Jim Wicks is a brave, brave man. Last year, he handed me the keys to his 21,000-mile '70 Boss 429 and I almost melted the rare, never-been-apart Shotgun engine in the Oklahoma summertime heat (see "Driving the Legend" in the Dec. '09 issue). This year during his Mid America Ford and Team Shelby Nationals in Tulsa, Wicks offered up his 51,000-mile '65 Shelby GT350 for a drive test. Like the Boss 429, it's an unrestored survivor.
But Wicks is not one to put his survivor Mustangs on mothballs or trailers. Nor does he pamper them. When I arrive at the Southern Hills Marriott, 5S365 is sitting on the sidewalk as one of the event display cars. As Jim hands me the keys, I ask about getting the car off the sidewalk.
"Just jump the curb," he says. Right. Here I am climbing into an original '65 GT350, one of 562 built and one of only a handful still in unrestored condition, and the owner wants me to "jump the curb." I have visions of the side-exiting exhaust snagging the concrete and clanking onto the pavement . . .
Like all low-mileage survivor Mustangs, 5S365 has a story. Wicks knows little about the original owner, other than he purchased the GT350 from Portland Motor Sales in Maine on September 9, 1965, as a consignment vehicle from Tasca Ford. Over the next three years, the first owner put nearly 30,000 miles on the Shelby, including a cross-country move from the extreme Northeast to the extreme Southwest of Southern California.
"The second owner was a serviceman from San Diego," Wicks relates. "He bought the Shelby from a used car lot when he got out of the Navy in 1968. He ended up driving the car back to his home in Ohio. When he got married and started a family, a two-seater car just didn't cut it. But instead of selling the Shelby, he parked it in his dad's garage and walked away."
A decade later, Joe Hale entered the picture. Wicks tells us that most longtime Shelby collectors remember Hale. "He was the ultimate parts and car chaser, and everyone knew him. He had a photographic memory; if he walked through your garage, he could remember every part that you had hanging on the wall."
In 1982, while chasing a possible rare find in a neighborhood near Columbus, Ohio, Hale spotted an open garage and the familiar tail-end of a Wimbledon White Mustang fastback with Guardsman Blue LeMans stripes. He stopped to inquire and ended up talking with the father of the original owner of 5S365. "It's my son's car," the gentleman told Hale. "He keeps saying that he's going to do something with it but he never does."
Hale eventually partnered with a buddy to buy the Shelby. They got the car running and sent it out for paint touch-up. At some point, Wicks learned about 5S365 and expressed the desire to purchase the car if Hale and his partner ever decided to sell. That day came in 1984.
"I wanted the car but had to come up with the money," Wicks says. "At the time, I owned 5S298, which needed restoring, so I decided to sell it. Just the week before someone had asked about buying it, but when I told them the car was available, they said they needed to raise the cash by selling their '68 GT500KR. Within three days, the three of us swapped around those three cars and I ended up with 5S365."
Wicks recalls that the GT350 had 42,800 miles on it when he took possession. "I drove the wheels off of it," he says. "I added another 8,000 miles or so to the odometer before I stopped driving it."
Other than paint touch-up and a rebuild of the Cobra-ized 289 High Performance engine at some point in the past, the Shelby remains mostly original, including the standard-equipment 15-inch steel wheels. Wicks replaced the crusty factory side-exiting exhaust with a reproduction system from Jim Cowles at Shelby Parts and Restoration, adding that, like all glasspacks, the mufflers started blowing out within a year.