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The 1965 Shelby GT350-R Mustang

Shelby’s Classic Turn-Key Racer

By

Pedro Rodriguez GT350-R Mustang

The #18 (5R 108) Pedro Rodriguez GT350-R Mustang

Photo © Jonathan P. Lamas
In the world of classic Mustang racers, the Shelby GT350-R holds a special place in Mustang history. The GT350-R is the turn-key racing version of Ford's first Mustang sports car, the Shelby GT350. The GT350, a sporty Mustang in its own right, first debuted on January 27th of 1965.

Shelby's First Mustang Turn-Key Racer

Unlike its street-legal counterpart, the Shelby GT350-R was a bare bones racing machine. As such, it lacked creature comforts such as a heater, defroster, interior upholstery, interior headliner, insulation, and sound deadening material. In an effort to reduce weight, the cars were equipped with special Plexiglass side and rear windows. Bottom line, it was void of any component that wouldn't help it win races. The goal was to go fast while taking the checkered flag.

Features

  • 325 to 360 horsepower
  • Equipped with special Plexiglass side and rear windows
  • Featured front fiberglass apron
  • Four-Point Roll Cage
  • High Capacity Oil Pans
  • Competition Fiberglass Bucket Seats
  • Retail price of $5,995
The first group of GT350-R Mustangs were created from chassis numbers 94 through 108. The second group came from chassis numbers 209 through 213. In all, the Shelby GT350-R was a force to be reckoned with.

A Recipe for Success

The GT350-R was capable of creating between 325-360 horsepower with a race prepped version of the standard 715 CFM single four-barrel Holley carburetor. In comparison, the standard Shelby GT350 produced around 306 hp.

The GT350-R featured a prominent hood scoop to keep the engine cool while maximizing air flow. In addition, the car's engine included aluminum hi-rise intake manifolds featured on Shelby's Cobra. The car's structure was reinforced with additional welding, and its bumpers, both front and rear, were removed. A notable feature of the Shelby GT350-R was its front fiberglass apron, which featured a large center slot that provided extra air to the engine, in addition to brake cooling air scoops.

Other special features of the Shelby GT350-R included Tri-Y headers, 34 gallon baffled fuel tank, dual S-W electric fuel pumps, modified steel valve breather covers, competition fiberglass bucket seats, and baffled steel high capacity oil pans. The car's gearbox featured an aluminum case, and the GT350-R was equipped with a protective four-point roll bar. The GT350-R rode on American Racing 15 x 7-inch five-spoke wheels.

Racing's Rising Star

The Shelby GT350-R's first race was at Green Valley Raceway in Texas on Valentine's Day of 1965. As luck would have it, test driver Ken Miles finished the B-Production race in first place. Racing legend Jerry Titus would later drive the prototype car as part of Shelby's test program. In all, Titus would go on to become the B-Production Champion that year. Another popular driver, Mark Donohue, piloted his chassis number 105 GT350-R to many victories. By the end of the year, the Shelby GT350-R had won five of SCCA's six divisions.

Looking back, some other GT350-R racers included Chuck Cantwell, Scuderia Filipinetti, Bob Johnson, Tom Yeager, Tommy Hamilton, and Pedro Rodriguez. Rodriguez piloted his #18 (5R 108) GT350-R Mustang to victory over Jerry Titus who was driving Shelby's 5R 002 factory prototype. The car driven by Rodriguez, which features green-and-red stripes in Mexican livery, would go on to race at Daytona 24 Hours, and would win the SCCA Southwest Division title in 1966. The car now resides with a private owner in Oceanside, Calif.

In all, only thirty six 1965 Shelby GT350-R Mustangs were produced. Two of these were company prototypes. It's believed 26, or so, are still in existence today.

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