Mustang: A Short Story of Two Special Shelby Mustangs

By Mark Hovander and John Atzbach

The Pacific Northwest Concours is proud to share the two Shelby Mustangs which started this automotive legend. In early 1963, the Ford Motor Car Company embarked on the largest financially backed racing program ever conceived by an automotive manufacturer. This racing program would encompass all forms of racing from Indy to LeMans from stock car racing to SCCA road racing. This massive endeavor was known as “The Total Performance” program.

Ford was enjoying the release of what was to become the most popular car ever, the Mustang, in April of 1964. Although the Mustang was a huge sales hit at the dealerships, it did not fit well into Ford’s “Total Performance Program”. On the other hand, the Ford powered Cobras were winning at race tracks all across the United States in 1963 and were expanding in an attempt to conquer Europe in 1964. It was a logical choice to have Carroll Shelby inject some of the Cobra’s venom into the Mustang.

Carroll Shelby put together a formidable team to create a real performance version of the Mustang. Ken Miles, one of Shelby’s top Cobra team drivers, was selected to aid in the development of the suspension, Peter Brock, the creator of the Cobra Daytona Coupe, was called upon to use his talents for the exterior graphics as well as creating unique performance parts, which would set this limited production Mustang apart from all the others. The final key to the new Mustang project at Shelby American was the selection of Chuck Cantwell, who oversaw the entire project, as project engineer. This talented group of racing enthusiasts pooled their thoughts and efforts and in 2 1/2 months created a car which would be eventually called the Mustang GT350.

In late October 1964, the San Jose, California Ford production line sent three specially ordered hipo 289 powered Mustangs fastbacks to Shelby American in Venice, California. These three cars were transformed into 1965 GT350 Mustangs and were later given the serial numbers; SFM5R001, SFM5R002, and SFM5S003. The “R” in the vin numbers designated that particular car as a race car, while the “S” in the serial number, denoted the car as a street car.

The SCCA racing rules at the time stated there could be modifications to an existing street car in the area of the engine or the suspension, but not both. For this reason, the race and street 1965 GT350’s had virtually the same suspension but the race GT350 engine put out on the average of 350 to 375 horsepower compared to the 306 horsepower for the street GT350’s. The racing version of the GT350 had many other weight reducing and performance features, one of which was a unique top vented plexiglass rear window, designed by Peter Brock which not only reduced weight but also increased the cars top speed by 5mph on the straightaways. The GT350 R models, as they are referred to now, ended up dominating the race tracks all over the United States, winning the B-production SCCA Championship title in 1965, 1966 and 1967 much to the distress of the 327 powered Corvette and Jaguar XKE’s.

5R001 was not finished until the second half of the 1965 racing season, but 5R002 was actually the first of 37 racing versions of the GT350 built. 5S003 became the prototype street GT350 for 1965.

5R002 was evaluated by Peter Brock, Ken Miles, Jerry Titus, Bob Bondurant, and Ed Leslie at both Willow Springs and Riverside raceways. Photos were taken to supplement the articles written for the automobile magazines which described the new competition Mustang. Carroll Shelby debuted the race and street GT350s to the automotive press at Riverside raceway on January 27, 1965. 5R002 was the only competition version finished in time for this debut. Around the same time, a movie was produced at Willow Springs Raceway called “Shelby Goes Racing with Ford” and 5R002 was the competition GT350 used in that film. One of the photos taken in early 1965 was of Carroll Shelby standing next to 5R002 which landed on the cover of the May 1965 issue of Road and Track.

5R002 was driven by the legendary Ken Miles at its inaugural race on February 14, 1965 at Green Valley, Texas where it took first in B-production.

This GT350 was raced as a factory team car nine more times in the capable hands of Jerry Titus, Ed Leslie, and Chuck Cantwell. In total, it recorded six first finishes and five second place finishes. 5R001 took over the last few remaining races in the Pacific Division in 1965 gaining enough points to eventually win the B-production championship for Shelby American. 5R002 was also the factory test mule for new competition parts. If the parts used on 5R002 were deemed to be an improvement, these changes were incorporated into future R models and this information was made available to the people already competing with existing racing GT350s. 5R002 was sold in March 1966 and was raced in the U.S. until 1969 until it sold again to a person in Mexico who continued to race the car until the early 1970’s. At this point, we have confirmed R002 was raced over 70 times. In 1989, the resting spot of 5R002 was discovered in Mexico and the car was purchased. 5R002 eventually ended up back in the United States and on display at the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, Colorado. Due to the fantastic racing history and being the first competition GT350 built, many enthusiasts feel 5R002 is one of the most valuable and historic Mustangs of all time. 5R002 is currently restored back to when it debuted and won its first race at Green Valley Raceway on February 14, 1965.

SFM5S003 required the least amount of time and modifications to finish, so this car became the prototype street GT350, the first Shelby Mustang built. In November 1964, this was the only running, complete, Shelby Mustang in the world. It was the first Mustang to ever wear the properly laid out blue LeMans stripes, something which is still seen on cars today. 5S003 was also the first street Mustang to have side exiting exhaust, an all fiberglass hood, and no rear seat.

Since 5S003 was the first GT350 produced, it was driven by many Shelby American employees, as well as several automotive magazine journalists. Photographs were taken of 5S003 by Peter Brock as soon as the car was finished and an accompanying text was written by Brock as well. The result was the creation of the first two factory ads promoting the new GT350 which was used throughout 1965. Brock also designed the prototype dash pod for the tachometer and oil pressure gauges, as well as the center cap for the Cobra wood steering wheel in this particular car. Early photos of 5S003 appeared in several automobile magazines usually with prototype Cragar wheels on the passenger side of the car and steel wheels on the driver’s side. This was done to give the illusion there were several GT350’s in production, but in reality, this was the only Shelby Mustang produced at that time. This is how 5S003 is displayed at the Pacific Northwest Concours today, complete with 50 year old Goodyear tires. 5S003 was used extensively by Shelby American for public relations purposes until it was sold in June of 1965.

In the late 1970’s, from what photos and magazine articles were available, it was thought that 5S003 was actually 5R002, so the car was restored as an R model. At this point, 5S003 was vintage raced extensively at many of the major race tracks throughout the United States, including the prestigious Monterey Historics seven times. In the mid 1980’s, the factory paperwork on the early GT350’s was discovered in Shelby’s attic and it was determined that 5S003 was never an R model but was the first street GT350 Mustang built.

Each of the previous owners of 5S003 have mentioned the similar characteristics about the car “There is a special feeling about that car, an aura, it is just a fantastic car that will always do what it is asked to”. In 1993, when the value of 5S003 was deemed to be too great, it was retired from vintage racing.

Both of these Shelby Mustangs have just finished thorough restorations to exactly how they looked in early 1965. The Pacific Northwest Concours will mark the first show that 5R002 and 5S003 will be seen together in the Pacific Northwest and will mark the end of a 7 month cross country tour to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang. Enjoy 5R002 and 5S003 together today, for it is a very rare occurrence to have the first race GT350 and the first street GT350 built side by side. These two GT350s mark the very beginning of the Shelby Mustang legend. Over 14,000 Shelby Mustangs followed these two cars until production finally ended in 1970.