Home Car Stories 20 Years + 1966 FORD Mustang Shelby GT 350- Mark Lopez
1966 FORD Mustang Shelby GT 350- Mark Lopez PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 18:54

1966 FORD Mustang Shelby GT 350- Mark Lopez

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Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown except for period photographs which are copyright Mark Lopez. Research and table of non dealers list courtesy and copyright Mark Lopez.

66 GT350 mark F

The 1965 Ford Mustang GT-350 first appeared as a 1965 model. The GT 350 was created from the production Mustang to enable Ford Motor Company to place their cars into every racing venue possible as part of the 'Ford Total Performance' program. Ford had an 'in' at the SCCA through their connection with Carroll Shelby. Shelby had been using Ford engines in his Cobra racecars and his extensive racing history made him well qualified to transform the Mustang into an SCCA worthy vehicle.

Carroll Shelby immediately found himself in a time crunch. He had 5 months (August, 1964 until Jan 1, 1965) to have 100 regular production Mustangs ready to qualify the race car. The SCCA regulations allowed modifications to the race car version with a choice of either engine or suspension. Shelby decided it made best sense to upgrade the suspension and brakes on the street car and leave the High Performance 289 engine alone and bump up the horsepower for the race version. Chuck Cantwell became project engineer for the GT 350 while Shelby was occupied with the Cobra racing program and Ford's stupendous GT-40.

The Shelby American Inc headquarters at 1042 Princeton Drive in Venice, California proved too small to handle the production of the necessary 100 GT 350s that the SCCA needed to see in order to qualify the car for racing. Airport hangers near LAX at 6501 West Imperial Highway were rented Jan 1, 1965 to accommodate the volume.

Ford's San Jose, California final assembly plant built white Hi-Po Mustangs in batches for Shelby. Export braces which added rigidity to the front end of the car were factory installed with 6 cylinder style fenders (to save Shelby from removing the 289 logos and filling the holes). Borg Warner aluminum case 4 speeds with nickel plated Sebring gears were shipped to the factory and installed on the line in place of the Ford Toploaders usually installed in Hi- Po Mustangs. The Hi-Po factory intake, Autolite carburetor and Ford chrome valve covers were retained long enough to drive the cars off the San Jose line, then on and off the transport truck into place at Shelby Automotive. The factory parts were replaced with Cobra intake, Holley carburetor, Cobra valve covers and 6 1/2 quart oil pan. The original factory 289 Hi Po parts were blown out at bargain prices to local guys wanting to upgrade their 289 or 260 engines. Factory exhaust system was replaced with Cyclone headers and glasspacks.

Southern California was awash in speed shops and custom fabricators which made it convenient to get the GT 350's built quickly. Traction bars and other suspension modifications were done using an assembly line with a 'grease pit' type access. Front 'A' arms were lowered one inch with new pitman and idler arms. A larger front sway bar replaced the factory item. Large Fairlane station wagon brakes replaced the Mustang rear brakes in conjunction with a 9 inch Detroit locker rear end.

Large body length blue stripes were applied to the white cars. This idea traces back to Peter Brock who thought it appropriate to use the blue stripes that identified American cars during International racing. Side stripes identified the Shelby cars as the GT 350. This was before every muscle car coming out of Detroit had outrageous scoops and stripes so it was a pretty flamboyant appearance for a production street car.

The Mustang seatbelts and steering wheel were replaced with a wood Cobra steering wheel and racing 3 inch wide aircraft seatbelts A special pod was mounted in the middle of the dash with a large tachometer and oil pressure gauge angled into the driver's line of sight.

The press previewed 10 of the new GT 350s at the Riverside Raceway in California Jan 27, 1965 and loved the new car. The GT 350 proved to be popular on the racetrack and the street. The rear mounted battery bothered street drivers with fumes getting into the cabin so it was moved to the usual spot underhood later in the run. 1966 cars also received rear seats.

For the 1966 model year the GT 350 fastbacks were modified for better driving visibility through the addition of small rear windows in the metal fastback where the vents used to be. Otherwise most of the format of the 1965 model was retained.

The OOCC 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-350 was originally purchased by the owners of the automotive newsletter COMPETITION PRESS & AUTOWEEK. The newsletter still exists to this day, now known as AUTOWEEK. The original order for the car specified optional wheels and rear seat. The GT 350 came to $3,300.00. Freight was $141.75 and tax $137.67. Title and registration of $18.00 took the grand total to $3,597.42. The order number on the top right of the Shelby form is #660016. Assuming that the prefix 66 means 1966, this was possibly the 16th order received for the 1966 model year at Shelby American Inc.

66 GT350 mark Shelby order form

Ford shipped this Mustang from the San Jose, California Ford final assembly plant over to the Shelby location at 6501 W. Imperial Highway in Los Angeles, California where the Shelby body, suspension and engine modifications were performed. Because Shelby completed the cars, each Mustang GT 350 received its own Shelby identification number just like the big Ford factory issued a VIN.

CP & A took delivery of two Shelby's at their office at 15 Broadman Place in San Francisco, California. On November 5, 1965 the Shelby racing trailer unloaded the two 1966 Shelby GT-350s at the gas station next door to the CP & A offices.

66 GT350 mark Shelby invoice

The serial numbers on the cars were consecutive: SFM6S289 and SFM6S290. A crowd of people gathered to watch the cars get unloaded. Soon the cars would be the focus of crowd attention once more when the cars were taken to the races. The earlier serial numbered car (89) had a Ford Toploader transmission instead of the usual Borg Warner unit. It also had a Blaupunkt AM/ FM stereo with a marine radio installed under the dash. The stereo was hooked up to an electric antenna. Being on the 'inside track' with Carroll Shelby made these deviations from standard issue GT 350 possible. Of course, talking about a GT 350 and standard issue is almost a contradiction in terms! Not that many 1966 Shelby GT 350s made it into private hands without passing through a dealership first. Mark has put together a list below of those cars that bypassed dealerships.

66 GT350 mark non dealers list

After racing the 1966 GT 350 for awhile, William Finnefrock was ready to move onto something else. In the July 29, 1967 issue CP & A printed notification in the want ad section that they were selling one of their 1966 G.T. 350s. The ad described the car as white with no stripes (this was serial number 90), black interior. Selling points were the Blaupunkt AM/ FM stereo and like new condition due to low mileage. This ad confirms that both the CP & A cars were outfitted with the stereo systems. Asking price was $2,800.00. Mark's parents read the article and quickly contacted CP & A. Alas, the GT 350 had already sold. The GT 350 that sold so quickly was serial number SFM6S290. This car was driven by William Finnefrock who was the President of CP & A.

Mark's parents were disappointed that Finnefrock's GT 350 had been sold. The Publisher of  CP & A, Russ Goebel spontaneously offered them the second GT 350. He had not had any plans to sell his 'twin' car prior to this moment. Russ must have decided that he had gotten a good run out of his one and a half years with serial number SFM6S289.

Mark's family hurried over to the CP & A building located in Lafayette, California to see the second G.T. 350. Mark was 7 years old when he accompanied his parents on the test drive but he has a vivid memory of sitting on "the hump" of the rear seat.

66 GT350 mark rear seat

Mark and his elder brother Rick were kept in suspense for a few days following the test drive as to whether or not their parents would buy the car or something different. The answer came when the two brothers heard a car pull up to their Grandmother's house in Half Moon Bay, California. Running outside they saw what their ears had already told them. The distinctive exhaust note of the 1966 G.T. 350 confirmed the deal Mark's parents made to purchase the car for $2600.00. The title was transferred Aug 3, 1967.

The GT 350 was used as a daily work commuter for Marks father, Jack and as a grocery getter for his mother, Sharon. San Carlos, California where the car was used is slightly inland of the Bay, south of San Francisco. Ocean salt air is not too bad an issue for cars in this area. The car was a central part of some important milestones. The first family trip to Disneyland in 1968 was made with the Shelby. Mark's father was a race driver and took the Shelby onto several Bay Area race tracks. Mark's father drove at Sears Point in a race as part of the RDC on the first weekend the track was open in December, 1968.

Mark managed to drive the Shelby once during his teens at age 17 in November, 1977. The timing of things didn't work well for Mark. He was of age to drive and the family owned a super hot Shelby. All the pieces were there but for one thing. The Shelby was starting to show wear and it was 'temporarily' stored in the garage until it could get needed work done to it. At this point the family was in Redwood City, California which is a bit south from San Carlos and has similar weather conditions. The Shelby stayed in the garage right through Mark's formative driving years without moving. The story is so familiar it's almost a cliche: the car is 'temporarily stored' and ends up sitting for decades. True to the cliche the family Shelby sat for nearly 28 years.

Mark's story is similar to many. His work and family duties plus working in ministry at his church had consumed most of his time while the car sat. In the spring of 2005, Mark decided to take action regarding the family Shelby. The Shelby American Automobile Club's annual convention was being held at California Speedway in Fontana, California. The upcoming SAAC-30 provided the necessary impetus to finally get serious about the Shelby that had been sitting in storage since 1977.

Mark set things in motion with his Shelby. Jeff Dunn at Golden West Shelby in Hayward, California was consulted about restoration. Jerry Lecatsas at ABC Mustang was tapped to rebuild the engine and transmission.

Mark's 12-year old son went along to the SAAC-30. Mark took the glove box door from the family Shelby with him and managed to get Carroll Shelby to sign the glove box door. More importantly, the exposure to the all these Shelby cars reinforced Mark's initial enthusiasm for the restoration project.

In August, 2005 the Shelby emerged from the garage for the first time in nearly 28 years. Golden West performed an exacting 18-month restoration. Mark was thoroughly impressed by the fabulous work done by Jeff and his colleague, Chris Canadian. The frame-off restoration deviated from the standard process in some important details. The dash, radio and Shelby ID plate remained in place. It was deemed historically important to leave the drivers-side inner front fender panel untouched where the ID plate was first attached in October, 1965. The plate and rivets are not refurbished.

As much of the original car was saved as possible. The original drivetrain, five Cragar wheels, seats/seatbelts, dash, and Koni Shocks (rebuilt by Koni) were restored instead of replaced. The Blaupunkt stereo and electric antenna were retained. The other non-standard item in this Shelby is the Toploader transmission. Russ and Mark's father confirmed that they had never had the transmission changed while the car was in their possession. Russ states that Carroll Shelby told him that he had installed a 'special shifter' in this Shelby.

The restoration was finally completed February, 2007. That is almost 30 years after the car went into storage in 1977. Russ Goebel, his wife, Mark's mom and Pete Lyons of AUTOWEEK celebrated the rebirth of Shelby GT 350 serial #SFM6S289 at the Golden West shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 August 2020 20:50 )