Sales that Teach

1966 Shelby GT350 Mustang: The heart wants what it wants

by Colin Comer
14 December 2020 5 min read
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The Hagerty Valuation team has analyzed some 415,000 auction and private transactions (and counting). They all help inform our view of the market, but some tell us something more. We call these Sales that Teach.

The sale: 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350. Sold for $103,425 on Bring a Trailer October 29, 2020

The details: For decades, I’ve told anybody looking to dip their toes into Shelby Mustang waters to take a good look at the 1966 model year. They aren’t as raw or as rare as the ’65s, but they aren’t very far removed and, at less than half the cost, they’re more attainable. They’re also more user-friendly, thanks to the fact that as Shelby American became a legitimate manufacturer, it smoothed out some of the ’65’s race-car-for-the-street rough edges. To top it all off, the ’66 came in a rainbow of colors and with unique styling touches. If there were a bang-for-the-buck award in the Shelby Mustang world, a good 1966 GT350 would be a strong contender.

Like the old Fram oil filter commercials it’s a case of “Pay me now…or pay me later.”

I am always quick to point out, however, that although these cars are more than just a sum of their parts, a lot of these parts are all that separate a GT350 from being “just” a Mustang. In addition to the usual stuff you want to be matching and original, like VIN tags, engine, and body panels, a Shelby Mustang ideally should have the unique Shelby bits that make it one, such as the tachometer, steering wheel, carburetor, wheels, transmission, and even seat belts it was born with. Often they’re missing and incredibly hard to replace—not to mention never original to the car again.

Additionally, I’ve always preached to buy the best, most original, and rust-free car you possibly can. Lots of people will tell you this, of course, but having run a restoration shop for thirty years, I can add that the current cost to properly restore a car like this often exceeds its value. Like the old Fram oil filter commercials it is a case of “Pay me now…or pay me later.”

All to say, this 1966 Shelby GT350 was of great interest to me. It was being sold by the son of its second owner, who had the car for 36 years. It left the factory in the choice combination of Sapphire Blue paint with factory LeMans stripes; is a desirable factory 4-speed car; has a nice, clean history in the SAAC Registry; and great documentation. Plus it has those original bits that are worth their weight in gold— its factory engine with Ford VIN stamp in place, its original T10-M transmission, and lots of those other parts that make Shelby guys like me feel all tingly inside.

But it also had some negatives that couldn’t be (or shouldn’t be) ignored. It was sold new in New York and lived its whole life there, during which time a great deal of the car had returned to its base elements. Floors, frame rails, inner structure—you name it and it was rusty. Decades ago, the car failed an annual vehicle inspection due to structural rust. Things like the factory welded-on traction bars had rusted off of the chassis. The time it spent parked in storage hadn’t been kind to it, either.

1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 front fender
Courtesy Bring a Trailer

Some who knew the late owner said he amassed original parts to restore it but apparently threw in the towel given the enormity of the job. Even as a restorer who has worked on many Midwestern Mustangs in my day, I can’t blame him. Rust repair on a unibody chassis is a daunting task no matter how capable one may be.

Adding to this was the wild card that the original Shelby VIN tag, the only tag on the entire car that has the Shelby VIN, had been replaced years ago. It’s not hugely uncommon to hear of cars whose tags have been replaced due to theft, loss, or corrosion, but there is certainly a reduction in value as a result. How much is open to debate, of course, but it isn’t an insignificant thing these days given current values. Also, with this example, beyond the engine being “stuck,” years ago the original intake manifold and carburetor were stolen and replaced with later versions. Finding a properly dated original 715 Holley carb these days isn’t like falling out of bed —and certainly isn’t nearly as inexpensive.

The lesson: But let’s get on to what we can learn here. It involves some arithmetic, so take out your pencils.

The new owner of this vehicle is already in it for more than $100 grand. I’d estimate a professional shop could easily spend 1500 to 2000 labor hours properly tearing it down, repairing the body, painting, and restoring all components. The national average for labor costs are around $100/hr. Add to that the parts needed (expensive ones if an NOS/original parts-only level is desired), mechanical work, and—if one is particular about how the rust is repaired— sourcing original sheetmetal from rust-free donor Mustangs, for example. (It isn’t uncommon to buy a $10–15k six-cylinder Mustang from the Southwest to carve up.)

In the end, unless the buyer does the work themselves, I see a $200k+ restoration to turn this into a concours-level car.

The current Hagerty Price Guide value for a concours-ready 1966 GT350 is $275,000. In the current market, I’ve seen exceptional numbers-matching cars with original drivetrains sell for the short-200s, and very high-level drivers with the same attributes sell for $150,000–$200,000.

Bottom line: The total investment in this particular GT350 will almost certainly exceed its market value. In fact, the money spent will likely be squarely in the range of what one might pay for a #2 condition “Carry-Over” 1966 GT350 (early ’66 cars were built using ’65 chassis and net a 35 percent premium today). It might even be in the $265k–$368k range a decent #3/#4 condition 1965 GT350—long the top dog of the Shelby Mustang world—would sell for.

There is something in all of us who love old cars that wants to save the ones we deem worthy.

Yet the finished project, no matter how perfect, will be known to many as a car that started out needing significant metalwork. The photos will live forever on the Internet and with SAAC. The original VIN tag will never be again attached to the car.

Don’t get me wrong: I can appreciate that somebody fell in love with this GT350 and wants to save it. I have done the same thing many, many times.

So, in no way am I saying a bad decision was made in this sale. A neat old GT350 was put up for public auction, and multiple bidders pushed it to the final result, meaning multiple people thought it was worth the price it brought. The cold logic I’ve laid out here can be applied to practically any project car, be it a derelict MGB or a musty Miura. Yet there is something in all of us who love old cars that just wants to save the ones we deem worthy.

The real lesson, then, is that one should consider the financial realities when embarking on a project like this but shouldn’t necessarily let the numbers win out over the heartstrings. I’m quite confident that was what happened here—somebody with the means and desire to save this GT350 put their hand up and embarked on a journey to do just that.

So, to the new owner of this Sapphire Blue 1966 GT350: Please share details on the restoration as you proceed. I, for one, appreciate your efforts to bring another piece of Shelby American history back to life.

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Comments

  • The Amazing Waldo says:

    I really appreciate your last comments to the new owner. Having spent a lot of money restoring cars that others deemed “not worth saving”, I take pride in the fact that I have saved several cars (a TR3, an MGA and a 57 T-bird are among the group). Sure, there are plenty of these still out there, but every time a car is lost to fire or crash, that is one more example lost to time. I restore cars, not for the economic gain, but because I enjoy working on them. Some people enjoy golf and spend a lot of time and money on that hobby with nothing to show at the end of the day but a piece of cardboard with pencil writing on it. I happen to enjoy golf too, although I can’t play as often (or as well) as I used to, but that is not the point. The point is, that we all make choices on the way we spend our time and money and there is no way to put a price on the enjoyment we get from doing the things we do. I recently bought an XJS convertible on Bring a Trailer, and I told the seller as we were taking it on a test drive, “I really think these will some day be the next XKE type of investment grade car, maybe in my lifetime and maybe not, but that is not why I bought it. I bought it just because I absolutely love these cars- love their looks, love to drive them-and I bought it because I wanted one! And it made me happy!

  • Hemi Joel says:

    Maybe the buyer plans to do the labor himself, and already has a donor body on hand.

  • OldFordMan says:

    They are only original once.

  • Terry Graves says:

    “I did it for the cars” -Memphis Raines

    I do this when I buy dilapidated cars. I see a project, a car that needs me and I visualize the end result. It’s out of love for the cars. Money is no object when I fall in love with a car. I paid $4k for a bucket of rust ‘70 Scout because I love Scouts and because the dream was worth it.

    I don’t think it’s a car we pay too much for, what we pay for is intangible. We buy a dream, a vision of ourselves cruising around in that vehicle.

    We, those of us who “pay too much” for a car, are purists. We are ones who don’t see them as investments to be bought and sold, but as something to drive and enjoy the feeling it gives us to build/fix it and finally sit behind the wheel.

    You and I, fellow Hagerty insured, we’re not in it for the money. We love cars. Plain and simple.

  • Rod says:

    We Want What We Want. Yes, some look at the cost and time of a restoration, others are true preservationists. I am very pleased that there are those who understand the cost of preservation. An original Shelby is certainly worthy of restoration. I know of many cars that have undergone an expensive restoration that are far less desirable in the collector car world. Saving another one is the passion that drives us!

  • Michael A Foster Sr says:

    My best friend of 45 years started a restoration on his 2 owner 1966 Martinique Bronze over Mission Beige GTO…..tho only one we know of and I’ve spent decades trying to find another that color combination
    Car is factory A/C, P/S, P/B, instrumentation and am/fm
    he started with $45,000 and I told him to at least double that as I knew he was not doing any of the work himself
    Final cost was between $110,000.00 and $120,000.00
    And the only real rust was left rear quarter that was properly straightened and repaired
    You don’t do these cars for profit
    You do them because you’re a car guy who can afford it

  • GARY BOEHNLEIN says:

    What the buyer of this car said after he won the auction: “For all of you guys wondering what was going through my mind at this auction. I have always wanted a 65 or 66 GT350 but was never satisfied with the quality of the cars that have been “restored” so I wanted to do one for myself. We have a restoration department that will restore this car as near to perfect as it can get. It will take several years but it will get done. Cost is no object. Would anyone object to how much it would cost to restore the Mona Lisa?” So he won’t be paying a shop to do it but doing it in his own shop.

  • Glen Gordon says:

    Sometimes it’s not just about the money.

  • Rob says:

    Too many of these articles/debates about ‘you’ll be in it over your head’ and ‘it’ll costt 200k to restore that car’ don’t take into account the small percentage of guys like me who have a basement/building full of 65-73 Mustang parts, a lifetime of working on these cars and tons of tools/welders and time put in learning to paint/weld. With all that and buying this car…100k investment. 20k in parts/paint (overestimated). A ton of ‘love of labor’ and this is a 150K car.
    We are out there!

  • Bill Nelson says:

    GARY BOEHNLEIN wrote “What the buyer of this car said after he won the auction: “For all of you guys wondering what was going through my mind at this auction. I have always wanted a 65 or 66 GT350…”
    Understood and I can relate – walking home from Inglewood High School in California in 1965 I saw a 1965 Shelby on the showroom floor of the local Ford dealer – my face was plastered against the glass! It was so “tough” looking! From then on I always wanted one. In 1999 I purchased my dream – a 1966 Shelby GT 350 Carryover. Many years later and many a late night – it is everything I thought it would be – To look at it, hear it, drive it, and enjoy it. So to the new owner – Welcome to the Shelby Enthusiasts Family and enjoy your dream!
    PS The author, Colin Comer, mentioned the Carryovers at the end of his article – for those interested, here is a link to the GT350 Carryover world:
    https://carryovergt350.com/
    Thanks Colin – nice job!

  • Rick McNamara says:

    A great article that really hit home for me. I can so relate to the article as the 66 GT-350 was the car for me from my late teens.😔
    I served an apprenticeship at GM in Pontiac during the 60’s and had started my GM career in a pit in Plt 8 assembly! My first new car was naturally a 67 Goat. One of many!
    While an apprentice, I passed a guy driving a 66 Shelby, Blue with white stripes, on my way to work every day. It had the look!
    Fast forward to 2010 and I had sold my 32 Ford 5 window back to the son of the man I bought it from in 1977. So I was looking for one last car!
    I saw a really beautiful looking 66 GT-350H clone on ebay! Highland Green with gold stripes, originally an A code GT and California car all it’s life-even won a Shelby/Cobra show in 2000. I bought it no inspection-it looked perfect from 5 feet, and had it shipped back to Michigan.
    The list of sins is long and in summary, I have never driven the car! So, after 10 years of working on it while also trying to build guitars, I raised the white flag.
    This time last year I started looking for a shop here in Michigan to finish it up. At 73 my days of full blown restoration were behind me I thought!
    I checked out 3 different shops. The one I sent the car to said yes, yes and then did what they wanted to do. They started by taking the car down to a body shell and cutting all the floor and trunk out! Doing things their way, not as had been agreed to by all parties!
    Shop#2 repaired the mess of Shop #1, but in doing, so created another one. They installed the floor and front torque boxes in a manner not even close to Ford assembly documents. This from a shop that only works on Mustangs-hmmm!
    So, now I’m at $75k in car, parts and labor and waiting for settlement from the State of Michigan on my case against Shop #2! The car still in pieces and still needing repair from the work of Shop#2!
    So my point is, it really isn’t the money, as “Glenn” commented, or if you can handle all the work like “Rob” commented, but finding someone who can actually do as they say when you entrust them with turning your dream purchase into the car you thought it would/could be.

  • Mike Sampson says:

    Ya know I read many comments on various articles within the Hagerty website and magazine and I must say while I agree generally speaking on many of the things said by readers I get pretty tired of the overriding sentiments regarding peoples reactions to articles such as this one. First off let me explain why; I feel that Hagerty by and large pushes the “restored to concourse condition” narrative far too much. They show and discuss their “Bull Market” types of vehicles at the expense of the “average mans” abilities to pay for and rebuild (NOT RESTORE) vehicles of all types and conditions. The readers then try to respond about how they or someone they know had this or that experience revolving around the “restoration” of some high dollar car that 95% of the readers of your publication couldn’t ever afford or have any relationship with! Those that typically respond are obviously in the top 10% of income categories or are less than truthful in their comments about such projects.
    In reality the vast majority of the Hagerty Insurance customers and those that pay for and read their articles both have no chance to own such a vehicle nor really care about them because they have cars that maybe approach values of $25,000 to $40,000 at best; even if their rides are pristine examples of old cars but not of “collector” quality but simply nice drivers. I would surmise that the largest majority of the Hagerty Insurance customers (while appreciative of cars like the 1966 Shelby ) will likely never be anywhere near able to afford or even ride in a car like that so maybe its time to entertain more articles aimed at the real collector car markets; ya know cars like Le mans, Firebirds, early Cudas and other Mopars, early Fairlanes and Falcons etc. Enough of the same old same old Chevells, Cameros, Mustangs etc. not to mention $200,000 and up “rich guy” toys like this article talks about. Just one readers opinion for what its worth but at the price of this website and the magazine there are a lot of more “ordinary” old car guys out there to address in these types of conversations.

  • Colin Comer says:

    Hi Mike,

    I appreciate your thoughtful comment and agree the large majority of us aren’t looking to have concours perfect cars but rather cars we simply love and enjoy using. I know I am! So just to clarify we here at Hagerty don’t push the “it has to be worth a bazillion bucks and be Pebble Beach perfect” by any means. Rather when I in particular write something like this article it is simply to provoke thought from anybody thinking about buying a car that needs a restoration and applying the same logic. Wether it be a $5k car or a $500k car. And as we know the less the car is worth the quicker we can be “over our skis” so to speak on restoration expense vs what the car might be worth when we’re done. And yes, I know, some of us never sell but every once in a while it does happen.

    Plus the other points I was trying to spur thought on were ones such as if you replace every piece of metal, a complete interior, and add a whole slew of reproduction parts to any car is that what you want in the end? Is it as good as cleaning up a rust-free car into something you can use and enjoy and not be forced to do a hard core restoration just to use it?

    So, again, anybody reading this can apply it to a 1971 Mustang or a 1969 Javelin or a 1974 LeMans etc. And while we appreciate perfect concours cars as much as anybody if you peeked into Hagerty employees garages I think you’d see we’re a lot more alike than you would suspect! We all share the same love of old cars of all types and values but more than anything else we love using them not sitting next to them on a concours lawn. Oh, and Bull Market? Same thing- simply there to provoke thought across a wide range of vehicles. This year there were sub-$20k cars all the way to over $500k.

    Thanks again for the comment, keep ’em coming!

    Colin

  • Joe Chew says:

    Ho Colin,

    Very nice and informative article. I have a carryover 66 GT350 and have several questions concerning restoring this vehicle. Reading the comments by Mr. Bill Nelson and learning that he also owns and restored a carryover, is there any way that I can contact him to ask what he needed to do to restore his carryover?

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