I should give an introduction, I suppose. This is a 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350-R. Roughly 35-36 of these were made and were designed as purpose-built race cars.
What makes this particular Shelby so special and valuable is that it's Gt350 #3, the first one sold to the public.
The car was first sold to a race team that ran the car, and ran it hard, through the circuit for the first years. During that time it was painted blue with yellow stripes, for that teams' racing colors.
The owner's story began one evening in 1974 when he first saw his R Model in a garage at an east Wichita home. It sat on jack stands, and he had to pull it home with a tow chain. He was told that it belonged to a young man who was going off to college. At the time, the $3,000 that Hilbert paid was "high-dollar," he says. The original bill of sale says it cost just over $6,000 new.
After getting the car back on it's legs, he then raced it unprofessionally for many years. It wasn't until the dawn of Windows95 that a man walked up to the owner and exclaimed a strange set of words, "Do you know what that's worth."
Well, the owner didn't. And after 6 hours and one Google search later, he quit racing the car competitively. Smart move.
Now here's where the story gets interesting. One of the pictures is labeled 1984 Texas Challenge Vintage Race. Behind is the owner is his GT350R and up front is Carroll Shelby himself in an AC Cobra. At Hallett Motor Speedway, the two were racing, ball-to-the-wall of course, coming down the final straight against a number of 911s and a couple of Stratos recreations.
Coming down the final straight with the tach pegged at 8k RPM, the aluminum flywheel fitting to GT350R's changed it's mind about being a solid. The flywheel disintegrated into many small molten hot pieces looking for their hot ticket out of the car. Luckily, the non-aluminum bell housing fitted to those cars kept the parts from coming straight upward, severing on the owner's feet. Instead, the parts went through a small hole they created behind the air cleaner, roughly the size of your average iPhone.
In the video footage of that day's race and festivities, there are three only three frames of film that capture the explosion. The first frame shows a normal race car pedaling hard. The second, shows a large flashbang that covers most all of the car, with only the wheels being noticeable because they are off the ground. And the final frame, shows a normal race car pedaling hard, but with no power.
As some of you may suspect, when something shoots out from under the hood of your race car, a couple lines may get severed. You'd be right. The pieces of disintegrated flywheel cut ties to the electrical, gas, and brake lines.
The owner then found himself in a slightly sticky situation. He was traveling at roughly over 130 MPH with no power and no brakes, headed towards a curve and a wall. Luckily, the owner is no amateur street racer. He did the only that could be done at that time, which is to throw it into a low gear, spin out, and hopefully eat out enough track before any damage occurred.
After colliding with a barrier wall at about 10 MPH, he had some broken fiberglass and a pair of underwear that needed changing. After that, the car was limped to the trailer, taken back to Kansas, and the rebuild began.
One thing that should be noted is that 1984 was not the time of full-faced proper helmets and safety equipment. 1984 was still that time of the open-faced helmet. When the flywheel on the GT350R disintegrated, a still spritely Carroll Shelby was still coming from behind with increasing speed. After the flywheel made it ascent towards heaven, the wind took the molten pieces and shot them backwards. One particular piece, quite angry about it's current predicament, made a B-line straight for Carroll, and struck him in the face.
Luckily, a word I seem to have used a lot in the article, the piece only left Carroll with a particularly long cut on his face, and nothing more. He walked right out of the car without even the slightest grimace of pain.
Like most sane people, the owner decided to stop racing his million dollar Shelby competitively, as to keep some of car in one piece for the years to come.
Now here's where I come in. I sat in it.
I didn't drive it, of course, because 1) No sane man would let a 20-year-old drive their retirement fund and 2) It's not street legal. While everybody else drove right into the building for the show display, (myself included, in someone else's SL63 AMG, since nobody was asking) he had to trailer the car all the way into the building. It's a shame you can't hoon one of these against Yolo McSwagster in his Prelude.
It isn't really what you'd expect a crazy expensive car would feel like. And quite frankly, that's because it wasn't a crazy expensive car when it was released in 1965. Sure, it wasn't cheap, but it was only about the price of a GT3 Porcshe today. The delightful magic of Barrett-Jackson mania and appreciation skyrocketed this cars value into the stars. And also, keep in mind this is a stripped-out full-fledged race car, so it's not luxurious. It's about as well equipped as a Turkish prison. (Clarkson)
It's a straight business machine. You sit cocooned in a tiny vintage racing seat, staring at the face of a 10k tach, and you have a shifter. That's it. Everything's old, the panels are all scuffed from years of proper use, and there's dents everywhere. But somewhere in that nostalgia, it's just so much better that way. I've sat in many different rotisserie-restored muscle cars, and they just never feel anywhere as good as original ones do. It felt alive; antiquated, but alive.
1984 wasn't the only time that Carroll Shelby would cross paths with this creation of his. In 2010, at a Shelby Meet also hosted at Hallett Motor Speedway, outside Tulsa, Carroll and the men who built the R-cars showed up as honored guests of the event. The crew who built the R even climbed through it and pointed out different places that they had left marks and personal insignias on the car. It was a very nostalgic moment for all involved. They finished by having one of the crew sign underneath the trunk lid.
Lastly, before leaving, Carroll Shelby walked up to the owner and very sternly said, "Don't ever restore it."