Jerry Heasley
July 12, 2016

All Steve McDonald had to do was come up with $1,000 by Friday to own this black-and-gold 1966 Shelby G.T. 350H. The odometer showed 40,000-odd miles, and the body had in McDonald’s words “a lot of door dings and chips. It also needed a front valance and bumper due to a minor fender-bender.”

Of course there was a catch: The $1,000 price tag dates back to December 1971. Two years out of high school, McDonald had been working as a technician at Bert Spriggs Lincoln-Mercury in Annapolis, Maryland. “I used to see this Shelby at the drag races,” he said. “We had a Mustang that we begun to either modify or destroy—it depends on who you ask—for E/Modified Production. The owner of the Shelby ran a Mustang in B/Gas, and he used this car to tow it back to the pits.”

McDonald harbored a secret desire to buy the Shelby, but the car just wasn’t for sale. One day, though, he learned the owner’s wife was pregnant and the family was looking to purchase a four-door sedan. “They were going to trade the Shelby for a Mercury Monterey station wagon,” McDonald recalled.

McDonald believes his “Rent-A-Racer,” which is how Hertz advertised this Shelby, was delivered in March of 1966 to Koons Ford in Falls Church, Virginia, for use as a rental at National Airport in Virginia. The car came out of service after about a year, and turned up on Ford dealer’s lot in Annapolis, Maryland, where it sold for $2,500.
Company Hertz colors for 1966 are black and gold, and thus, the Raven Black acrylic enamel paint with Gold Le Mans stripes. However, Hertz cars also came in Wimbledon White, Sapphire Blue, Ivy Green, and Candy Apple Red, of course with gold stripes.
Hood lock pins did not come with attached wires on the Hertz model.

The Shelby’s trade-in allowance was $850 right there at Bert Spriggs Lincoln-Mercury. That’s when McDonald got in the middle of the deal with visions of Shelby ownership coloring his bland car world. All he had to do was come up with a grand.

Apparently during the early ’70s a Shelby was not a particularly hot item—at least not an ex-rental Shelby with an automatic transmission. McDonald recalls everybody, at least in his drag-racing circle, wanting four-speed transmissions in their performance cars. Luckily, the owner of Bert Spriggs Lincoln-Mercury was a good friend of the president of a local bank, so McDonald stepped into the bank president’s office and received a primer on how a borrower needed established credit to borrow money.

“I didn’t have any established credit.”

Customers could rent a Shelby H model for $17 a day and 17 cents per mile. McDonald still drives his G.T. 350H regularly, and thus, the modern tires. No Goodyear Bluestreaks here. Wheel center caps feature unique Hertz Sports Car Club logo.
Under the hood is a 289 “Hi-Po,” short for High-Performance, rated at 306 horsepower.
If anything, the rental car history has improved the collectability of the Hertz Shelbys, maybe because the story is so fun to tell.

However, McDonald got the loan because both his boss and the bank president thought a Shelby Mustang was a very good investment. In fact, the bank president was so high on the Shelby that he personally guaranteed the $1,000.

“Every month, I cashed my paycheck and paid my $98 car payment. After 12 months, the car was mine.”

The Shelby was McDonald’s dream car come true. Right away, he fixed the frontend body damage and started driving the car every single day—in the snow, in the rain, summer, and winter, no matter the weather. McDonald even slept in the car sometimes during trips. He recalls camping next to his trusty steed, and hauling on occasion four to five people “when we were younger and dumber.” Over the years, he counts crossing the country three times, including two trips to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Small wonder the stock 289 Hi-Po failed from a broken piston skirt.

Steve McDonald says his Hertz “sleeps two people rather uncomfortably,” a testament to his many years of driving this car. The odometer has passed 227,000.
Believe it or not, McDonald subjected this poor G.T. 350H to the corrosive salt of the Bonneville Salt Flats during the early ’70s. The car was driven there twice and across the country three times.
The Shelby was also called into duty to haul McDonald’s hang glider. He said, “We used to hang glide in the early ’70s, and we would attach it to the roof racks and drive to meets. We also had kayaks on the racks at times.”

McDonald’s friend, David, worked in the Bert Spriggs parts department and was amused to find the 289 Hi-Po short-block was still available from Ford. During the rebuild, McDonald went with hardened valve seats, but overall, the Hi-Po remains stock with original heads, intake, carburetor, valve covers, fuel pump, oil pan, exhaust manifolds, and more.

McDonald and his wife Dorrie were driving the G.T. 350H when we met them at the 2016 All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle. Transmission fluid was leaking onto the pavement during our photo shoot, but the pair seemed undeterred. They have no plans to sell or trade. They have no baby on the way. The Hertz is their baby.

This is what the Shelby looked like prior to the restoration that was started in 1996. According to McDonald, “All the work except the paint, seat covering, and headliner were done by me and a friend. Paint was done by my brother-in-law for $1,100. The engine was sent to a machine shop to be balanced and hardened valve seats installed.”
“I had collected parts while working at the dealership,” McDonald says. “Back then, the padded dash was $12, fender $29, quarters $125, and so on.”

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The first 85 G.T. 350H Shelbys in 1966 came with four-speed manual transmissions, but Hertz saw the evil that customers could do with this combination and the remainder of the cars were automatics, as seen here.

NOTE: Did anybody ever rent a G.T. 350H back in the ’60s and in some way race, steal parts from, or borrow an engine for an afternoon, or in any way abuse your rental? Or do you just have an interesting story to tell? If so, please contact jerryheasley@gmail.com.