The Shelby Mustang GT 350 had only 562 units made available for the 1965 model year. The car is also called the Cobra by some-sharing the moniker and the similar paint job with the AC Cobra two seat sports car which was developed by the Shelby American Company about the same time. This car is not comfortable or easy to drive-it was developed under SCCA rules for competition and to go fast. The 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine is in all the Cobra models is highly modified to produce 306 hp (28 kW; 310 PS). This light weight and small Mustang for both the ’65 and ’66 model years are the first, the best, and the most desirable of the Cobra series; these original conversions can be identified by an “R” in the Ford VIN code The car got easier to drive, more comfortable, more goodies added, heavier, and larger with each succeeding year and losing more of its competitive edge each year as well.
The Cobra for 1965 began as a stock black painted 289 engine in the“body white” Mustang equipped with a Borg-Warner T-10 four speed manual transmission when Shelby America took delivery. The company installed the high-riser “Cobra” intake manifold, removed the stock Ford Falcon live axles and replaced them with the heavy duty Galaxie rear axles. The brakes are also upgraded with larger metallic drums on the rear and the high quality Kelsey-Hayes front discs are also installed. Some of the units produced had the cobra style valve covers but only if the customer ordered this optional item. Shelby remained doing the modifications until the end of 1968 when Ford took over and all the work was done at the Ford plant from ’69 onward.
In 1965 the Cobra GT model is only available in Wimbledon white with the rockers having a guardsman blue stripe; however of the 562 units produced there were about 150 of those painted with an optional “Le Mans” top stripe running the length of the vehicle. Some dealers would add other types of striping at the customer’s request. In ’65 the first half of the year the batteries are mounted in the trunk but that changed mid-year because of complains of fumes. Special modifications in ’65 include relocation of the A-arms and over-rider traction bars-so called because the design mounts the bar above the leaf spring instead of the traditional below method. The spare tire is mounted where the rear set might be to conform to the two seat SCCA sports car ruling The ;65 has duel exhaust pipes coming out the same side in the back and have glass-back mufflers installed. The package is completed by the addition of blue dot 130 mph rated tires mounted on 15 inch rims which could be either silver painted steel or upgraded to “Cragar-Shelby” mag style wheels with a chromed center cap containing the letters “CS”.
The 1966 version was sold simply as the Shelby GT 350 and is more appealing to the average person with the addition of a rear seat which could optionally fold down, more color options to chose from, and an optional SelectShift three speed automatic version was also made available. Another optional choice is to mount a Paxton supercharger. Added features include rear quarter windows to replace the extractor vents and functional brake scoops on either side but the over-rider traction bars have been discontinued. The 1966 engine block is painted Ford blue and the duel exhaust now exits the rear in a more conventional either side configuration.
The first 350 models converted are a 1965 Mustang “K” code fastback specifically order by Shelby for conversion into ’66 GT 350’s. The cars were randomly picked for conversion after delivery so the VIN numbers are not sequential. The Shelby VIN’s do not correspond in order to the Ford VIN’s and they may vary greatly because of the random order they were converted in.
There were the 252 original ’65 fastbacks, 2 prototypes, 4 drag cars, and 1,373 -1966 Shelby units produced for the retail market in 1966 The Hertz car rental company also ordered 1,001 fastback units, 2 prototypes, and 4 convertible units for a grand total of 2,378 Shelby GT350 models in 1966. There were a small number of units equipped with the Paxton supercharger which increased the engines output to 440 hp (330 kW). The ’66 could also be ordered with a “no spin” limited slip differential as an added option.
The Hertz Company’s “rent a racer” units were returned to Ford after their rental careers ended, restored, and then sold as “GT 350-H” models although at some point during that time many of the high performance parts they were equipped with got “lost” in the shuffle..