Uncovering the Exquisite 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 Pre-Production Prototype

Introduced in 1964 as a rather mild pony car, the Ford Mustang needed only a few months to morph into a muscle car. It happened in 1965 thanks to Carroll Shelby, who gave the ‘Stang the “Cobra” treatment by making it lighter and more powerful. He called it the GT350

Fichier:1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 Fastback (14959769894).jpg — Wikipédia

The GT500’s track-bred sibling remained in production through 1969. It wasn’t as popular as the regular Mustang, but it moved a few thousand units over the five years, enough to make it a common sight at muscle car events.

The GT350 also raced with great success, scoring 18 overall wins and 55 class victories on America’s most famous race tracks.

Come 2023 and all iterations of the first-gen GT350 are considered rare, but it’s the 1965 version that sits at the top. That’s because Shelby put together only 572 cars that year. And this number also includes all sorts of test cars, experimental prototypes, as well as factory competition models.

The latter is particularly desirable since the company built only 34 and many of them were crashed or dismantled. But the GT350R is not the rarest of its kind. Shelby also built a handful of drag cars, a supercharged prototype, and more than a dozen pre-production vehicles.

The latter was used to test and refine the GT350 before it went into production. Each car was track tested by Chuck Cantwell, the project manager of the GT350 program, and some of them were even loaned to various people for long-term testing on public roads.

These cars also did all of the promotional work, being hauled to car shows and loaned to journalists for reviews.

And most of them survived to see 2023, which is downright amazing given that these cars were moved around and driven quite a lot. Of the 14 prototypes made, only three were destroyed, so 11 of them are still around with Shelby collectors.

Yes, they spend their lives in heated garages and museums, but some of them do come out from time to time to remind people that they still exist.

One of these super-rare GT350s was featured at the 2022 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN). It’s number 13 of the 14 prototypes made, which means it was the next to last car before Shelby put the GT350 in regular production. And it’s an amazing survivor that’s still all-original save for a repaint it got many years ago.

Is it notably different than the regular GT350? Well, not really. At least not at first glance because it’s finished in the same blue-striped livery as all 1965 Shelbys were. But that’s also because it was one of the last prototypes built, which were pretty much identical to the production cars that rolled out of Carroll’s shop.

This Shelby is mainly known as “The John Christy Car” because it was loaned to the editor of Sports Car Graphic magazine to complete a 10,000-mile test.

John wrote about his experience in two different issues of the magazine and liked the GT350 so much that he purchased one for himself. In fact, he bought the very car Carroll loaned him for the test drive.

Come 2023 and prototype no. 13 is now owned by Tony Conover, a Ford Performance guy and Mustang collector. The GT350 runs and drives like new and still relies on its numbers-matching 289-cubic-inch (4.7-liter) V8 and four-speed manual gearbox.

A beefed-up Windsor mill of the HiPo K-code variety, the V8 was rated at 306 horsepower. Hear it roar in the video below.

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