfed) little pony car and came out another as a ballsy, smoking, snarling, straining-at-the-bit racing car that could be street driven (that is … if you were tipped a more than few degrees to the certifiable side of the street).

Carroll Shelby, the man, has been gone for some years now, but Carroll Shelby the brand and the legend just as massive (more the likely bigger) a motorsports name than it ever has been. In fact, I can’t really think of any other single name in the racing game that has the same width and breadth (and longevity) as this one.

What we were gathered for was to see a new “continuation” version of the indelible 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350R, the car that, quite literally, set off (and gave a name to) the wild and wonderful “Pony Cars Wars” that lasted for decades thereafter.

As the story goes a number of the people who converted and raced these feisty machines in a shop on Princeton Avenue in Venice, were all gathered for some grub and grog as they did on occasion in the 50 years since they worked side by side making a fire-breathing stallion out of a meek pony, much as Mister Shelby had taken a weak-kneed British teacup called an “ACE Bristol” and transformed into the perfect textbook example of the good old ‘merican hot-rodding practice of stuffing a larger, far more powerful engine into a car where a weak fart of a motor, had hung out before.

Below: the plain, but powerful, Ford 289 V-8, happy in its natural habitat.

(By the way, that’s not to say that this sort of transplant had not happened before. In the early 50’s England’s Sydney Allard dropped the biggest (331 cubic inches) Cadillac engines he could find into his spoke-wheeled sports cars with great results.)

But … Back to our story: In time, these Shelby musketeers got to calling themselves the “Original Venice Crew” and any (or all of them) of them showing up was always a highlight of the annual Team Shelby gatherings that still take place at various locations across the West to this day.

At one of these gatherings the guys got to thinking about “what if”. What if we could recreate (in marketing terms that would be: “continue the production of”) the GT350 and give it the one thing that we couldn’t way back then … IRS (independent rear suspension). Of course this somewhat enhances both ride and handling but luckily, does not distract from this critter’s main duty of being a (very) bad boy wherever and whenever the mood hits.

As we all well-noted at the introduction of the new Shelby GT350irs, the guys had not forgotten how to do what they did five decades ago. They made one, tested it on the streets and racetrack and were quite pleased with the exercise … and then came the inevitable questions, would they make more, was it a real Shelby, when could I have one please?

With that Original Venice Crew was formed, first getting its heritage and licensing tuned up with Shelby Licensing and Ford Motor Company and then, with the little horse’s tail firmly in hand, setting out to actually produce a limited run of these truly authentic machines.

Having been around when these white beasts with blue stripes originally roamed the earth and deeply impressed by them and the people who designed, wrenched, and drove them … the examples that I saw at Shelby HQ really did make me believe that there was such a device as a “Wayback Machine”. They were flat out indistinguishable from a couple of authentic versions that were there from the Shelby collection and through the courtesy of an owner who races his 50 year-old classic in vintage events across the West.*

Nostalgia merged head-on with the real world at the presentation that we went to both in the machines that we were shown and the people who were in attendance. Peter Brock, J.L. Henderson, John Morton, Jerry Titus’ son Rick, Dave MacDonald’s wife Sherry, and their son Rich, along with Allen Grant and many, many more were all on hand to celebrate and talk both old and new times.

As it turns out that guy that they always quote about not being able to go home again was actually right, but this deal really was the next best thing to it. That cocky little self-assured pony car of Ol’ Shel’s was back (Bay-Be!) and the party that he had started so long ago was back in business, big time.

Of course, reality being what it is, OVC will only produce a limited quantity of these machines and, because of the way that they’ll be built (almost precisely the way that they were produced over on Princeton Street) they’re not going to be quite the bargain that their original ancestors were.

If you must ask … the magic number here is $250K with the wording “begins at” written in (relatively) small type just before it on the brochure. The car will be registered as a Shelby vehicle, is approved/recognized by the Ford Motor Company, will be given its own unique chassis number, and recognized by the (very picky) keepers of THE Official Shelby Registry as a Shelby blood relative.

As far as I can see the only thing that’ll be missing is Carroll Shelby’s signature scrawled in broad tip silver marker on the passenger side fascia. Actually Shelby Cobras and Mustangs seem far more rare without his signature … there are so few of them out there. -DS

Quick Tech Check:
• “K” code 1965 Mustang 2+2 (reconditioned/built to “competition” specs)
• Can be raced and registered for street use.
• Competition-prepared 289cid engine (cast iron block)
• Borg-Warner 4-speed manual with Shelby shifter
• Customer option: 9-inch fixed rear end or IRS
• Color: “Wimbledon White” w/blue competition stripes

*There’s a (small) caveat in the literature here regarding these continuation cars and their eligibility to be accepted to compete in vintage racing events. While a couple of the more patrician promoters of these events might not recognize the car; I’ll go on record here as predicting that the vast majority of vintage motorsports organizations will not only allow the car to race, but literally quite pleased to have one of these classics at their meetings.

Suggested Reading:

Carroll Shelby the Authorized Biography
Rinsey Mills, Motorbooks International 2012

Inside Shelby American
John Morton, Motorbooks International 2013

Ford Racing Century
Larry Edsall and Mike Teske, Motorbooks International 2003

For more on the cars: www.ovcmustangs.com

photo credit: Randy Richardson

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