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."

There were only 36 R-models built, and they are the fire-breathing, Corvette-beating, heart and soul of the Shelby Mustang lineage. All were Wimbledon White with blue stripes and they all ran like Jack The Bear. They were immediately successful in achieving their intended purpose, dominating SCCA B/Production racing in their first season and nearly obliterating other marques and models from the annual SCCA runoffs, then known as the American Road Racing Championship, for the next three years.
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.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1965
Number Produced:36
Distributor Caps:$20
Engine Number Location:Stamped on engine block, on passenger side beneath front exhaust port, just above surface where oil pan meets block
Club Info:Shelby American Automobile Club, PO Box 788, Sharon, CT 06069
Alternatives:1967 Yenko Camaro, 1963 Z06 Corvette, 1969 Dodge Daytona
Investment Grade:A

This 1965 Shelby GT350 R sold for $990,000 at the RM Amelia Island Auction, March 11, 2006.
I don’t think there exists in the old-car hobby any category of cars that sits more precariously at the intersection of collector values and race-car values than the racing pony cars of the late 1960s. Since they all started out as high-volume, entry-level production cars, the value variation ascribed to ‘collector’ attributes is simply staggering.
This car sold for effectively a million bucks, while the May issue of Hemmings carries an ad for a 1965 GT350 R replica, “a very accurate, fresh restoration,” for $50,000. The basic cars both came off the Ford production line at about the same time, and the physical configuration for the cars may be almost identical, but one is worth nine hundred thousand (plus) dollars more than the other. History, mythology, and provenance count for everything here.
Being essentially an outside observer to the whole muscle-car collecting mania, I find it challenging to figure out why certain high-production mid-sized sedans with five-hundred-dollar engine options should be worth huge quantities of money, but with the GT350 it’s easier.
The GT350 was the real deal from the beginning, with brakes, suspension, and steering to match the horsepower. I recall driving up to Denver in the fall of 1965 to visit the Shelby dealer and fantasize about being able to own one. I was pretty committed to “real” (i.e., European) sports cars at the time-I drove an old Jaguar XK 150-but I remember the purposefulness and sheer muscle that the GT350 displayed. Yeah, it was a Mustang, but it sure didn’t present like one. It was a serious sports car, a viable alternative to Corvettes and Jags. Of course I couldn’t afford one then, and it’s turning out I can’t afford one now, but it’s always been a heck of a fantasy.
Having been active in the vintage racing side of the hobby for over 25 years now, I can easily remember when these fantasies were affordable, though, and in fact actively indulged. In those days, enthusiasts and participants made the market for cars like this, not collectors. History and provenance were appreciated, even revered, but cars like this were bought to be used for what they do best: generating adrenaline. Rumor has it that the purchaser of the subject car has no intention of actively racing; it’s going to sit in a collection. This is understandable given the amount of money it took to buy it, but if so, it’s a pity.
Race cars have always been weapons for a battle, complex mechanisms that allowed talented humans to compete for pleasure and glory. Vintage racing allows those mechanisms to continue to show what made them important to us, and by extension honor the individuals who created the history and mythology that is the basis for what we think they’re worth. These cars were never meant for static display.
Collecting and collector values have rapidly overtaken enthusiast and “go play with it” values in the real world, though, and it has been very good for the bank balances of the True Believers who bought and used the great cars for love, when you could do that. This 1965 Shelby GT350 R is clearly “the best of the best” when it comes to GT350s, but five or seven years ago it still wasn’t particularly expensive to own.
There are plenty of lesser but still real GT350s, Mustangs, Camaros, and Javelins still out there for people who want to race American muscle, so trading down to a weapons-grade racer and putting the equivalent of a good-sized house into your retirement account has obvious benefits. You’ll go just as fast and the experience will be pretty much identical. Are the bragging rights worth over half a million? Obviously somebody thinks so.

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