With its race-car dynamic ability and 6.5-second 0-60 acceleration, the street 1965-1966 Shelby GT-350 drew rave reviews at an initial price of $4,547. That was about $2,000 above a V-8 Mustang but only $200 more than a Chevy Corvette -- and a bargain by any standard. High volume was never a goal, yet Shelby did well to turn out 562 of the '65 models; of these, no more than 30 were R-spec racers.
Despite some subtle softening, the '66 edition was as vivid as the '65. External changes included fixed Plexiglas rear side windows instead of the stock fastback's air-exhaust vents, plus side scoops for rear-brake cooling, Mustang's thin-bar '66 grille, and 14-inch chrome-style or cast-aluminum wheels.
After the initial 250 or so units, Shelby expanded color choices to include red, blue, green, and black, all with white stripes. At the same time he added the stock fastback's optional fold-down rear seat, returned the battery to the engine compartment from its former trunk location, reverted to heavy-duty Ford shocks-and offered automatic transmission. But he also listed an optional Paxton centrifugal supercharger that allegedly boosted horsepower beyond 400 and cut 0-60 times to a mere five seconds. Finally, Shelby built a fleet of gold-on-black "GT-350H" models for the Hertz Rent-A-Car company, which leased them at major airports -- and soon ceased after finding that many were raced on weekends.
Other GT-350s continued racing and winning in '66, but they were essentially the cars that had competed the previous year, as no '66 R-models were built. However, Shelby did construct six '66 convertibles as gifts -- presumably for very special friends.
But all good things must come to an end, and Shelby-Mustangs wouldn't be quite the same after 1966. Indeed, post-'67 models became more like regular Mustangs and were even built by Ford, hence the higher status -- and prices --- of these early models among collectors. But that's only as it should be. Unquestioned thoroughbreds, the 1965-66 GT-350s remain some of the hairiest and most memorable American cars ever built -- and always will.
The next page contains 1965-1966 Shelby GT-350 mechanical and production specifications.