I think it would be fair to call Carroll Shelby a “car nut.”
In 1934, when he was only 11 years old, he drove a Ford V8 hot rod in a quarter-mile drag race. At age 18, he flipped an Austin-Healey, breaking bones as a result of the accident. Not deterred, he continued racing and was named the sports car driver of the year by “Sports Illustrated” in 1957.
Later that year, Shelby won a 100-mile race after spinning out in the first lap, initially putting him in last place. He then passed everyone else driving a Maserati V8 single-seat race car to win the race. It’s no wonder that Shelby is a legend in the world of high-performance automobiles.
Shelby attracted the attention of a number of automotive executives, but in 1964 Ford Motor Co. officials asked him to develop a high-performance Mustang fastback to compete with their perpetual competitor, Chevrolet, and its hot-selling Corvette. By September 1964, the first ’65 Shelby Mustang was on the street, but that wasn’t the only objective.
Ferrari’s victories at La Mans apparently stuck in the craw of Henry Ford II, and he wanted to do something about it. As we learned from the 2019 movie “Ford v Ferrari,” under Shelby’s guidance the Ford GT40 Mark II finished 1-2-3 at Le Mans in June 1966. It also won in 1968. Shelby and Ford ended the racing agreement in 1970.
Shelby and Lee Iacocca had a close relationship when Iacocca was Ford’s president. When Iacocca was fired by Henry Ford II and became Chrysler’s chair, the two hooked up again. The first performance vehicle for Chrysler was the Dodge Omni GLH (for “Goes Like Hell”). He later worked on the Dodge Viper RT/10. Shelby died from heart ailments in 2012 at age 89.
The Shelby Mustang was built by Shelby American from 1965 to 1967 and then by Ford from 1968 to 1970. This issue’s featured car, a 1968 Shelby Mustang, is owned by Danville resident Doran Hayes. When Hayes was a student at Cal Poly University, his father wanted to buy Hayes a car and had been talking to a friend in Southern California just about getting together. The friend explained that he had to stay home that weekend and sit by the phone because he had an ad in the L.A. Times to sell his Mustang. A discussion followed, and the sale was made.
“I don’t know exactly what he paid for it,” Hayes said, “it was probably just under $2,000 (about $14,300 in 2022 dollars) sight-unseen.”
A friend of Hayes’ went to look at the car.
“He called me and said, ‘Do you know what your dad had parked in the driveway?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘it’s an old Mustang.’ ‘Not quite,’ he said. ‘It’s a Shelby 350 convertible.’ I didn’t know it was a convertible, and I didn’t even know what a Shelby was.”
Hayes became the second owner of the 3-year-old Shelby Mustang that had 48,000 miles on it. It was in good shape except that the first owner had been in a small fender-bender and had it repaired.
“So, it now has a new left front fiberglass fender and nose pieces. Over the years the paint they put on it turned pinkish, but other than that the car was in good shape.”
The car is almost completely original, even though it did spend some years ungaraged.
“For the last 40 years, it has been parked in the garage, only starting it up once in a while but changing the fluids and not registered to drive.” Surprisingly, Hayes has only had routine maintenance expenses on this now-104,000-mile, 55-year-old vehicle.
The candy-apple-red Shelby Mustang is powered by Ford’s 302-cubic-inch V8 engine using an aluminum Cobra intake manifold with a rated horsepower of 250 teamed with a three-speed automatic transmission. Some of the unique features include sequential taillights and the swing-away steering column used in 1966 Thurnderbirds for easier entry and egress for the driver. A very unusual feature is the car’s two-piece, folding-glass rear window that actually folds in half when the top is lowered.
“It’s really a very basic car,” the owner stated. “It’s not a complex machine under any circumstances. In fact, it’s too basic, but that makes it really easy to have owned it for 40 years and really not done anything to it. It doesn’t have air conditioning or power windows, but it does have power steering and brakes with disc brakes in the front. It also has shoulder harnesses, which were not standard in cars in 1968, but they put them in Shelbys.”
Hayes has no plans to sell the car and no idea of its current value, but the sentimental value of his first vehicle, a gift from his father, makes this car priceless to him.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com. To view more photos of this and other issues’ vehicles or to read more of Dave’s columns, visit mercurynews.com/author/david-krumboltz.