Shelby American may be celebrating their 50th birthday during this 2012 year, and that’s quite a huge milestone, but on January 27th 1965 the Shelby GT350 was introduced formally at a press event in Riverside, California meaning it just celebrated it’s 47th birthday! Not quite 50 yet but it’s pushing awfully close!
Shelby American was known for working with AC Aces, and turning them into Cbras while running Ford’s GT40 racing program. Finally, they started expanding on to the Ford Mustang to make some race-ready Shelby Mustangs for the track. The then-new Shelby GT350 Mustangs were born.
The Shelby GT350 came stock with a four-barrel Holley carburetor, a high-rise intake manifold and headers to push out an impressive 306-HP. They also shed a healthy 200 pounds off of the body by adding a fiberglass hood, gutting out the interior and insulation, superfluous trim, and rear seats. They kept the stock springs but installed Koni dampers. The manual steering rack was used for a quicker steering ratio from the cars built with power assist.
However, back then the options were limited and sporty steel wheels were standard. Also those infamous blue Le Mans stripes were an option, although, very few were ordered that way.
While reviewing the Shelby GT350 in the May 1965 issue of MotorTrend, they noted that the car, “Develops so much cornering force that the idiot light came on and the gauge wavered on several occasions due to oil surge in the pump.”
However, they also noted that it made it from 0-60 in a mere seven seconds and that driving it hard, seemed to take on a different personality. The MSRP value for the street-legal machine was $4,547, which was about $1,000 more than the 1965 Mustang GT that featured the K-code 289-cubic-inch V8. About 521 street-legal GT350s were built in ’65 which is nothing compared to the 559,451 total Mustangs produced in 1965. One model had only 36 produced and that was the race-ready GT350R.
Finally in 1966, the Shelby GT350 really started to make a name for itself with better styling cues, better performance and more of that gran-turismo feel making it the collector’s item that it is today.
So, Happy Birthday dear Shelby GT350. It’s been great.