"You probably don't remember me. I rode with you in Mustangs Across America ten years ago."
How could I forget Tony Sousa? He was the ultimate navigator. In Flagstaff, Arizona, back in 1993, we ran into a blizzard on the desert, and I had no top or side curtains for my '65 Cobra roadster. Tony left the heated enclosure of his '65 GT350 fastback, but he never complained. He seemed to enjoy the cold and snow because this was what it was like to ride in a bare-bones Cobra in the real world.
Once again, we rode together, this time in Tony's '65 GT350-once again, in the winter. It was February 2, the Valley of Fire north of Las Vegas our destination for SAAC Does Vegas.
Tony's car is a legend-one of the 562 first-year GT350s. Talk about nice! The white fastback with blue stripes inspired one admirer to offer $92,000 for the joy of ownership. Sousa said no.
This is all I could think of on Sunday morning as I followed Tony up I-15 to Shelby-American, where I'd hop in. The wind was blowing so hard the trees along the freeway flapped like they were in a hurricane. Was Tony really going to take his high-dollar Shelby into the desert?
I plopped down in the passenger seat and buckled the competition seatbelts. Tony fired up the beast and motored to exit 54 at Shelby's place on I-15 north. We rough-riders were heading out.
This was my first time to rally in a '65 Shelby Mustang. For years, I'd read about the straight-through exhausts, the Detroit Locker NoSpin differential, the over-the-axle traction bars, the special pitman and idler arms for improved steering, and the lowered suspension geometry up front. Whereas, one year later, the '66 was compromised for comfort to attract more buyers.
The wind was still stout, but the dust wasn't coming off the desert. Conditions were improving, and we had ten miles until our turn-off. Tony shifted one more time than a four-speed needed. Aha-he had a five-speed in there!
"It looks like a stock Mustang shifter, but it's a dummy shifter," Tony explained.
"It's not nice to fool mother nature," I joked.
Tony laughed. "It's nice not to have to worry about gas mileage and over revving."
Sousa elected to keep the stock 3.89 gears and add the top-end gear for highway driving. But, he kept the stock shifter handle and ball. Nobody was the wiser, unless they counted shifts.
I had to ask, "So why are we able to talk without screaming?"
"Actually, it should be louder than stock inside because I changed to a LeMans camshaft," Tony replied.
I figured the quiet cab was due to supple weatherstripping; the doors didn't whistle a bit. I'd uncovered another Sousa secret-the higher lift cam. "Gives me 350 horsepower versus 306 stock," Tony said.
I wondered what other secrets Tony had for us. In the center of the dash, the AM radio looked like a lonely instrument, quite out of place. For a minute, I wondered if '65 Shelbys came with radios.
"Some did, some didn't," was Tony's response.
We flipped on the power, and I learned why the Shelby exhausts were more melodious. The speaker sounded slightly better than an antique crystal radio.
"That's probably the original speaker," said Tony. "I haven't changed it."
Some people put in disguised CD tuners with modern internals. Tony didn't bother because he doesn't want to listen to music in this car-he listens to the exhaust.