Jerry Heasley
October 7, 2015

Most of the time, 1965 G.T. 350 clones are copies of the street G.T. 350 with an R-model bumper added, but those clones aren’t even close to a real R-model—modifying a 1965 fastback into a G.T. 350 “Competition” (Shelby American’s original catalogued name for an R-model) is no quick fix. What is the legacy? The 1965 G.T. 350 R-model was turnkey ready on the showroom floor to go out and win in SCCA B-production road racing, but that didn’t stop racers from modifying them to their liking for even more dominance on the track, meaning that there are very few R-models that have been left in 100 percent as-delivered-to-the-showroom condition.

Brandon Badel’s intent with his R-model clone was to go for the “Day One” build, meaning as Shelby American delivered the cars brand new to Ford dealerships, and started gathering parts for the build 29 years ago. It started with a real R-model that he saw at a show. Brandon was all over the car, taking 60 pictures of it to get his clone as close to Day One reality as possible. As he gathered parts and the years rolled by, Brandon eyeballed and photographed as many original R-models as he could find. The problem was, most R-models have been raced and modified through the years, so their original “Day One” formula today is very clouded.

Of course, racing history trumps a non-racing history with these R-models—racing history makes an R-model more valuable so there is no incentive for owners of racing R-models to return their rides to Day One delivery status. This is why Badel was “kind of disappointed” as he studied R-models. He was having a hard time finding a “time capsule kind of car.”

In 1965, Shelby American encouraged Mustang owners to build their own race cars using the G.T. 350 as a guide. This way, Ford and Shelby sold parts. Brandon Badel went the ultimate route and modeled his Mustang build after the 1965 Mustang G.T. 350 Competition, known today as the R-model.
The 1965 is the ultimate year for the Shelby Mustang, as this profile suggests.
To save weight, Shelby-American pulled the rear bumper and created a look that hot rodders love. An obvious owner preference is also the tow hook on the driver side rear.

“The Harris Connor G.T. 350R was considered to be the least-raced, most original car,” Badel said. He tracked down this original (now owned by Irwin Kroiz) at Bob Perkins’ shop in Wisconsin. Perkins labeled this Shelby, “The best R-model on the planet, period, with original paint before restoration, a great car, the only one with all virgin sheet metal.” Apparently, floorpans are a big deal on an R-model because these cars have no carpet. One of the first parts Badel bought was a set of those weight-reducing Plexiglas side windows with aluminum frames, saying that he got the last set made. “You can buy reproductions of those today, but they are not made like they were originally.” Apparently, Badel got the side windows from the same manufacturer that made them for Shelby American.

The list of changes Shelby American made for their R-model is long and costly, such as the magnesium bolt-on wheels, the flame-resistant interior, and the plastic rear window with that little opening for air, one of the most intriguing features to Badel. Content that he had the parts necessary for his Day One G.T. 350R clone, Badel finally started the build a couple of years ago. He supplied the fastback and the money and his longtime friend Jim Woods “ran around learning all the details to get the car right.” Mike Pullian at Mike’s Restoration in the little town of Royston, Georgia, did the physical work.

R-model is a term that SAAC (Shelby American Automobile Club) came up with to describe the racing version of the G.T. 350 of 1965. At shows, Badel’s Day One clone is a winner, and he also races the car at track events.
The interior is full race, which translates to a plethora of weight saving features, including no radio, no heating system, no rear seats, no underlayment or carpet (just a bare floor), no glovebox, no headliner, no insulation, or sound deadening.
The 289 Hi-Po engine looks just like a stock R-model, but has stronger internals and subtle, invisible modifications.

Almost three decades later, Badel showed the car for the first time at the MCA show in Savannah in October of 2014, and we got to see the car at the All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in June of 2015 where it really stood out. Our first thought was, “Is this car a real R-model? Why the number 61 on the side?” Badel answered, “That was the number on my football jersey,” and the B stands for B-Production. Then when we heard about the Day One objective, we wanted to know how close to it Badel got.

“We had to make a few decisions along the way,” he said, “decisions between building a track car and a totally correct replica.” For you see, Badel likes to drive and not just show his Mustang, so if a component was easily changed, they opted on the side of performance. For example, the dual point distributor might look stock, but a hidden MSD box pumps up the spark. And on the suspension, yes they went with over-ride traction bars and over-sized drum brakes per stock, as well as Koni shocks and the limiting loop to keep the axle from dropping too far, but they used aftermarket control arms up front. In regards to the engine Badel said, “We modernized the internals of the engine [still a 289 Hi-Po like Shelby used] to make it more bulletproof.”

The car looks like a brand-new Day One Shelby R-model, but racers just can’t resist improving a little here and a little there. Regardless, we have not seen a 1965 Mustang G.T. 350 Competition clone that looked so close to Shelby American’s Day One build of this iconic turnkey race car.

Badel found an accurate rear Plexiglas backlite that features the opening between the roof and the glass. These aluminum blocks, secured with two rivets, help hold the back window in place at high speed.
Being bare, the floorpan has to be mint.
Even the street G.T. 350 of 1965 came with a trunk-mounted battery. The R-model came with a quick-fill provision for the gas tank, seen here with a fuel cell inside for safety.
The hood stripes are painted, not decals. The fiberglass hood scoop is functional.
No one would know just by looking, but the four-speed transmission is an aluminum Top Loader, instead of the stock Borg-Warner T-10, which was deemed too expensive and too fragile.
Next to the ignition switch is the cigarette lighter opening, which has been blocked with a delete plate, another weight-saving measure.

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Pull straps move the Plexiglas side windows up and down.
Shelby-American pounded out wheelwells for tire clearance.
A plastic rear shelf replaced the heavy fold-down rear seats.
Gauges come from Tony Branda.
A fire extinguisher (from General) was de rigueur on an R-model, mounted on the transmission tunnel hump between the bucket seats.
“We don’t need no stinking glovebox” to save weight was a no-brainer for Shelby American.
The radio block-off plate actually added weight after removing the AM radio.
No stampings on the Shelby plate under the hood lend a look of authenticity “without attempting to pass the car off as other than what it is.”

1965 Mustang/Shelby G.T. 350 R-Model Replica
Covered air vents
R-Model front valance
Fiberglass hood with cold-air intake plenum and custom reliefs at Monte Carlo bar bolts
Painted rocker panel stripes (as done by Shelby)
Reshaped and rolled front wheel openings
Rolled rear wheelwells
American Racing Torq Thrust wheels (R-Model)
Goodyear Racing tires (R-Model)
Spare tire hold-down relocation
Plexiglas rear window (R-Model)
Sliding Plexiglas side windows
Shelby-style rollbar
R-Model instrument cluster
R-Model steering wheel
Custom removable side intrusion bars
Shelby race seat (driver side)
Heater delete
Radio delete
Cigarette lighter delete
Hidden MSD ignition box
Custom Hurst shifter with original-style 1965 shift handle
Custom fuel tank with hidden cell
R-Model electric fuel pump
Trunk-mounted battery
Trunklid retaining pin and lanyard
Engine Compartment
Oversize Galaxie radiator (as on original R-Models)
R-Model oil cooler
Export brace with cowl reinforcement (G.T. 350 style)
Monte Carlo bar
331ci race engine, 12.5:1 CR with the following external details:
Aviad aluminum oil pan (R-Model style)
R-Model valve covers
Shelby Hi-Rise intake manifold
Holley double pumper carb disguised as Shelby Le Mans carb
Tri-Y headers and side exit exhaust
Replica dual-point distributor
Correctly detailed alternator with oversize pulley (K-code/Shelby)
Override traction bars and covers
Trimmed/modified rear axle bumper mounts
Oversize 10x2.5 Fairlane station wagon rear drum brakes (R-Model)
Aluminum Top Loader transmission
Subframe connectors
Driveshaft Loop
Stiffened and lowered rear springs
Axle travel-limiting cables
Front brake cooling ducts
Aluminum driveshaft, detailed to appear to be steel
Shock absorbers detailed as 1965 Koni shocks (G.T. 350)
Street or track front suspension including:
Adjustable strut rods
Adjustable upper and lower control arms
Roller bearing spring perches
Aluminum brake calipers
Drilled brake rotors
1970 drum brake spindles
Stiffened and lowered coil springs
Oversize sway bar