The 1965 and 1966 GT350s were the very first Shelby Mustangs. They’re also the purest, the raciest and, on the classic car market, the most expensive. The condition #2 (Excellent) value for a ’66 GT350 fastback in the Hagerty Price Guide is $285,000, so when a real-deal restored car with classic Shelby colors and several special features sold on AutoHunter this week for $217,000, we got curious. Like many high-tier classics that sell for bargain money, there are some asterisks in its history, including a theft. If we take the pros and cons into account, though, was it a good deal?
Thanks to the Cobra, Shelby was already a big name in American performance by 1965, which is when he turned his attention to the all-new Mustang. In turning Ford’s breakout hit pony car into a track weapon, Shelby took the tried and true 289-cid V-8 and massaged it with an aluminum high-rise intake manifold, headers, and more for a bump to 306 horsepower compared to 271 in the hottest of Ford’s offerings. Rear seats were replaced with a fiberglass shelf and all GT350s got a fiberglass hood, while braking and suspension upgrades gave the Shelby ‘Stang all-round performance. An even hotter “R” version of the GT350 won the SCCA B-Production championship three years on the trot. A total of 562 1965 cars were built, and buyers could get any color they wanted as long as it was Wimbledon White.
For 1966, the most obvious changes were the addition of more colors and rear quarter windows in place of the ’65’s extractor vents. But the 1966 cars are also decidedly less racy. The over-rider traction bars went away, a regular back seat arrived on the options list, and rear-exit exhausts replaced the sexy side pipes. Nearly 1400 were sold. The trend then continued on from there, with 1967 and later GT350s getting even less sporty: think less Shelby and more Ford. The original ’65s are therefore the ones to have, but there were also 252 Shelby Mustangs built for 1966 that the Shelby community labels “Carryover” cars – something of a cross between ’65 and ’66.
Which brings us to this ’66 Shelby, SFM6S006. It’s the sixth 1966 GT350 built and one of those “Carryover” cars, which means it has desirable features from the ’65 model like lowered front control arms, rear over-rider traction bars, ’65 interior appointments, and a gloss black engine block (’66 blocks were painted blue). It was fully restored by a Shelby specialist in the late 2000s and, by the photos at least, looks like a beautiful and correct car.
In addition to the $285K condition #2 value, the Hagerty Price Guide also tacks on a 35% premium for 1966 Carryover cars. Even ignoring the premium, though, this GT350 sold for about 28% under #2 value at a $207,000 hammer bid, or $217,000 final price. The seller, Barret-Jackson (who has a relationship with online auction company AutoHunter), also had it listed for a not much higher $245,000 on Hemmings. The delta between its Price Guide value and sale price is largely due to misfortune early in this car's life. 57 years ago, the still unsold Mustang was stolen, stripped, recovered, and bought back by the original Ohio Ford dealer. According to Barrett-Jackson, it then went through five owners before its restoration in the 2000s and subsequent sale to a Shelby enthusiast in Denmark.
How much of the car was "stripped" in period isn't really clear, but it was a lot. The restoration involved replacing much of the front of the body as well as the drivetrain. It also rides on the optional Shelby/Cragar wheels rather than the steelies it originally came with, and wears blue Le Mans stripes instead of its original all-white. So while it all looks clean and correct, much of this car isn't what rolled out of Shelby American in late 1965.
Replacement drivetrains and rebodies are of course a knock to values. So is a theft on the record. But lots of cars that are half a century old have accumulated their own stories. Age, use, and abuse can result in a replacement engine. Rust or accident damage can require body work. This stuff happens. So for someone looking for a genuine GT350 who wants to use it, enjoy it and casually show it, but isn't into sweating all the details, this car came at a serious discount.