Old pal Mark Storm climbs into the passenger seat for the cruise. Ever observant, he notices that someone has cut holes into the door sheetmetal and door panels for round speakers. We look at each other and agree--we can't believe we used to do that. However, turns out the radio doesn't work. Again we agree - who would want a radio, especially AM only, in a car like this anyway? And besides, you wouldn't be able to hear the music over the glass packs. The clutch feels stock and not overly stiff unless you compare it to today's clutches. Easing out on the pedal, the clutch engages smoothly with no chatter. The factory 4-speed shifter is tight, but the throw feels uncomfortably long after driving modern Mustangs.
The cruise to downtown is uneventful, mainly because we're stuck in a parade of several hundred Mustangs and Fords, leaving little room to test the G.T. 350's power. I notice that the Shelby's rear quarter windows, which replaced the Mustang fastback's vents for the '66 model year, are quite helpful with rear vision, especially when pulling into traffic from an angle. If you read my previous reports on survivor Mustangs, you may recall my experiences with overheating. No problems with this G.T. 350, even on a warm Oklahoma evening during long periods of idling in a cruise line. To my relief, the temp needle stays left of center.
Later in the evening, after the cruise-in, the drive back to the hotel provides the first chance to truly experience the Shelby. There's nothing like driving on old Mustang musclecar on city streets at night; must be something about the lighting, from the street lights reflecting on the hood to the soft green lighting from the instrument panel. With side windows down, the exhaust echoes off the buildings and you feel on top of the world. The chattering of the G.T. 350's solid lifters adds to the ambience.
When I arrived in Tulsa, the...
When I arrived in Tulsa, the "good, old" G.T. 350 was waiting on me in front the Tulsa Southern Hills Marriott.
With my cruise partner, Mark...
With my cruise partner, Mark Storm (left), after our drive to downtown Tulsa for Mid America's annual cruise-in at the Brady Arts District.
For the trip back to the hotel, Mark and I take the quickest route to the I-244 expressway on the west side of town. This will give me a chance to dip into the Holley's secondaries for a run through the gears onto the entrance ramp. The old Shelby still has plenty of get up and go, revving to 6,000 rpm between shifts and pulling harder as the revs climb. At speed, the glass packs are loud, and I can't recall ever driving a car that sounds so much like Steve McQueen's '68 Mustang fastback in the movie Bullitt. If I owned this car, I would be tempted to replace the glass packs with stock mufflers, but I don't know that I could.
With 3.89 rear axle gears, the Shelby feels fast all the time. There's plenty of torque down low and lots of rpm at speed, about 3,400 rpm at 60 mph and 4,000 at 70 (compare that to the '13 Shelby GT500 that loafs along at 1,600 rpm at 80 mph!). Just touch the throttle and the car rockets forward. Like most older Mustangs, the steering wanders at highway speeds, requiring small but frequent steering adjustment. It turns nicely at speed and handles well around corners, but the lack of power steering makes slow-speed turning, like parallel parking, which I have to do when I return to the hotel, equal to about 10 push-ups.
Later in the weekend, I get another chance to take the G.T. 350 out for a more leisurely drive. Looking out past the tach and over the Le Mans-striped hood, your mind drifts and you can easily imagine that you're on your way to a race track in the 1960s. I find myself getting really comfortable with the car – it runs good, drives good, starts every time, never overheats, and doesn't make strange noises. Who cares that the radio doesn't work? Like Wicks said in the beginning, it's truly a "good, old G.T. 350."