Kyle Johnson
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Mustang of the Day: 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350

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Counting down to the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang

Next up on our list of the 10 most iconic Mustangs of the last 50 years is the first Mustang Shelby. In order to adequately discuss the first Shelby, we must first have a word on the man for whom it was named.

1965 Mustang Shelby GT350

The original 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350

Carroll Shelby, born in Leesburg, Texas on January 11, 1923, was bedridden for much of his early life with heart problems. After overcoming his illness, he joined the Army Air Corps and served as a flight instructor during World War II. In January 1952, Shelby participated in his first race at the wheel of a Ford flathead-fitted hot rod. By 1957, Sports Illustrated had named him “Driver of the Year” in two consecutive years, and in 1959, he won the 24 Hours of LeMans.

1962 Shelby Cobra / 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350

Carroll Shelby, seen here at work on the 1962 Shelby Cobra / © Shelby American Inc

Two years after winning his final race in 1960, Shelby opened Shelby-American, which specialized in creating performance parts and modifying vehicles to be more track-worthy. His work on the Shelby Cobra—which was a modified version of the AC Ace—led to a deeper collaboration with Ford, who had just launched the Mustang and wanted to make it more performance-oriented.

The 289 Shelby Cobra and 427 Shelby Cobra

The 289 Shelby Cobra and 427 Shelby Cobra / © Shelby American Inc

Shelby and his team went to work in August 1964, and by January 27, 1965, the first 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350 made its debut at the Riverside Raceway alongside the 427 Cobra.

1965 Mustang Shelby GT350 World's Fair

The 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350 at the 1964 World’s Fair

Carrying a base price of $4,547, the 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350 came in any color you wanted as long you wanted Wimbledon White. It came with blue “GT350”-branded rocker panel stripes and optional Guardsman Blue Le Mans Stripes that ran from head to tail, both of which have become hallmarks of the Shelby over the decades. Other features included a fiberglass hood, hood scoop, and dual side-exhaust pipes with Glasspak mufflers.

The star of the Shelby, of course, was the modded K-code 289cid V8. Stock-rated at 271 horsepower, Shelby’s modifications—including a high-rise intake manifold, four-barrel carbeurator, and steel Tri-Y headers—bumped it up to 306 horses.

The legacy of the Shelby Mustang extended through 1970 and gave us classics such as the GT350H “rent-a-racer,” the amazing 1967 “Eleanor” GT500 that starred in the less-than-amazing Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), and the King of the Road (’68 Shelby GT500-KR). After a 35-plus-yearlong parting of ways, Shelby and Ford teamed once more in 2003 on the Ford Shelby Cobra Concept, which led them to work together once more  on modern versions of the iconic Mustang Shelby.

Though Carroll Shelby passed away on May 10, 2012, his legacy lives on today in Ford’s latest and greatest Mustangs. With a camouflaged 2015 Mustang Shelby GT350 testing somewhere out there in the wild, we can likely expect that legacy to last for a long time to come.