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1966 Shelby GT350 - Welcome To The Party!
Chuck Cantwell’s first Shelby Mustang came more recently than you might imagine
When Cantwell and Hallinan came to terms on 6S796 in November 2009, the day it emerged from hibernation was cause for celebration. Die-hard enthusiasts Curt Vogt, Rick Kopec, Howard Pardee, and Bob Aliberto were present for the occasion, with Vogt loading the car on his trailer for a trip to his Cobra Automotive shop. The engine was stuck after sitting for so long, and numerous other components needed attention to ensure reliable driver duty. Over the next six months, Cantwell and the Cobra Automotive crew selectively restored or rebuilt many components on this largely untouched car, getting it to what Cantwell was striving for--a nicely prepared driver that he and his long-supportive wife Joanne could enjoy together, along with their grandkids!
Including Hertz production, nearly 2,400 GT350s were assembled in 1966, making Cantwell's a modestly early car in the build sequence. As such, it sports over-ride traction bars and hollow-letter Cobra rocker covers--components that were revised on later cars. The Sapphire Blue paint is the original hue, but is believed to have been resprayed in the early years after a fender-bender. Cantwell tells us the LeMans stripes and 10-spoke wheels are original to the car, with the latter being resurrected via the skilled hands of Craig Conley.
The area of most intense restoration effort was the engine compartment and mechanicals. Vogt and company treated the original Hi-Po 289 to a .030-inch overbore and rebuild to stock 306-horsepower specs--likewise the aluminum-case T10 four-speed. In the rear, 3.50 gears replaced the original 3.89s, but the dealer-installed Detroit Locker differential remains. While the heavy lifting was going on, Cantwell spent long hours cleaning and prepping the engine bay for a fresh coat of black paint and attending to a myriad of detail items. The results speak for themselves.
As progress continued on Cantwell's GT350 through the spring of 2010, a movement amongst a group of early Shelby enthusiasts began to gain traction. Initially unknown to Cantwell, the gist of the effort would be to see that his newly freshened ride was brought to California in August for SAAC 35, figuring the event to be too far for Cantwell to consider doing on his own. Even better, what if a scenic coastal road trip could be organized with fellow '65-'66 GT350 owners, where the Cantwells could enjoy their first real miles in the new/old car? With the organizational and financial support from some dedicated people, all went according to plan. The terrific drive was charted out by local Brian Ferrin (see the "GT350 Road Tour" sidebar in our January 2011 coverage of SAAC 35), and suffice to say the opportunity to spend a day with the Cantwells will not soon be forgotten.
We suspect it was a memorable trip for Chuck and Joanne as well, for what better way to shake down their new purchase than a drive in the company of fellow enthusiasts? Welcome to the party!