Carroll Shelby's classic Mustang fastbacks have enjoyed an enduring heritage for four decades. It's a heritage that transcends the great automobiles he built. It's really more about the man than the muscle machines he produced 40 years ago. Although Shelby was a world-renowned Le Mans-winning race car driver, he was also an underdog who made it big. We root for him not only for his automobiles, but also for his success story as a Texas chicken farmer who grabbed onto his dream of building his own cars.
When Shelby's Mustangs entered Ford showrooms 43 years ago, they were a splash of salsa on an already spicy product. With sales approaching the $1 million mark, the Mustang sold itself. However, Ford Division General Manager Lee Iacocca wanted the Mustang to have a hot performance image. That's when he enlisted Shelby to develop the car even further.
Shelby's people went to work on performance, handling, and looks. The result was the '65 Shelby GT350 fastback. His approach was simple and tasteful with rocker-panel stripes, a grille void of Mustang hardware, a fiberglass hood with scoop, no rear seat, a warmed-up 289 High Perfor-mance Cobra V-8, traction bars, suspension mods, and a side-exit dual exhaust system, all out the door for approximately $5,000.
Although the '65 GT350 was a hot number, it was also a crude affair: loud and obnoxious, rough-riding, and bad to the bone. For '66, Ford and Shelby refined the GT350 with dual exhausts out back for a quieter ride and a rear seat for a couple of extra bodies. Hertz Rent-A-Car liked it so much, it bought 1,000 of them. When you couple the efforts of bean counters and product planner refinement, the '66 GT350 was a better car than its older sibling.
As a young bank teller in the '60s, Steve Curry watched one of his customers, successful land developer Bob McIntyre, arrive at the bank each day to make deposits in a Wimbledon White '66 GT350. Beginning in 1974, Steve asked Bob if he would sell it. Year after year, the Shelby continued to elude him as Bob turned down his offers.
As Steve got to know Bob, he learned that the car was purchased from a local Ford dealer, Crater Lake Motors, which wasn't a Shelby dealer. It turns out that Bob knew the owner of the dealership, Hugh Coleman, and asked him to get a Shelby Mustang. Hugh wrangled this GT350 from Marv Tonkin Ford, 300 miles away in Portland, in a dealer trade. It arrived on April 5, 1966.
"This is the only Shelby automobile to be sold new in southern Oregon," says Steve. "It was known as the 'Lone Ranger' as it fended off Camaros and Mopars."
In 1998, Steve was able to buy the car from Bob's son. When Steve got the car home, he marveled at how long it took to get it, yet how easy it was to buy when the time was right. It had been repainted and the 289 High Performance rebuilt. Steve had the GT350 stripes redone and the driver door was repainted due to a bad color match.
What amazed Steve most was the car's condition after all those years. Its factory black vinyl standard interior remained without a tear. The carpet wasn't sun bleached, and the chrome was impeccable. All the original Shelby parts were still there, including the original Koni shocks. What the car needed most was detailing. That's when Steve went to work to get the car back to showroom condition.
Steve has a refined appreciation for his GT350. Because he worshipped this car from afar for so many years, he still walks out to the garage to confirm it's really sitting there.