Jerry Titus
December 18, 2013
Photos By: Source Interlink Media Archives

About the only item not finalized at test time was the configuration of the intake scoop on the hood. It will be a reversed scoop that draws high-pressure air from forward of the windshield. Just how big and how far back it will be is what's yet to be decided. (Editor's note: The scoop was eventually forward facing). Attention to the interior is elaborate. To assure proper ventilation on the racing machine, air is drawn in through the small grille just below the windshield, through the plenum chamber normally used for the heater. To get it out of the car, the rear window is heated and allowed to droop down above the transverse centerline. Thus it leaves a two-inch gap at the top, right where the boundary air coming over the roof will draw it out, cutting drag and reducing turbulence in the process.

While a centrally-mounted tachometer is the only addition to the street model's dash, the race version gets a complete panel of new and business-like instruments. In addition to the bucket seats, this model also comes equipped with a roll bar, seat belts, and shoulder harness. Again, the street car has the production bucket seats and the majority of trim intact. It does, however, have the rear seating blanked off and the spare tire mounted atop it.

Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant, and this writer took the prototype race car to Willow, combining a six-hour, "let's see what breaks" run with our test. For the type of car, Willow is one of the least advantageous circuits. If it looked good here, it would almost anywhere. Miles suited up and proceeded to tour around holding a roughly 6,000 rpm redline to get time on a fresh engine. Except in a tight, uphill switchback, the car looked to be every inch a thoroughbred. It tended to tail-wag in that particular segment, but so do the vast majority of cars. What really impressed us was that Ken was soon turning 1:40s—faster than the existing A-Production times with the exception of the team Cobras. He handed over to us and we were turning 1:41s within four laps. We were impressed, and plenty. While the optioned production Mustang is a very strong understeerer, the Shelby car very lightly understeers and is quite easy to bring to dead neutral or even to a slight oversteer. Except for braking in a turn, it is an embarrassingly simple car to drive at competitive speeds. Under full power, it uses quite a bit of road—a real drifter—but gets a surprising amount of bite when cornered in a neutral or closed-throttle attitude. The brakes work great in a straight line, but the tail-end is very sensitive if you try the same thing with the wheel turned. The ride is impressively soft, probably much of this is due to the large tire cross-section, and the car negotiates rough surfaces with a minimum of skitterishness that would do credit to a very sophisticated racing machine. Only in the last few "tenths" does the car take some getting used to. Still holding the revs down but using everything else, Miles clipped a 1:39.9 before we left. The run terminated about the fifth hour when an ominous howl developed in the rear end; the differential bolts had loosened, something a simple lock-tab arrangement will eliminate.

The Shelby American Mustang G.T. 350 has a bright future. It is really a fun race car and should prove equally enjoyable in street form. Class B-Production should be swamped by it and any stragglers in A-P will be quickly gobbled up. Due to frontal area, it is doubtful that the Mustang will have as high a top speed as some of its competition—especially in FIA racing—but it's far from wanting in the acceleration department. If they can hold the price down to their target, Shelby will sell a bunch.

Postscript: Within weeks of this test, on February 14, 1965, Ken Miles drove SFM5R002 to its first victory at Green Valley, Texas. The car is currently owned by Shelby collector John Atzbach and is undergoing a restoration by John Brown at Thoroughbred Restorations. Atzbach plans to debut the freshly restored car during the Mustang's 50th anniversary next year.