Miles Cook
August 21, 2006
Photos By: Courtesy of Shelby American

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In numerous areas around the vast Shelby compound, black premium-package '06 Mustang GTs are stacked like cordwood waiting for the GT-H transformation.
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The Shelby-spec hoods, which are the largest single cosmetic change, are prepped, sanded, primered, and painted in-house.
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At right are two rows of seven GT-Hs already equipped with stripes and almost ready to go. The extensiveness of the operation is evident here with work happening on numerous cars at once.
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All 500 GT-H Shelbys should be completed before the end of the summer and shipped to Hertz rental counters around the country.

'66 Shelby GT350: The Original
To increase sales of '66 GT350 Mustangs, Shelby American General Manager Peyton Cramer approached the Hertz Rental Car Company to see if he could interest it in a small quantity of cars, possibly as many as 100, for its Hertz Sports Car Club members. Having discovered that Hertz had manufactured its own cars back in 1927, all black with gold trim, Cramer suggested a black-with-gold model called the GT350-H. Hertz bit and Cramer walked away with an order for 1,000 cars.

Built at Shelby American's Los Angeles airport facility alongside regular GT350s, the Hertz cars received the usual Shelby modifications; 306hp Cobra 289 engine, Koni shocks, underride traction bars, fiberglass hood with scoop, Plexiglas rear quarter-windows, and so on. For Hertz, they also received gold GT350-H side stripes and wheel-center caps with the Hertz Sports Car Cub logo. Per Hertz's request, some were equipped with a power brake booster, while non-power brake cars received a decal under the radio that warned: "This vehicle is equipped with competition brakes. Heavier than normal brake pressure may be required."

According to Rick Kopec of the Shelby American Automobile Club, there was a grand total of 2,378 Shelbys produced for 1966. Of that number, 1,001 were Hertz GT350H models: 999 production cars and two prototypes.

Hertz Shelbys weren't created for a full production year, as many incorrectly believe. "Virtually all non-black cars were delivered in March of 1966," Kopec tells us. "Keep in mind that while the '66 model year lasted from September of 1965 through July of 1966, the shelf life of the '66 GT350H model was not a full year. Hertz wanted new '67 cars as soon as Ford and Shelby could get them into production. It hardly made sense for Shelby American to deliver '66 cars in June when the replacement cars would be available in September. So Hertz cars were front-loaded into Shelby production. This necessitated the use of some non-black automatic cars already in Shelby American's inventory. All they needed were gold stripes and Magnum 500 wheels.

'66 Shelby GT350 Production
ModelProduction
GT350 fastback1,368
GT350 convertible4
GT350S Paxton supercharged fastback1
GT350 fastback drag car4
GT350H Hertz prototype2
GT350H Hertz fastback999
Total2,378

"Hertz originally ordered 100 four-speed cars but changed its mind after 85 cars were delivered. Reportedly, there were complaints from the San Francisco Hertz rental agency regarding fried clutches on those hills, which made Hertz reconsider the four-speed order. All four-speed cars were Raven Black. The rest were automatics."

The majority of '66 Hertz Shelbys were Raven Black, per Peyton Cramer's original proposal. However, Kopec adds that some 200 were other Shelby GT350 colors, with approximately 50 each in Candyapple Red, Sapphire Blue, Wimbledon White, and Ivy Green Metallic. All had the gold stripes.
--Jim Smart, Donald Farr