Race cars have always been weapons for a battle, complex mechanisms that allowed talented humans to compete for pleasure and glory
It is impossible to define a Shelby GT350 R any better than the Shelby American Automobile Club’s 1997 Registry does.
“The competition model was the car the GT350 started out to be. Unlike any other production car, from which racing versions are made by modifying street versions, the street model GT350 was created by detuning the racing model.”
The production Shelbys and all the R-models were specially built in sequence at Ford’s San Jose, California, factory in Wimbledon White with Black interiors and 271 hp K-code engines, aluminum-case Borg Warner T-l0M 4-speed transmissions, 9-inch rear axle with Fairlane station wagon drum brakes, “export” shock tower brace, and sintered metallic brake pads and linings. Left in San Jose were the hoods, rear seats, radios, and exhaust systems.
An additional 15 cars were even more special. These arrived at Shelby without side or rear windows, heaters, defrosters, upholstery, headliners, insulation, or sound deadening. They were the first R-models.
When complete, the Shelby Mustang GT350 R was a turn-key race car ready to go straight from the Ford dealer where it was bought to an SCCA race weekend and compete at the highest level. That’s exactly what happened to S/N SFM5R102, the example offered here, Bob Johnson’s 1965 SCCA B/Production Championship R-Model. One of the first group of 15 R-models built by Shelby, S/N 102 was completed in May 1965 and consigned, not sold, to Bob Johnson in Columbus, Ohio.
Johnson and his GT350 R finished the season, accumulating a total of 51 points in the division and being declared an SCCA B/Production National Champion. Even with the late start to their competition season, the record of both car and driver is only three points less than Jerry Titus accumulated in a full season racing the prototype, and is equivalent to Mark Donohue’s Northeast Division total in Yale Kneeland’s S/N SFM5R105. GT350 Rs swept the SCCA B/Production championships, taking five of the six divisions. Following the ARRC, Johnson returned SFM5R102 to Shelby American.
Old race cars frequently suffer ignominious ends but that fate did not befall S/N SFM5R102, which was retired from active racing in 1971, still essentially complete in all major respects including bodywork, hood, chassis, suspension, and drivetrain, then stored until it was acquired by Mike Shoen in 1978. A lengthy restoration followed. In the present owner’s collection since 2004, the 1965 Shelby GT350 R has been carefully maintained in its original condition and exercised occasionally in track days and historic events. It is believed still to be powered by the original engine provided by Shelby in 1965 and to have its original transmission and even the American Racing wheels.