Rarest of Shelby Mustangs
One of the rarest Shelby Mustangs will be crossing the auction block at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, AZ this month. The Shelby name is synonymous with the Ford Mustang, one of the most successful and significant muscle cars produced.
Shelby Mustang Origins
Ford introduced the first-generation Mustang in 1964 at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, NY. Sales started at select Ford dealerships the same day it was unveiled to the public. Immediately Ford sold 22,000 that first day, with more than 400,000 sold throughout its first year of existence. The Mustang was clearly a hit from the start, but Ford wanted a faster, sportier version of the Mustang – enter Carroll Shelby. Carroll Shelby helped develop the very successful GT-350 Mustang to be used on track in SCCA Group B competition against Corvettes and Camaros.
Shelby was a successful racer, winning races behind the wheel of a Ferrari before transitioning to a role as more of a designer and engineer. He created the Shelby Cobra, inspired to some extent by his earlier creation, the Sunbeam Tiger. That lead to his standard formula of sticking a big engine in a car that wasn’t designed to accommodate it and putting the best drivers on the track. His company, Shelby American, won plenty of races and championships with his Cobra, leading Ford to hire Shelby American to head their GT40 program, with the goal of beating Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ken Miles was one of Carroll Shelby’s closest associates and was instrumental in the development of the GT-350. He was known as a successful racer and mechanic, nearly taking victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 behind the wheel of a Ford GT40 Mk II. Appointed the chief test driver for Shelby American in 1963, Ken remaining in that position until his untimely passing when testing the Ford J-car prototype that was to replace the GT40Mk II.
Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday
That old adage, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” held true for Ford’s Mustang. Shelby American created a dominating race car in 1965 and Ford’s age of performance came to life. The success of the 1965 Shelby GT-350 made it a no-brainer when Ford wanted to build a Mustang to compete in the 1966 Trans Am championship.
The SCCA Group II A/Sedan were very particular about the engine displacement and wheelbase of cars allowed to compete and Ford wanted to win. That’s where Carroll Shelby came into the picture once again.
A Shelby Mustang without the Shelby Badge
The Mustang being offered at Barrett-Jackson is noticeably different than the GT-350s that Shelby American produced in that it is based on a 1966 notchback coupe, rather than the fastback that is more commonly associated with the Shelby name, The reason for this is that the Trans Am rules required all cars in the A/Sedan class to compete with all four seats installed as part of the factory-installed interior, along with factory-installed glass, and steel body panels. Additionally, hood scoops were not permitted.
Shelby American took 16 examples of the 1966 Ford Mustang in the notchback coupe body and essentially converted them to GT-350R models. These were priced around $5,500, about the same price as an R model GT-350. The lack of the Shelby badging and extremely limited production resulted in the Group II Mustangs being among the rarest examples of Shelby-prepared cars from the Shelby American/Ford partnership.
This particular 1966 Ford Mustang is one the handful prepared by Shelby American and was intended for Ken Miles. After his passing the car was offered to John McComb and Chuck Cantwell, the project engineer for the GT-350. Documentation accompanying the car shows that it was sold by Turner Ford of Hutchinson, KS to John McComb on August 24, 1966.
The car aided in Ford’s victory in the 1966 Trans-American Sedan Championship. Further documentation shows a competition history that includes more than 30 races, including wins at the Pan-American Trans Am event in Green Valley, TX and the SCCA Continental Divide National.
An extremely well-documented example of the Group II A/Sedan 1966 Ford Mustang, this car may not carry the Shelby badge, but it has the spirit of Carroll Shelby and the rest of Shelby American running through its veins.
Shelby American Connection
There have been plenty of rare Shelbys trading hands in recent years, both Cobras and Mustangs. Barrett-Jackson sold a 1966 Shelby GT-350, converted to the R-spec, that was driven by Sir Stirling Moss for $495,000 in 2021. That same year saw the only Shelby Cobra with a 427 V8 owned by Carroll Shelby himself from new sold at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction for $5,940,000. Both of those sales were significantly above their median values at the time. The 1966 Ford Mustang that will be offered by Barrett-Jackson presents an opportunity to set a new record price when the hammer drops.