Name: 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
Year(s) Produced: 1965-1966
Number Built: 562
Class: Sports car
Body Type: 2-door fixhead coupe
Engine: 289 cu in (4.7 L) Windsor V8 2-barrel
Power: 306hp @ 6000 RPM
0-60mph: 5.7 seconds
Top Speed: 134 mph
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Length/width/height: 181.6 in./68.2 in./ 55 in.
Wheelbase: 108 in.
Base Price: US$4,547
Highest Price: US$455,000 (Barrett-Jackson)
The 60s are often referred to as the Golden Age of the Muscle Car and at the center of it all is what could probably be the most iconic car in American history – the 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.
This Shelby in particular debuted shortly a year after the Mustang was introduced. To differentiate it with the Mustang in terms performance, the pony car’s engineers modified its 289 cui V8 engines to max out a high 306 horsepower. With such power on its helm, the GT350’s greatness was eventually sealed, consequently giving birth to a few GT350R variants that ruled at the tracks of the Trans Am racing circuit.
Mike Schlee from Autoguide.com shares his take on the Top 10 Ford Mustangs of All Time, putting the GT350 at the top of the list. True to its calling, the Mustang brand signifies the liberty, pride, and freedom synonymous to its promise of being wild and carefree. Its roaring V8 engine and gorgeous white and blue color scheme exudes a rebellious sense of individuality that was so appealing and sexy during its time. Notwithstanding the fact that the GT350 is only available in a limited number of countries, people from around the world have at least heard the words ‘Ford Mustang’. Designed for the street, race track, or even a drag strip, this low-volume, high performance vehicle have continually stirred the hearts of many.
So how is it like to be inside the greatest ever 1960s Ford Mustang? Dan Carney of popular men’s magazine ‘Maxim’, shared what could be his once-in-lifetime experience of riding the GT350. Personally invited by Ford Motors to drive their newest hot-rod Mustang, Dan took the bold step of asking if by any chance he can have the opportunity of being inside an original Shelby GT350. Such bold confidence and determination was immediately noticed by Ford’s Executive Vice President, Jim Farley. “Well,” he started slowly, “I have my GT350 here at the track, and you could drive that one.” Dan didn’t waste time. He immediately proceeded to the track where Farley’s Shelby has been waiting.
At the turn of the door, Dan was greeted with its new modern lap belts replaced by modern thicker constraints. Talking about the cabin, Dan notes that, “The old car’s airy cabin is lighter and more open than that of its modern counterparts. Indeed, it’s a reminder of why the cockpit was sometimes referred to as the car’s “greenhouse” back in the old days.”
Upon starting the Shelby small block 289 cu in. engine, it easily roared into life. “The volume level seems just right; loud enough to enjoy without achieving the permanent hearing loss-levels of a NASCAR stock car,” Dan added. Shelby’s engineers rated the GT at 306hp and when Farley had to upgrade it with an estimated increase of 350hp. No wonder our road-tester had such a great time on the track.
The GT350 also comes with an original, wood-rimmed Shelby steering wheel. Since power steering was not yet offered during that time, the steering wheels were made to have a larger diameter to add more control and leverage. Dan also observed that shifting gears may not be that easy for a GT if you were pampered using tiny joystick shifters. “It offers a four-speed manual transmission whose gears are spaced a bit too far apart to keep the engine in the meat of its power band on upshifts. Revs fall further on gear changes than with newer six-speed transmissions,” Dan observes.
This may not be surprising since these changes in shifters throughout time have been clearly visible. What comes as a surprise for Dan is the evident lack of power from the Shelby’s V8, and much to his dismay, it was easily overtaken by the newer, more fuel efficient cars on the track.
Doing average to sharp turns was also a rather disappointing experience for Dan. The brakes seem to lack the bite of the modern stoppers, and the tires don’t have the near-race specification soles that come with newer models. He laments, “The shock absorbers are old-fashioned and the springs are soft, another bad combination for the track. The GT350’s nose dives under braking like it is going to scrape the yellow dotted line off the pavement.” It took several laps before he realized how to efficiently time his turns so as to anticipate the response lag from the GT350.
As a final note, in light with the more modern and efficient vehicles of this time, the Ford Shelby GT350 would be better off retired to weekend cruises, café runs and exhibition laps. For all its looks, it is still more handsome and sporty as compared to other, newer cars on the track – and it might be better to keep it that way. Dan concludes, “This fabulous vintage machine needs to just be appreciated for its sights, sounds and rich racing heritage. Just put away the stopwatch and enjoy it.”