Jim Smart
March 1, 2000
Photos By: Tom Rounds

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P91350_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Shelby_Fastback Front_Driver_SideP91352_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Shelby_Fastback Rear_Passenger_SideP91353_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Shelby_Fastback EngineP91354_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Shelby_Fastback WheelP91356_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Shelby_Fastback InteriorP91365_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Shelby_Fastback Driver_Side

It was a long time ago, but once upon a time you could walk up to a Hertz Rent-A-Car counter and drive out with 306 hp strapped to your bottom. The Hertz Sports Car Club had a nationwide fleet of '66 Shelby GT350H-model Mustang fastbacks available for the most discriminating car renter. If you're like most of us, you've heard all the stories about those Shelby rent-a-racers: weekend racers, borrowed engines and drivelines--you name it. Few of these rental rockets were returned to Hertz the way they left.

James and Nancy Williams of Virginia own a piece of Hertz history in this Raven Black '66 Shelby GT350H fastback. We say a piece of Hertz history because this ride has made the rounds in its 35-year life--New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and three different owners in Virginia alone. The Williamses found it in Charlottesville, Virginia. Believe it or not, actual mileage is 81,560. The condition when they found it was darned good, considering its age.

James tackled a full-scale restoration back in 1996, beginning with Larry Moore and Barney Joy at DMJ Automotive in Rustburg, Virginia. These gentlemen massaged the rusty body and brought a sleeping collectible back to life. James handled the engine, driveline, and other mechanicals--detailing every bit of it to perfection. Mechanicals include Ford's snappy 289 High Performance V-8 fitted with Cobra induction for 306 hp at 6,000 rpm. Behind the Hi-Po is the venerable C4 Cruise-O-Matic transmission tied to 3.55 gears encased in a 9-inch housing. Goodyear Wingfoot HP radials keep the Pony glued to the firmament during aggressive motoring moments.

We're convinced that Mustang Club of America show judges like his work, too. James and Nancy have taken home several awards from prestigious MCA addresses, including Best Paint at the '98 MCA Grand National, Gold Award at the '99 35th Anniversary Celebration in Charlotte, and even an award from the Mustang Club of Sweden that apparently loved the car.

The beauty of a ride such as this is the driving experience. Because it is '60s technology with solid lifters, a big steering wheel, baby buckets, and a minimum of sound deadening, it's all Mustang--bad to the bone from the moment you spin the starter. Slip the C4 into Drive, mash the gas, and behold the sound and feel of raw Ford small-block performance. There's no fuel injection beneath this bonnet, nor some microchipped data processor determining this beasty's pulse rate--no way. Fuel and air are metered through a 715-cfm Holley quad-throat with center-pivot bowls and a whole lot of spirit. A dual-point Autolite ignition fires the plugs and the mixture. The 289 High Performance V-8 is an exciting mill because it will deliver a 6,000-rpm scream amidst the clatter of 16 rocker arms hammering out a beat. At your backside is 312 lb-ft of torque, which is where the real meat is in engine power output. It's enough "poop" to spank the most aggressive of factory 5.0L Mustangs.

When it's time for braking and a spin back into the driveway, James takes comfort in knowing what he and Nancy have going for them, because sometimes all that is gold is black--and has an abundance of Carroll Shelby's spirit in a ride that will always be in style.