Nostalgic for Carroll Shelby’s innovative spirit, and the cars that never quite got built, a group of original craftsmen that worked alongside Carroll back in the 1960s have banded together to build 36 brand-new examples of the GT350R race car.
Peter Brock, Jim Marietta, and Ted Sutton first received a paycheque from Carroll Shelby back in 1962; they are the key Shelby American employees that built the original GT350Rs, and they’ll all be involved in the new production run.
Only this time the 1965 GT350R will be built with performance enhancements that were envisioned for, but never quite made it to, production back in the 1960s due to project time constraints.
Included among the technical updates are a redesigned front wind valance; an improved Plexiglas rear window; and an independent rear suspension penned by team member Peter Brock 50 years ago.
While testing a one-off GT350R with the aforementioned parts upgrades at Willow Springs Raceway back in the spring of 2015, the old-timers received many inquiries about the car, and whether it was for sale.
It wasn’t—but the huge amount of public interest got them thinking, and they decided to build a limited production run that will fulfill the original intentions of Carroll Shelby for the unique race car.
Both Shelby American and Ford are on board with the new build run of the 1965 car, having provided official licensing so the new cars are deemed Shelby originals, replete with a Shelby serial number and official build documentation.
“Much like Carroll Shelby’s original Cobra, the 1965 Ford Shelby GT350R changed the performance car landscape,” said Jim Marietta.
“By adapting lessons that the Shelby team learned racing Cobras and Daytona Coupes, our crew at Shelby American turned a ‘mule into a racehorse,’ as Carroll Shelby would say.”
Shelby American employees, under the oversight and leadership of Brock, Marietta, and Sutton, will start building the prescribed three dozen 1965-model-year Shelby GT350Rs this fall.
A separate team from Shelby American are planning to build “the car that never was”—the 1964 427-powered Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe prototype race car.
As it turns out, Carroll Shelby had sketched a long-nose Shelby Daytona prototype race car, modified to fit a big-block 427-cubic-inch V8 engine, back in 1964—but an untimely delivery truck accident foiled the project and the car wasn’t built on time, and never made it to a race.
Shelby American now plans to do something about that; it’s building six brand-new examples of the car, exactly as company founder Carroll Shelby envisioned it back in the 1960s.
“We’re taking care of some ‘unfinished business’ for Carroll Shelby,” said Joe Conway, co-CEO of Carroll Shelby International and CEO of Shelby American.
“It was sometimes called the ‘car that never was’ because a lone big-block Daytona prototype was built but never raced. We plan to complete this amazing program by offering six turn-key 427-powered Daytona Coupe race cars, which is the same number as the small-block versions built in the 1960s.”
Much like the original Shelby Cobra and GT350R, the performance of the Daytona prototype was staggering for the era, and, frankly, is still relevant by modern sports car standards.
The 427 big-block spun out 550 horsepower, transferred to the road by a four-speed manual transmission. The original Daytona prototype – wearing serial number CSX2603 – was said to be capable of edging 200 mph (321 km/h) if given enough runway.
The original car eschewed paint to save weight, and its beautiful, glimmering polished-aluminum bodywork became iconic in and of itself. The new cars will also bare their aluminum bodies for the world to see. Shelby says it’ll paint a unique racing livery on the car as per each buyer’s request.
Like the aforementioned Shelby GT350Rs, the Daytona Coupes will also receive official Shelby American serial numbers and build documentation.
“This is an incredible opportunity to own a very rare collectible Shelby heritage race car,” said Gary Patterson, president of Shelby American.
“Like the six small-block cars built in the 1960s, these 427-powered Daytona Coupes will be a lasting tribute to another innovative Shelby racecar that would have caught the racing world off guard. These Coupes will be every bit as much a ‘secret weapon’ as Carroll had hoped for in 1964.”
There’s no word on pricing for the new factory-original 1964 Shelby Daytona prototypes, or 1965 Shelby GT350Rs, but rest assured they’re all spoken for, and for a sum that could buy several 2018 Shelby Mustangs.