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1965 Shelby GT350 - Road Test
We Find Out What It's Like To Drive A Low-Mileage, Unrestored Legend
That's the first thing I noticed when cranking the GT350 on the Marriott sidewalk in Tulsa. The 289 fired immediately, sputtered for a second, then responded to my taps on the throttle with a loud racket from the exhaust pipes. With one exiting under my left ear and the other ricocheting off the side of the hotel, the Shelby generated a stereophonic symphony that only a '65 GT350 can make.
To my relief, the GT350 rolled gently off the sidewalk curb without dragging the chassis or exhaust.
For my first leg in the Shelby, I drove in the Mid America cruise to the Brady Arts District near downtown Tulsa, with my son, Matt, as my co-pilot. While waiting for the start of the cruise, I surveyed the interior for the Shelby-specific items-wood Cobra steering wheel, center-mounted instrument panel pod with tach and oil pressure gauge, and competition seatbelts. I had to show Matt how to secure his belt with the metal latch. Behind us was a flat fiberglass panel with a spare tire, under its original naugahyde cover, in place of the rear seat, which made the GT350 a two-seater for SCCA racing in 1965. Otherwise, the interior was stark '65 Mustang in black-just the way Carroll Shelby wanted it.
The cruise starts and it's slow going for the first few blocks. Turning onto 71st Street, I explain to Matt that there's nothing wrong with the clunking rear end; the noise is coming from the original Detroit Locker differential. Thankfully, the clutch releases easily and smoothly in the stop and go traffic, and even more thankfully the temperature gauge isn't inching toward "H" like the Boss 429 last year. Small-block 289s are certainly more forgiving in the heat than big-blocks.
The old Cobra wood steering wheel feels thin, hard, and overly large; I suppose I've been driving too many newer Mustangs with their thick rims and smaller circumference. The leverage is actually needed because, even with the GT350's "quick-ratio," the steering requires some effort. No power steering in a car like the '65 Shelby GT350. Rowing through the gears, I realize that I haven't driven a '65-'66 four-speed Mustang in a while and have forgotten about the factory shifter's sloppy feel and long throws.
In Wicks' survivor GT350, we've returned to 1965, as I'm reminded when I finally get a chance to push my foot into the Holley four-barrel, which unleashes 306 horsepower and a loud roar from the side exhausts. I half expect a motorcycle cop to pull us over for loud exhaust but realize that he's halting traffic for the cruise and enjoying the sights and sounds himself. It's not every day that you see a '65 Shelby on the street.
We arrive at the Brady Arts District and park the GT350 alongside the other 700 or so vehicles. The 289 Hi-Po is just warm enough to force a little fluid out of the overflow, but nothing like last year's hissing and belching Boss 429. Cruise participants wander by. A few realize that they're looking at a rare '65 GT350; many think it's just another old Mustang with stripes.
For the evening drive back to the hotel, we're unencumbered by traffic and afternoon heat. The view over the instrument panel is memorable-street lights dancing in the scooped hood with twin blue stripes. Wicks tells me later, "When I think Shelby, that's the vision I see in my head." It's a good vision.
Finally, we escape downtown and head for I-244. Coming onto the entrance ramp, I feel like Jerry Titus clipping the apex at Mid-Ohio as I ram the shifter into Third and floor it. Speed builds as the revs rise toward the 6,500 rpm redline, although I shift early because, after all, this is not my car. Even with 3.89 gears, the GT350 has long legs. In Fourth, the side exhausts roar until traffic in front of me forces me to lift and hit the brakes. Again, no power assist, but the combination of larger front discs and Fairlane rear drums hauls the GT350 down in adequate fashion.