Randy Gillis' '66 Hertz Shelby
You wouldn't know it these days, but there was a time when Shelby Mustangs and racing were as natural a pairing as peanut butter and jelly. Arguably, the most impressive victories were those scored by GT350s on the way to SCCA B-production championships from 1965 to 1967, but countless other wins were racked up at numerous road races, dragstrips, and the mean streets of Anytown, USA. Simply put, Shelby Mustangs were meant to go fast, and the typical owner was happy to oblige.
Alas, times have changed, and precious few Shelby American ponycars find the track their calling anymore. A handful of brave souls, however, do soldier on in road-race GT350s, but far fewer seem to run hard on the dragstrip. How hard is hard? Well, in the case of Randy Gillis and his '66 GT350H, the answer is an all-time best of 10.75 at 126 mph. The current combination is a bit off that pace with 11.15 at 121, but when you consider that the car is running a normally aspirated 331, the feat is still plenty impressive. To be clear, Randy's car is no clone, rather it's a legit result of the Shelby American/Hertz Corporation rental deal of 1966.
As a quick refresher, Hertz offered a smattering of high-performance/sporty rental cars to qualified clients beginning in the late 1950s, through what was known as the Hertz Sports Car Club. Fresh off a successful '65 debut year with the hot GT350, the new super Mustang seemed the perfect fit for the program, and Shelby American managed to ink a deal with Hertz for 1,000 GT350s that would be labeled GT350Hs. Most people immediately think of the Hertz cars as black with gold stripes, and it's true that the majority were built in this color scheme. However, there were a small number of '66 GT350Hs that were available in other colors such as red, white, blue, and green. Again, these cars were trimmed in the Hertz signature gold stripes. So where does that leave Gillis and his white and blue GT350H?
The Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) Registry recounts that in the early days of the Shelby/Hertz project, it was determined that a small number of white and blue units would be pulled from the regular GT350 production line, in order to get more cars into rental circulation as Hertz production was still ramping up. Records are a bit unclear, but it is believed that 18 or 20 such white and blue cars were delivered to Hertz after being fitted with an H designation in the rocker stripe, and other Hertz specific items. Shelby documents show Gillis' car was delivered on January 28, 1966, amongst the early waves of GT350Hs to make it into the rental fleet.
Randy bought this particular car, 6S477, way back in 1974. Would you believe he paid the whopping sum of $1,000? Randy explained, "I had been racing a four-speed '66 GT350 for a few years, and the car had become fast enough that it was breaking drivetrain parts-axles, driveshafts, U-joints, and the like. I decided to look for an automatic GT350, and checked out several dozen before I found this one. At the time, I had no idea it was a Hertz car because the H had been removed and a small stripe splice was in its place. I happened to lift the trunk mat one day and found the remains of the Hertz maintenance records underneath, and that's when I started to put it all together."
So with the story of the handful of white/blue Hertz cars now told, we move on to recount the meat and potatoes of this quarter-mile warrior. Within weeks of its purchase, some 36 years ago, 6S477 was on the track, where it's been consistently run ever since. Before it closed in the early '80s, Orange County International Raceway was Randy's home track, as seen here in the accompanying photo (opening spread) from 1975. By this time, the car had been painted dark blue, it was running mid-11s with Boss 302 power.