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.
Randy figures to have logged at least 3,000 passes behind the wheel to date, which surely qualifies as one of the most raced Shelbys on the planet. On the other hand, a show car this isn't, as you don't have to look far to spot heavy patina in places. The engine compartment is purely functional for example, and yet that's part of the magic for this '66, which still wore original paint when Randy scored it so many years ago.
So what's the recipe for running quick with a naturally aspirated short-deck Windsor-Shelby or not? Again, keep in mind that Randy's ride is no street machine, despite a near stock appearance. In this case, much of the performance is rooted in track-only features like 5.29:1 gearing, a 5,500-rpm stall speed, and a big solid-roller camshaft. Likewise it takes a sticky slick to hook hard enough to lift the wheels and run the number.
The suspension on Randy's Shelby is surprisingly simple and effective. Being a nostalgia guy, Randy is pretty keen on his 1965-dated Cure-Ride 90/10 front shocks, the same type used on Shelby American's factory GT350 drag cars (four in 1965, and four in 1966 according to the SAAC).
Randy's car doesn't wear them often, but '66 GT350Hs were originally fitted with chrome 14x6-inch Magnum 500s and raised white letter Goodyear Blue Streaks. Behind the front wheels are Ford experimental aluminum four-piston calipers with titanium pistons-just the trick for a hard running period drag car. Randy picked these up years ago from Doug Nash-the spoils of knowing the right guys!
The current engine formula is really quite simple, a testament to careful assembly, and years of trial and error. While the upcoming iteration will be aluminum Ford Racing Performance Parts-based, the current low-11-second beast is built around nothing more than a two-bolt, 289 Hi-Po block (the original is stowed away for safe keeping). A forged 3.25-inch Eagle crank helps build 331 cubes, while up top, owner-ported Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads with titanium valves flow plenty of air and fuel. Dual-quad induction comes from vintage Trans-Am pieces. The intake is from 1967, while the rare SK-tagged mechanical 720-cfm Holleys are from a year later.
We asked Randy if he thought he'd be faster with a modern, single four-barrel combination, to which he gave an unconcerned, "Hard to say" response. "I like the old nostalgia stuff, and have always been a two-4s kind of guy." Enough said. Randy still runs the original hollow lettered Cobra valve covers that came on 6S477, and amazingly they clear the Pro Power roller rockers. Hollow-lettered valve covers were used throughout 1965 and early 1966 GT350 production, after which they were replaced by the solid-lettered versions, which are commonly seen today.
Randy's penchant for racing is reassuring in a world where owners of many high-profile muscle cars are simply content to put a shine on their lustrous two-stage paintjobs. We don't mean to knock that sort too hard, but c'mon, winging an 8,000-rpm small-block in competition beats the show-n-shine thing any day! Give Randy a big thumbs up for bucking the status quo, and staying true to 36 years of unabashed performance cred. Better still, Randy has no plans to change course with his Shelby-that is other than installing a new all-aluminum 374-incher, which is expected to yield low 10s and new personal bests. To that, we say more power to ya brother-in more ways than one!
Randy Gillis' '66 Hertz Shelby
- Hi-Po 289-based 331ci stroker
- 4.030-inch bore
- 3.25-inch stroke
- Eagle forged crankshaft
- 5.315-inch Carrillo rods
- Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads, 2.05/1.60
- Del West titanium valves, retainers, and locks
- Steve Long Racing Cams solid roller, 264/272 at 0.050, 0.700/0.675-inch lift
- Ford Racing timing belt drive
- Pro Power 1.7:1 stainless steel roller rockers
- 1967 Ford Trans-Am dual-quad intake
- 1968 Ford SK-numbered Holleys, 720 cfm each
- 1966 Ford GT40 tach-drive distributor
- MSD 7AL2
- 1968 Ford Trans-Am mechanical fuel pump and Stewart Warner 240A electric pump
- Original C4 automatic w/PA internals
- Winters reverse manual valvebody
- Munsinger 8-inch torque converter, 5,500-rpm stall
- Original 9-inch housing, nodular iron center
- Ford 31-spline A/FX axles
- Detroit Locker differential
- Richmond 5.29 gears, lightened
- Custom headers by Randy Miller (Miller's Custom Headers), featuring 1 3/4-inch primaries with 3 1/2-inch collectors, metallic ceramic coated.
- Front: Stock coil springs, sway bar removed, 1965-dated Cure-Ride 90/10 shocks, as used on factory Shelby GT350 drag cars
- Rear: Modified Chrysler Super Stock leaf springs, Original Koni shocks, Original Shelby over-ride traction bars
- Front: Disc, Ford experimental aluminum four-piston calipers with titanium pistons
- Rear: Original Shelby drums
- Front: PS Engineering 15x4-inch or Magnum 500 14x6-inch
- Rear: PS Engineering 15x8-inch or Magnum 500 15x7-inch
- Front: Goodyear 26x4.5-15 front-runners, or Goodyear 6.95-14 Blue Streaks
- Rear: Goodyear 29x10.0-15 slicks, or Nitto P275/60DR15 drag radials
- Original GT350 with added factory radio and heater deletes and fiberglass rear shelf (rear seat delete), five-point AutoPower rollbar
- Original sheetmetal, resprayed in Wimbledon White by Mascar Body and Paint