Jeff Ford
July 1, 2002
Photos By: Tom Shaw

They were legends-iron horses that in their day made the racing world tremble. Shelby built only 36 of them: 34 production cars and two prototypes, and all of the 34 were built for racing. Surprisingly, most of them actually did time on the track as well, bumping and grinding their way to the finish-sometimes the final finish, ushered in by a wreck.

The snippets that the Shelby American World Registry gives us about some of these cars makes us shake our collective heads, like the GT350 competition model that was balled up at a race and then used to make two good Shelbys out of three. You'll notice we don't call them "R"-models. That's because Shelby didn't. Nope, the original name was simply "competition models," though we have to admit that "R"-model sounds better.

Fortunately, the GT350 that now belongs to Christopher Cox never suffered much of the angst that many did, though it has had its share of owners and trouble. In fact, this GT350 competition model has been through eight owners and a serious bout with a restoration shop. In 1978, then-owner Mike Shoen sent the GT350 to a shop in Arizona for restoration. It seems a dispute arose between Shoen and said shop. Shoen moved the Shelby to another restoration facility in Connecticut owned by Geoff Howard thinking everything was fine-but it wasn't. The other shop owner had removed the Shelby ID plate because of the payment he felt Shoen owed him.

Shoen promptly put the Shelby up for sale and a "sort of" deal was struck with Richard Leuchner. Leuchner told the owner of the shop in Arizona that he was buying the car but needed the tag. The shop owner sent the tag with no request for payment. Howard loaded the GT350 on a trailer for Leuchner and made ready to leave. But there was a hitch. That very night, Leuchner's old competition car, 5R096, became available, and we can only assume that his history with the car caused him to back out of the deal with Shoen. It all worked out where the tag was concerned, however, as Howard reunited it with the car. From that interesting experience the ownership jumped around, going from Texas to Massachusetts to New York and then finally to North Carolina. Along the way, the GT350 saw two resto shops as well.

What Christopher bought was a purebred race car. Up front was the Shelby race-spec 289 Hi-Po. Behind the hotted-up 289 rested the Borg-Warner four-speed in either wide- or close-ratio spec. Out back was a 3.89 rear gear in standard form or a steeper 4.11, 4.33, or 3.70 gearset, all in limited slip. The body had a plethora of race items that made it special. For the complete list, see the sidebar.

What is really nice is that Christopher follows the lead of Carroll Shelby in that he does actively open track the car. It's a great way to keep those who watch vintage events listening-and looking-for rolling thunder.

Special Competition-Only Parts
* Oil cooler
* Lightweight front apron panel
* Lightweight fiberglass with functional scoop and racing pins
* Brake airscoops
* Rollbar (standard Shelby item)
* Fireproof interior trim
* Lightweight windows and frames
* Lightweight rear window with air-extractor vent
* Special instruments in revised panel
* Cobra 8.4-qt oil pan
* Koni shocks
* 15x7 magnesium Torque Thrust Ds
* Cobra scattershield