17-18 August 2007
1965 Ford Shelby Mustang GT 350 R
- Chassis no. 5R098
Sold for $852,500
350 hp, 289 cu. in. Hi-Po V8 engine, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live axle rear suspension with leaf springs and traction bar, front disc and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 108"
The Shelby American Automobile Club’s Registry offers an interesting description of the 350 and 350 R series: “Unlike most production race cars which are created by modifying the street version, the GT 350 road car was in fact a detuned R-Model”.
There were only 34 R-models built, and they are the fire-breathing, Corvette-beating, heart and soul of the Shelby Mustang lineage. All were Wimbledon White with blue stripes and they all ran like Jack the Bear. Immediately successful in achieving their intended purpose, they dominated SCCA B/Production racing in their first season and nearly obliterated other marques and models from the annual SCCA runoffs, then known as the American Road Racing Championship, for the next three years.
The GT350 had one purpose in life and that was to put the Ford Mustang in the winner’s circle in SCCA road racing. The initiative for the GT350 came from Ford Motor Company, which wisely recognized that the Mustang’s success with consumers could be enhanced with the performance image that came from racing. Shelby was the logical partner but was already building Cobras and supporting a busy racing effort including the Ford GT40 MK II and the USRRC/USAC King Cobras. So Ford made it easy as well as lucrative by doing most of the hard work in-house.
The first hurdle was SCCA’s requirement that 100 cars be built before the beginning of the year in which they would race. Ford agreed to supply Mustangs to Shelby’s specifications and Shelby picked through the Ford parts catalog to specify the basic package that would lend itself to road racing with fairly simple upgrades to be made in Shelby American shop, a project headed by Chuck Cantwell. The production cars and all the R-models were specially built in sequence at Ford’s San Jose, California factory in Wimbledon White with black interiors and 271 hp K-code engines, aluminum case Borg Warner T-10M four-speed transmissions, 9 inch rear axle with Fairlane station wagon drum brakes, “export” shock tower brace and sintered metallic brake pads and linings. Left in San Jose were the hoods, rear seats, radios and exhaust systems. An additional 15 cars were even more special. These arrived at Shelby without side or rear windows, heaters, defrosters, upholstery, headliners, insulation or sound deadening. They were the first R-models.
At Shelby, all the GT350s received essentially the same suspension modifications. The front suspension upper A-arm chassis pivots were lowered an inch and Koni shocks were installed along with a one-inch front sway bar and quick ratio steering kits. The K-shaped “export” brace was augmented with another bar joining the tops of the shock towers. The leaf spring suspended rear axles got traction bars and Detroit “No-spin” locking differentials. Other changes included fiberglass hoods with cold air intake scoops, wood-rim steering wheels and a fiberglass shelf where the rear seats had been. Batteries were trunk mounted for better weight distribution and a Shelby tach and oil pressure gauge was installed in a dash top mounted pod. Three-inch competition style lap belts were installed in all the GT350s and Shelby, ever conscious of ways to conserve money and time, used the inner belt mounting bolts to secure a driveshaft safety hoop.
THE SHELBY MUSTANG GT350 R
Having created the framework that would meet SCCA’s requirements, the Shelby American crew turned its attention to building the few, special competition cars that would campaign in the racing season that would be in full swing in only a few weeks. Using the production GT350 as a base, Shelby concentrated on those things that any conscientious racer building a production-based GT or sports car would: improving handling, power and reliability. In this case, by design, the GT350 R’s handling was not an issue.
Engines were blueprinted in Shelby’s engine shop while Valley Porting Service extensively modified the heads. A Holley four-barrel carburetor on a Cobra high-rise aluminum intake manifold was installed, with Tri-Y headers built by Cyclone. Output ranged from 325 to 360 horsepower on the Shelby dyno. Front and rear fenders were flared to accept American Racing 15”x 7” five-spoke wheels. The engine’s increased output dictated an oil cooler for reliability. It was mounted behind the special high capacity radiators and required more air flow, which resulted in the R-models’ most distinctive feature – a new front body apron constructed from fiberglass with a deep air intake flanked by brake cooling air scoops.
Plexiglas side windows with aluminum frames saved 25 pounds over the stock side glass. A special Plexiglas rear window was formed which fitted the rear light opening with a two inch gap at the top to exhaust air from the interior and smooth air flow over the rear body – said to increase the R-models’ top speed by five miles an hour. A four-point roll bar was installed with a massive 34-gallon baffled fuel tank fabricated from the bottoms of two standard Mustang tanks.
When complete, the Shelby Mustang GT350 R was a turnkey race car that was ready to go straight from the Ford dealer where it was bought to an SCCA race weekend and compete at the highest level.
The 1965 Shelby GT350 R offered here received precisely such treatments and modifications and is offered in excellent condition, complete with a detailed history and additional items of significant historical value.
Car 5R098 is listed in the SAAC registry as the seventh R-model GT350 built and the fifth race car delivered for public usage in May, 1965 to Mr. Ned Owen of Malvern, Pennsylvania. Owen, a racing friend of Mr. Skip Scott, received a sizeable 10% discount by way of his personal association with Scott, who was already a Shelby American customer and raced a 427 Cobra and a pair of GT40s. At this time its twin Le Mans Blue racing stripes were replaced with the Essex Team’s solid black stripe with orange borders on either side. Essex had been a subcontractor to Ford, producing wiring harnesses and other forms of automotive wire.
The car’s first race was at the Watkins Glen “Double 500” where Owen and Scott co-drove the car. Mr. Scott never drove the car again, as his racing commitments in Europe required his attention. Owen, however, competed in additional SCCA national events throughout the northeast in 1965, 1966, and 1967, driving through the checkered flag at Bridgehampton in 1966 and scoring several other high-place finishes.
Unfortunately, additional successes were hindered by Mark Donohue and Marty Krinner as their GT 350R projects were better funded.
At one point in 1966 the car was returned to the factory for work, after which it was driven by Ken Miles at Riverside, California in an SCCA National race. Miles was the subject of his mechanics’ practical jokes when they taped over the word “Wire” and the first two letters of “Essex”, unbeknownst to him, of course. By 1967 it was acquired by a Canadian race driver, who competed with it in several Canadian races but crashed the car in 1969. Although a thorough restoration was considered, the car remained undisturbed in an Ontario barn. Thankfully, Mr. Rick Kopec of Connecticut, author of all things Shelby and SAAC National Director, heard about the isolated Mustang in 1981 and, after verifying its serial numbers, purchased it sight unseen.
Over the next seven years, the car was restored to period correct Essex specifications with no welding, drilling, or cutting allowed for updates. Ace metalsmith Chris Liebenberg of New Jersey was responsible for the bodywork and paint, utilizing the SAAC’s extensive collection of photographs and painstakingly conducting interviews with Chuck Cantwell and other members of its original build crew. Gus Zuidema built its first motor after which Mr. Kopec raced 098 with great success in over 100 SVRA, HSR, VSCCA, and HMSA competition events, incident and dent-free, retiring the car before the end of the race only once! Additionally, it competed at over 50 track events and drivers’ schools. It was brought to almost every SAAC convention between 1989 and 2006, winning not only numerous awards but also participating in vintage races driven by Cantwell, Peter Brock, Lew Spencer, and Bob Bondurant. Having never driven a GT350 R-model in a race, Carroll Shelby himself even drove the car at Lime Rock in 1992 and gave charity rides with it in at the Watkins Glen convention. It was used by the Make-A-Wish foundation, making young racing enthusiasts’ dreams a reality.
In 2002, 5R098 was invited to participate in a drag race shootout by Mustang and Fords Magazine at Englishtown Raceway. Entirely unchanged, with the exception of racing slicks, the car ran the quarter mile in a very impressive 12.01 seconds at 110.56mph. Thereafter, it was featured in a Car and Driver retrospect article, along with countless other magazines and cable television shows, and was made the subject of a poster and die-cast model, all 2,500 of which sold in record time.
Although the car’s ownership changed hands one more time in 2002, Mr. Kopec continued to play an integral part in its life, care, and continued racing outings. Its last glorious appearance was in 2006 at the Lime Rock Fall Vintage Festival in Connecticut. By this time, the car had raced at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, Summit Point, Daytona, The Monterey Historic Races, Road America, Sears Point, California Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Michigan International Speedway, and Virginia Raceway – essentially every track of note in the United States.
It would not be an overstatement to suggest that this GT 350 is currently the most well known R-model, photographed more than any other and raced with the most historically accurate specifications. After all, it was revived with the intention of producing a mirror image of 5R098’s original condition from its Essex Wire days. It produces, in all senses, the true Shelby racing experience of 1965, omitting any historically inaccurate “improvements”, regardless of their appeal or potential functionality. While other drivers may have chosen wraparound bucket seats, Mr. Kopec opted on the side of originality. The engine fires up immediately with the simple twist of a key, a reminder of 098’s road-going roots. Steering and clutch-feel are likewise surprisingly light and manageable while the Hi-Po 289 delivers loads of smooth, torquey power. Such driver-friendly features should not be misunderstood as this is race car, through and through, with a bellowing, tire-smoldering V8.
Of particular interest are the original sales invoices and shipping receipts from Shelby American that accompany the car. Original race programs, racing log books, pit passes, magazine articles and clippings of its second sale, as well as other racing memorabilia will now rest securely in the hands of its fortunate owner. Photographic records from the car’s discovery in 1981 through its entire restoration process are also present, as are pictures of its 1960s racing activity and paintings and prints of 5R098. Correspondence between the factory and the original race team owners as well as Shelby American Automobile Club’s underground R-model newsletters add an unusually interesting historical perspective to the car’s life and times. In fact, even the original parts taken from the car, such as the door, painted in its original racing scheme, and spare gas tank are included with this sale.
Next to the original Daytona Coupes, the GT 350 R remains the most legendary and sought after of Shelby’s racers with rarity rivaling even a Ferrari 250 GTO; quite ironic considering Carroll Shelby’s original description of the Mustang as a mere “secretary’s car”. As presented here, with Mr. Kopec in attendance, car 098 is a “living, fire-breathing machine”, expertly restored and beautifully maintained with a racing history to match.
AddendumPlease note that this vehicle is a race car and therefore offered on a Bill of Sale.
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