Though expensive, if you buy an early GT350, you'll actually get two cars for your money because GT350s were purposely schizophrenic by design. Part street car and part racer, the first-generation Shelby Mustang could convincingly and successfully live in either role. And unlike, say, a linebacker who moonlights as a cocktail waitress named Trixie, the Shelby's split personality was a good thing. All we have to do is look at the GT350's sterling accomplishments in SCCA B-Production road racing to see that its track persona was truly well developed. And anyone who has experienced the titillating pleasure of piloting one on the street can attest to the early GT350's thrilling-if somewhat hard-edged-road manners. The traits common to both of these personalities are speed and agility, so while much pleasure can be realized by simply looking at a GT350, much more can be experienced by driving one-with gusto. Sadly, as GT350 values skyrocketed throughout the years, fewer and fewer saw much of either road or track; these split personality supercars were becoming mere investments.
Not so with Tom Jaworski's '66 GT350-No. SFM6S 1 327-which first caught our attention while it positively ripped around Lime Rock Park's twisty, hilly road course-time and time again-at last summer's SAAC 25. When it finally rested in the pits long enough for us to catch up, we were surprised to see that the white-on-blue racer looked as pristine as any garage queen. Shortly into the ensuing conversation with Tom, we learned that this was not always the case. It seems that by 1975-through hard use, neglect, or the ravages of the weather-the GT350 had deteriorated to the point where one of its chain of owners was able to buy what remained of it for the princely sum of $350. With the crystal clear acuity of hindsight, a GT350 for $350 seems like a bargain, regardless of its condition-but remember, this was in the mid-'70s when the Shelby's thirsty, high-compression, 306hp 289 wouldn't exactly lend itself to the overpriced unleaded swill that was then being passed off as gasoline. At that point, a Shelby was just another old Mustang.
Actually, Tom takes none of the credit for his Shelby's current outstanding condition, saying previous owner Mark Pietrzak was responsible for its restoration, or restification, if you prefer-since certain liberties were taken with a view toward personalization and on-track operation. These include the R-model front valance and Stainless Steel Brakes' rear disc conversion hidden behind 15x7 Torq-Thrust "D" wheels. Tires have come a long way in 35 years, so BFGoodrich Comp T/As (225/50 in front and 245/50 out back), which were suitable for both street and open-track work, were fitted. The exterior modifications were completed by conversion to '65-style side exhausts, while the inside had Simpson five-point harnesses, a Hurst Competition Plus shifter, a '65-style wood wheel, a fiberglass spare tire shelf, and an R-model rollbar for added style and functionality. Underneath, '69 428 leaf springs are teamed with 620 lb/in front coils, and both ends are damped with the same adjustable Konis that were standard in 1965 and optional in 1966.
In 1996 Tom was on his way to Road America when he came across an ad for the Shelby in the back of Frostbites, Northwoods Regional SAAC Club's newsletter, in Wisconsin. According to the ad, the vendor wanted to take a '69 428 Mustang in partial trade. This got the old differential in Tom's head turning, since he had not one but two such big-block Mustangs at home. A phone call was made, and the vendor-the aforementioned Mark-agreed to trailer the Shelby to Tom's house for close inspection. Tom was surprised to find the GT350 in even better condition than Mark had described-and with visions of open-track events swirling in Tom's head, a deal was struck. In the end, Tom ended up trading both '69 CJs for the Shelby. But, when you think about it, with the GT350's split personality, it was really a two-for-two trade anyway.