A restoration such as this one would have been unheard of in 1978 when I started out, because standards had not been established for judging yet. In the years since, judging and the restorations it addresses have become something of an art: getting it right and keeping it right, fine-tuning a Concours restoration to Gold status, and knowing you've competed against the very best and won.
Sometimes we become numb to exquisite restorations, because we've become downright spoiled. We're used to seeing them at the national shows. But a restoration such as this one captures and holds your attention. There's no walking away, because there's always a new detail to see.
This is Paul Faessler's '65 Shelby GT350 fastback. He owns the restoration shop in Cincinnati that restored this beautiful steed. Turn on your reading light and have a look. That's DuPont Centari in Wimbledon White, applied by Roy Honsaker. Those are Guardsman Blue Shelby stripes from hood to deck and fender to quarter. From bumper to bumper, this is a rolling history lesson centered around a man named Carroll Shelby, who pioneered these limited-production factory performance cars more than 35 years ago. This is No. 5S083, one of the first Shelby Mustangs from a production run that began in early 1965 and ended four years later in 1969.
For Paul, his Shelby isn't just about history, it's also about fun. Imagine what it feels like to sit behind the wheel. His Shelby has those modest, butt-numbing Mustang bucket seats. Ironically, these seats aren't much different from a Corvette's rock-hard buckets-they're good for an hour around Road America or Willow Springs but not much for that 800-mile trip to Aunt Martha's.
Beneath the bonnet is a screaming 306hp 289 Hi-Po, sporting mechanical lifters, Cobra valve covers, a high-rise intake manifold, tri-Y headers, a hot camshaft, and the kind of spirit you won't find in neither the 5.0L EFI'd H.O. nor the 4.6L DOHC Cobra engines. The vintage 289 Hi-Po had raw spirit-the kind of fierce attitude that has since been lost to emissions laws, corporate attorneys, and bean counters.
Fire up the 289 Hi-Po and you're greeted with the clatter of 16 ball-stud rocker arms adjusted to 0.010-inch intake and 0.020-inch exhaust valve lash.
These stopcocks are exercised by 16 mechanical flat-tappet cam lobes. When the engine is cold, these rocker arms clatter loudly with a sweet sound that makes you want to speed-shift and listen to the roar of the high-revving mill. Of course, you wouldn't want to do that with a cold engine-but it's fun to dream. Behind the wheel of this early Shelby ride, you shift a Borg-Warner aluminum T10 four-speed transmission that makes a distinctive whine in First and Second gears. With that whine, you get the roar and clatter of the 289 Hi-Po. Lean on the throttle and feel the torque that swiftly becomes pressure at your beltline and a flow of pavement under the floorpan. Yes, the GT350 is a Mustang to be heard and seen in.
At 40-50 mph, the engine revs at a good clip, because the 9-inch Ford rear axle has 3.89 gears working cog in cog with a Detroit Locker. These transmit power to genuine Cragar five-spoke wheels made specifically for Shelby American 36 years ago. This tells us that all-available torque is transferred to both BFGoodrich T/A radials.