1965 Shelby GT350 R

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.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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