In July 1965, Shelby American achieved what was arguably its greatest achievement: becoming the first American automobile manufacturer to win the World Manufacturer’s Championship. Many at the California automaker considered this to be the pinnacle of their careers. Two months before that remarkable achievement, Shelby American was still growing up and the milestones were steadily being checked off: they had been in Cobra production for fewer than three years; production had shifted from the potent 289 Cobra to the positively lethal 427-engined monster, and now they had passed the first 1/5 of their first-ever year of Mustang GT350 production.
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On the Move
But, just as in the case of any adolescent, growing up was also accompanied by outgrowing, and that’s exactly what Shelby American had done to their prior places of residence in downtown Venice. While the digs may have been adequate for a while, that while didn’t last too long. By the end of 1964, they were bursting at the seams. The small shops and almost nonexistent street parking (and their “test tracks” with names like Sunset Boulevard) were simply not conducive to the efficient running of an automobile building and racing operation—one that was growing larger all the time. Two presently-empty aircraft hangars at 6501 Imperial Highway, on the south side of the Los Angeles International Airport, offered everything Shelby American needed, and more. The two hangers were situated on more than 12 acres of property that allowed for some high-speed testing, which was certainly much better than what they had had before. It was an extremely satisfactory facility and one that became Shelby American’s home for the next three years.
If the building of those first 100 or so 1965 GT350s sounded like an achievement hardly worthy of note— given that some considered them to be minor facelifts of existing Ford Mustangs, rather than the assembly of complete cars, like the Cobras—consider that production had been split between two distinctly separate physical facilities, more than a dozen miles apart. The first three dozen or so 1965 Mustang GT350s had been completed at the former Venice shop, but in February, cars began rolling off Shelby’s new production line at the LAX hangers. Although the distance seemed a relatively short one, it must be understood that the distance of a move is irrelevant with it taking just as much effort to pack up and move ten miles as it would a thousand.
Planning the 1966 GT350
As if Shelby American’s plate wasn’t full enough with the move to and the establishment of a brand-new home base of operations and the resumption of GT350 and Cobra production, one more item made its way onto the “to do” list, right up near the top: begin planning, in earnest, for the upcoming 1966 GT350. The qualification “in earnest” is made because, at Shelby American, just as at any other automobile manufacturer, planning for the next year’s model doesn’t just begin, as if at the flip of a switch; it’s an iterative process, with thoughts to the next model emanating from the design staff nearly concurrent with the introduction of the current model. For example, in the case of the GT350, May kicked off the intense product development meetings, but three months earlier—a quarter of a production year—in the middle of February, plans began taking shape for the 1966 model, when discussions concerning the new Mustang instrument cluster layout were held. At that time, it was decided that the integration of that new dash would be held for the 1966 GT350. The same went for the addition of a sideview mirror on the driver’s door: thought was given to such an addition in March, months before development of the car to which it would be mounted had been initiated.
Amidst what almost certainly must have been the clutter of still-unopened boxes and some degree of general chaos from the move, discussions for the new 1966 GT350 began with addressing yet another challenge: an interruption in their supply of Mustangs from Ford because the San Jose Assembly Plant required a brief shutdown in August to retool for the upcoming 1966 Mustang production. Shelby had to devise a scheme to keep its smooth and uninterrupted inflow of Mustangs smooth and uninterrupted, so as not to severely affect its outflow of GT350s. The contingency plan lay the groundwork for what has, over the years, become one of the most misunderstood aspects of 1966 GT350 production: that of what were then called the “near specification” cars but have, over the years, come to be called “carryover” cars.
The basic design and planning for the 1966 GT350 happened in a quartet of meetings solely dedicated to that agenda beginning early in May, although there were many side discussions and offshoot meetings too. As with the 1966 Mustang, the 1966 GT350 was an evolutionary step of the Shelby Mustang. In fact, the 1966 car itself underwent a continual series of changes from what was planned through the construction of the actual vehicles. There were two overarching areas of consideration in developing the new model-year Shelby, which were best categorized (rather paradoxically) as “increasing” and “decreasing.” There was a concerted and continual effort expended to increase the Shelby’s visual distinctiveness, in order to separate it from the plain-Jane Mustang; styling features accomplished this. All car companies, large and small, had a keen focus on the bottom line, and Shelby American was no different; a keen eye was kept toward decreasing the cost of its product. The task at hand was simple: make the new model GT350 more unique, more distinct visually from the Mustang, while simultaneously making it less expensive to build. Piece of cake.
As outlined by GT350 Project Engineer Chuck Cantwell, reprising his role as such for the second model year Shelby, the near-specification car came about as follows: in order to work around San Jose’s shutdown and the interrupted inflow of Mustangs, Shelby American purchased an as-yet-undetermined quantity of 1965 Mustangs before San Jose stopped building that year’s pony. Basically identical to the first 500 1965 cars that were nearing completion, there were some small changes, with the most prevalent being the incorporation of Mustang’s new five-dial instrument cluster, which was a new option available on the Mustang GT (the five-dial dash became standard on the 1966 ponycar).
As the name implied, this dash layout grouped the engine operating gauges in pairs, on either side of a central, larger speedometer that had a much sportier flavor than did the 1965 Mustang’s horizontal Falcon-inspired speedo. To these cars were added Shelby-unique components to create a pseudo, or near-specification, 1966 GT350. At that stage of the planning, Ford was contemplating a revision to the Mustang’s taillights for 1966 and these cars, although emerging from Shelby American billed as 1966 cars, retained the 1965 Mustang taillights. This is enlightening in that it shows how, even at Ford, where the design process is a gradual, deliberate one, design changes were being developed and finalized right up to production commencement. It also shows how the 1966 taillights never came to fruition on the Mustang.
Also discussed at Shelby were the new-for-1966 Mustang features (seat upholstery, dash pad, body side trim, grille, and gas cap) that ultimately did distinguish the 1966 Mustang from the model of the year before and so also marked the 1966 Shelbys as being different from 1965 models. The remainder of the 1966 GT350 build was completed on 1966 Mustangs received at Shelby American after San Jose had resumed production; these were referred to (logically) as “full specification” cars.
Despite what may have been previously thought, 1966 GT350 production was planned right from the start to incorporate some percentage of cars based on 1965 Mustangs. The “near specification” cars were an intentional, pre-planned device and were not some last-minute contraption kludged together from some leftover cars that Shelby American had lying around.
In addition to explaining the San Jose shutdown contingency, the design foundation of the new Shelby was laid. Right off the bat, Shelby American management agreed that the wood-rimmed steering wheel should be continued as a distinguishing feature of the Shelby Mustang, but that the quality issues that beset the 1965 wood wheels must be worked out. In addition, it was strongly desired that a horn button be incorporated into the wheel’s center, rather than being a toggle switch on the dashboard.
New motor vehicle regulations mandated that the 1966 car needed an outside mirror mounted on the door and the Ford Rotunda “bullet” accessory mirror was approved for use; it cost Shelby about a buck and a half from Ford. Two changes were centered in the car’s trunk, both in the interest of saving a few dollars: the battery was no longer located to the trunk for street Shelbys (although it was relocated aft in the event any competition models were produced), and the spare tire remained in the stock Mustang location, instead of being relocated to the rear-seat shelf. This meant that, despite a new molded rear deck having to be tooled up, it offered the advantage of being able to be designed making use of more stock Mustang hardware than before; specifically, the folding trap door between the rear seats and the trunk would remain.
The deck was designed with molded-in ribs, giving it some functionality for carrying luggage; after all, the “T” in GT350 stands for “touring.” And while on the subject of the new rear deck, it was thought that some quantity of 1966 cars should be built with the existing Mustang’s fold-down rear seat, to give the car a four-person capacity. Unknown to Shelby American at the time, the decision to include a four-seat GT350 in the 1966 product line was instrumental in catching the attention of a major rental car company months later, which led to a sale to them of almost twice as many cars as were built in 1965.
As production chugged along building 1965 GT350s, it became apparent that there were issues surfacing with the cars’ side-exit exhaust. For one, there was the cost of fabricating and installing the new system, which used nothing from the standard Ford Mustang. Then there was the cost of removing the existing as-delivered Ford system, and the effort of disposing of all those take-off exhaust systems: Ford would not buy them back or reuse them on Shelby-bound products, so Shelby found some aftermarket parts vendors to purchase some of the take-off parts. And finally, there were legal hassles with some states’ Motor Vehicle Departments, including, remarkably, Shelby American’s home state of California, where side-exiting exhausts were declared illegal either for being too loud or for exiting in front of the rear wheels. The 1966 model utilized the Mustang’s rear-exiting system, as it was installed at San Jose, thus thwarting legal issues with the side exhausts, while simultaneously lowering the cost of the new Shelby.
Once it was decided that the steel tube tri-Y headers would remain, the only pressing task was to design a means of connecting them to the Mustang exhaust pipes. The revised system became a rolling production change when more than two dozen 1965 cars were completed with the more “legal” rear-exiting exhaust system for shipment to states with those “finicky” motor vehicle laws.
It was also decided that the hood and scoop geometry was to be identical to that of the 1965 car, including the hood-securing clik pins, which had become a GT350 trademark of sorts. A number of companies proposed alternative (read: “lower-cost”) manufacturing processes, as the steel and fiberglass hood was one of the costliest items on the cars and any cost reduction was a huge benefit to Shelby’s bottom line. Disappointingly, however, it was seen later that the attempted cost savings promised by a new hood supplier was one of those ideas that seemed like a good one at the time, but proved to be less than beneficial as production problems occurred.
Since the Mustang was designed with relatively small wheel openings in the fenders and quarter panels, the 15-inch Shelby Cragar wheel and 7.75-inch-wide Goodyear Blue Dot tire created perpetual interference problems; these were rectified by the switch to a 14-inch wheel for 1966.
What became the 1966 GT350’s most recognizable design characteristics were discussed at length and were strongly favored: quarter windows and side scoops. The windows would be made of Plexiglas, and by the time the first design meeting was kicked off, Phil Remington had already sketched out in his mind what the trim should look like and how it could secure the window “glass” in place. Remington also threw out some ideas on how the other key 1966 Shelby design cue (the side scoops covering the Mustang’s sculpted body side contour) could be made functional to push cooling air over the rear brake drums.
But like many brainstorming sessions, there were some ideas that were bandied about, and then subsequently dismissed for use on the new car. One such idea was to use 1965 Thunderbird taillights, which was prototyped on a 1965 GT350 at the shops of drag car builder Bill Stroppe. Unfortunately, the inherent difficulty in creating a finished-looking installation outweighed the design aesthetics. They also considered an engine-turned appliqué for the instrument panel, to give it the swirled pattern seen on the engine cowling of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. A flip-open fuel cap was discussed, as was the use of the Mustang Rally-Pac to integrate a tachometer into the instrument cluster, and a front valance incorporating two circular driving lights.
Half a fortnight later, the second 1966 program meeting was gaveled to order, bringing Shelby American’s upper management up to speed on the program, both in terms of progress and problems.
A decision had been reached on the rear seat usage: the 1966 build was split two-thirds/one-third in favor of vehicles equipped with the Mustang fold-down rear seat. Progress was being made on the installation of the rear quarter windows with aluminum extrusions having been selected and priced.
The space between the Plexiglas window and the inner trim “sail” panel—which had been occupied by the cast-metal vent louvers on the 1965 Shelby—was “boxed in” with molded plastic parts that had been designed and were being sourced, as well.
The wheels were 14×6 inches for the 1966 Shelby to eliminate the tire/fender interference problems that had come to define the 1965 GT350.
Perhaps the biggest change to the Shelby mechanics was the proposed incorporation of an automatic transmission as a factory option. This was favorably received by all present at the meeting and was investigated immediately. Its eventual incorporation was one of a handful of significant steps in the evolution of the Shelby Mustangs.
Challenges to Overcome
But for all the progress, there were some problems that needed to be rectified. For one, a suitable wood-rimmed steering wheel was still being sought but remained elusive.
And Ford’s design change to the Mustang padded dash for 1966 was creating difficulties. While the near-specification cars utilized the 1965 Mustang dash, the instrument bezel (or pod) developed for the 1965 GT350 incorporated a tachometer and an oil pressure gauge. Since the near-specification cars utilized the new five-dial dash cluster that already had an oil pressure gauge within, a new pod containing only the tach had to be developed and molded. But the remainder of the 1966 build (the full-specification cars) were built on 1966 Mustangs. While the full-spec cars also had five-dial dashes and did not need an oil pressure gauge in the pod, they had different contours to the padded dash, so a separate pod was needed for those cars, too.
While tooling two nearly (but not quite) identical pods was not out of the question, it was strongly disliked. While this was being further investigated, Cantwell suggested that maybe the tach could be mounted, solo, within a simple housing, atop the dash pad rather than within it. That idea had merit and was pursued with all deliberate speed.
A couple days later, more ideas were brought up, offering some attractive cost reduction opportunities. The pesky tachometer pod and the “tach in a can” atop the dash pad approach was gaining management support, especially since the approach saved in excess of $20 per car built because the tachometer/can was already available as a Ford accessory part, so it would be a simple matter of adopting that setup for production.
There still had been no luck as far as selecting a suitable wood-rimmed steering wheel, so it was decided that if wood couldn’t be had, the Ford Mustang GT’s wood-grained plastic steering wheel would be adopted. This meant that Shelby American essentially got its 1966 Shelby “wood” steering wheels for almost free, since they were incorporated in the San Jose build. The solution also eliminated the need to figure out the logistics of where real wood wheels could be installed, at San Jose or at Shelby American.
Finally, it was proposed that the mix of decal/paint GT350 side stripes used on the 1965 cars could be substituted with a complete decal stripe, saving considerable effort (i.e., cost) in the application process. It was decided that the tape stripe idea should be investigated immediately.
There was one “well, we tried” aspect for which a hopeful cost reduction didn’t work out: the GT350’s extra-heavy front stabilizer bar. Originally, the oversize bars were being produced by a local metal forming vendor, but if Ford’s vast metal stamping resources could be brought to bear, it was envisioned that in excess of $20 per bar could be saved. But that hopeful eventuality never materialized, however, as Ford indicated that it was not worth its effort to retool its stamping operation to produce
Shelby American’s desired quantity of just 2,500 bars.
A few days later, in the middle of May, an almost completely unknown facet of the 1966 Shelby GT350 program was initiated: the purchase by Shelby American of two white Mustang GT fastbacks. With Shelby American’s total 1965 production being based on nothing but white fastbacks, the procurement of these two cars, at first glance, seemed an unnecessary and wasteful expenditure; after all, Shelby American was likely swimming in white Mustang fastbacks. But there were good reasons for the buy. Both came with the heavy duty suspension with disc brakes, and both had the optional five-dial dash. This was actually a key concern, as it would have been difficult—not impossible, but difficult—to rewire a car with the existing 1965 dash to the five-dial configuration.
One car was powered by a 289 mated to an automatic transmission, the other had a HiPo bolted to a 4-speed. The plan was for the 289 to be replaced with a HiPo mated to a Fairlane automatic transmission, while the other car retained its HiPo/4- speed drivetrain. The two cars were mocked up in GT350 trim and used for prototype and promotional purposes, as well as an initial evaluation of a GT350 with an auto trans. The promo cars were needed long before an actual 1966 GT350 could have been constructed, in order to accommodate magazine publishing deadlines and printing lead times for sales materials, which were needed at the same time the new models were introduced. An interesting bonus for these two “non-Shelby” Shelbys was that they were ultimately fitted with prototype aluminum 10-spoke wheels.
The third 1966 GT350 program meeting basically recapped, in one sitting, the work on various aspects of the new model that had been ongoing in several separate groups. The ducting for and the scoops themselves had been mocked up in aluminum and were awaiting bids from suppliers; the proposed material for the scoops was fiberglass. The costs for the proposed window frames had been determined, and San Jose and Shelby continued to coordinate the deletion of the vent louvers from to-be 1966 GT350s. A study comparing the costs of the Ford accessory tachometer-made by Faria and a similar unit by Stewart-Warner was in-process. How to steer the new car was a done deal: the 1966 Shelby used the Ford Mustang GT simulated wood steering wheel, but efforts continued to locate a suitable real wood wheel, and if such an adequate wood wheel could be found, it would be introduced in the 1966 cars as a running production change.
The loud, noisy, and clunky Detroit Locker differential was shifted from the “standard equipment” column on the car’s window sticker to the “optional equipment” column. This was done primarily as a cost reduction method, although numerous complaints of the Locker’s noisy and harsh operating characteristics—which were actually characteristics of a normally-functioning unit—were cited as supplementary reasons for the change. The side GT350 stripes were, in fact, applied by a decal, and work on this was underway; bids had been solicited from several suppliers.
Stewart-Warner was in-process. Sometime after a couple of hundred of the How to steer the new car was a done Faria-supplied tachometers were received deal: the 1966 Shelby used the Ford Mus-by Shelby American, a change was made tang GT simulated wood steering wheel, to the graphics on the faces, swapping the but efforts continued to locate a suitable locations of the COBRA logo and the RPM real wood wheel, and if such an adequate x 100 lettering. There is no documentation wood wheel could be found, it would be extant today that sheds any light on exactly introduced in the 1966 cars as a running why this was done, but the end result may production change. be a good indication, placing the COBRA The loud, noisy, and clunky Detroit logo at the bottom of the face allowed for a Locker differential was shifted from the larger logo that would not be obscured by “standard equipment” column on the the indicator.
Early and late tachometers car’s window sticker to the “optional differed only in the face graphics and were both supplied by Faria in Connecticut, which equipment” column. This was done also supplied Rally-Pacs to Ford for use on the Mustang. primarily as a cost reduction method, although numerous complaints of the If the Ford Rotunda accessory tachometer Locker’s noisy and harsh operating char-bore a striking resemblance to the Cobra acteristics—which were actually chartach, that’s because the Cobra unit is a acteristics of a normally-functioning rebadged Ford tachometer. Originally, both unit—were cited as supplementary reathe Ford accessory tach (manufactured by sons for the change. Faria) and a similar Stewart-Warner unit The side GT350 stripes were, in fact, were under consideration for use in the applied by a decal, and work on this was 1966 GT350; ultimately the Ford/Faria unit underway; bids had been solicited from was chosen. several suppliers.
Another cost reduction item involved replacement of the sand-cast COBRA valve covers with those made from a reusable die. However, the old sand cast units remained in use until the details of the new die-cast version were worked out.
And it was announced that the 1966 GT350 would at last gain a unique, for-that-model-only, identification badge. It took the Peter Brock–designed cobra logo and replaced the wording “COBRA” with “GT350”; the new emblem’s locations were still to-be-determined, but possible locations included the grille, the rear of the car and on the steering wheel. This meant that for 1966, both cars in Shelby American’s product lineup (GT350 and Cobra) shared the same red, white, and blue Brock Cobra badge graphics, albeit with different lettering.
Near the end of the third week of May, Cantwell sharpened his pencil and crunched some numbers to determine that replacing the 1965-type decal and paint rocker panel stripe with an all-decal saved more than five bucks a car. The new stripe was slightly narrower but a mockup was evaluated and it was determined that while the stripe was smaller, the visual effect of the stripe was virtually unchanged. And in some small ways the decal actually was more beneficial, as it eliminated the slight color mismatch between the painted-on stripe and the decal logo that had been used on the 1965 cars.
Just a few days after Cantwell demonstrated his prowess in the field of production line economics, the final major 1966 product meeting came to order. One of the first items was an edict from Shelby American Vice President James McLean that a prototype 1966 GT350 be completed by the twenty-first anniversary of the Allied invasion of France in World War II. This had nothing to do with commemorating D-Day, but was in preparation for another invasion of sorts: on or shortly after that day, Shelby American was invaded by a man. Not just any man, but the man whose name was within the Blue Oval: Henry Ford, II. And in tow was the entire Ford Motor Company Board of Directors, who, as a part of their annual meeting, came to Los Angeles to partake in Shelby American’s gala three-day employee open house/facility grand opening/automotive press demo. One of the displays at that event was a mock up of the new 1966 Shelby GT350.
It had been determined that 250 near-specification cars were needed, and more work was ongoing as final locations and installation methods for the new GT350 emblems were worked out.
The green light had been given to the “tach in a can” being mounted atop the dash pad.
Finally, the supplier of the Mustang GT steering wheel’s center cap was contacted and was preparing a modified design for use on that wheel in the Shelby GT350. The cap was the same identical configuration as the Mustang unit, but eliminated the circumferential “FORD MUSTANG” lettering. Instead, a GT350 plastic center cap replaced the Mustang’s running horse emblem in the center.
Early June came and went, and despite the many surviving notes and pieces of documentation concerning the planning of Henry Ford II’s visit, scant little exists on the outcome of the visit itself. We do know that there were corsages for the women, press demonstrations of Shelby American’s products, plenty of food, and a bar. We also know that much thought was given to the all-important route that Mr. Shelby would take as he drove Ford from the corporate plane to the Shelby factory, to show off the lineup of Mustangs and Cobras awaiting completion. It can only be assumed that Henry’s hour in Los Angeles was successful, or at least uneventful (which might have been even better), as there seemed nothing documented that needed fixing.
With the “dog and pony show” over, it was back to the matters at hand: completing the build of 1965 GT350s and continue the planning and begin production of the new model. By the beginning of July, there were only fourteen 1965 cars remaining to be completed, and by the time the last one was finished early in the second week of the month, the first of the 1966 cars (almost 50) had arrived and preliminary work was being started, based on the availability of parts.
A Rough Start
Today, an original, early Shelby Mustang or even a standard Mustang without the Shelby goodies is likely to be a pampered show car, but that coddled status today lies in stark contrast to the true run-of-the-mill nature of the car on which it was based back then.
The Mustang, despite all the hoopla and attention heaped upon Ford’s new sporty car, was still a low-priced product and the care given to the pony cars on the assembly line was commensurate with the inexpensive automobile that the Mustang was. Problems were encountered by Shelby American concerning the quality of the incoming Mustangs, which Ford was spitting out of the San Jose Assembly Plant at a rate of around one every minute, and the deficiencies were serious enough to necessitate the implementation of a thorough inspection of every one of the Mustangs upon arrival at LAX.
With the new inspection procedures in place and word having gotten back to San Jose of the quality issues, by mid July, nearly 100 1966 GT350s were in various stages of completion, still due to the availability of certain parts, or lack thereof. The shortage of parts, at first little more than a nagging annoyance, was beginning to have a serious impact on Shelby’s ability to complete and ship product.
By the third week of July, a few more than 100 1966 cars had been started and were nearing completion, but the progress was still halted by the lack of several crucial parts. Most troublesome were the aluminum frames and plastic parts to box in the rear quarter windows. Side mirrors, which had once been thought an easy fix from the Ford accessory parts catalog, were slow to arrive. And the hardware for the side scoops and the internal ducting were also delinquent.
Issues were also cropping up with the supplier of the new “GT350” gas caps, and the new 1966 Mustang grilles were also delayed.
Two weeks later, the number of started but unfinished 1966 GT350s had risen to more than 150, but there was good news: the new Mustang grilles had finally arrived! However, the brief moments of elation were soon replaced by sheer panic.
While the new grilles had indeed arrived, there was a serious issue with them that, on the surface, rendered them all but unusable to Shelby American: one of the Mustang styling changes for 1966 involved the grille itself being changed from the “chicken wire” design of 1965 to one with thick, cast-aluminum horizontal bars. These bright bars could be seen behind the central horse and corral, creating a visual distraction. Ford’s solution was to paint a large flat black rectangle in the center off the grille, directly behind the chrome horse; the black paint eliminated the striped appearance of the grille behind the horse. But since Shelby American wasn’t using the large chrome horse, this left the 1966 GT350 grilles with a rather unsightly black rectangle in the center. There was panic, scurrying and other words to describe a general frantic atmosphere at Shelby American, until the solution was found: acetone removed the black rectangle nicely.
In early August, detailed discussions were held and plans made in earnest for the new 14-inch wheel for the 1966 GT350, the implementation of which had already been decided in principle. There were a couple of paths Shelby American could take: with considerable cash outlay (better than $15,000), Shelby American could have Cragar retool to produce the optional 1965 Shelby Cragar in either a 14- or the existing 15-inch diameter. While the final product was quite attractive, the cost to implement this scheme was not.
Plan B went into effect: the Motor Wheel Corporation offered a painted steel mag-type wheel in a five-spoke design, with black-painted pockets. Done in a finish known as magnesium gray, the color approximated flat gray primer, but the finished product, when mounted on the GT350 with a chrome center cap and lug nuts, provided a much more attractive alternative than did the silver-painted “station wagon” wheel that had been standard fare on the 1965 GT350.
The Motor Wheel Magnum 500, as it was called, became the standard wheel for the 1966 Shelby; a chrome version differentiated the cars supplied to Hertz. A 14-inch dress up wheel, cast in aluminum, filled the bill as an optional item, and Goodyear supplied a high-speed tire in a 14-inch diameter for the wheels, replacing the 1965 15-inch Blue Dot tire known as the Blue Streak (despite the name the Shelby version did not have the milled-out thin blue sidewall stripe).
Of course, it would have been nice if Shelby American had been able to simply snap its fingers and have truckloads of 14-inch Magnum wheels available for use. Unfortunately, the Magnums were not available until near the end of the year. In the interim, standard Ford wheels in 14-inch diameter were fitted, instead of the same item in the “old” 15-inch size. This left Shelby American momentarily with no optional dress-up wheel. A cast-aluminum 10-spoke wheel had been designed and, in fact, had just gone into production, but a continual series of delays and postponements—much to Shelby’s dismay—prevented it from providing much relief.
It was necessary to implement the changeover to 14-inch wheels as soon as possible because reports of tire/fender interference were beginning to mount. And while the GT350’s lowered front suspension was partly to blame, the situation was aggravated by an ever-so-slight settling of the new cars’ front coils. The settling would have been a non-issue on a six-cylinder Mustang rolling along on 13-inch wheels, but it was a big issue to the low-sitting Shelbys with their fat tires on big wheels.
Eventually, spacers were fitted to limit the compression of the front end springs, and although this created very high stress concentrations in the bound-up spring coils, it did help the tire rubbing a bit. Slight massaging of the fender lips was also employed as a last resort to cure the fit issues. The smaller 14-inch wheels alleviated—if not eliminated—the tire clearance problem, and Shelby American was chomping at the bit to implement them.
Week number three of August saw the quantity of unfinished 1966 cars rise even higher: to 238. And while there was little progress in the completion of the 1966 production cars, there was good news from the prototype department: the two “non Shelby” GT350s—the one 4-speed and the one automatic transmission car built from the white fastback Mustangs—were completed and were ready to begin making the rounds, doing their job as promotional cars.
Labor Day came and went and saw the entire quantity of the near-specification 1966 cars started, but none had yet been completed! Window parts were still the hang-up, and by the middle of September, except for the quarter window and side scoop hardware, all 252 of the near-specification cars were done. Notice that by this time another pair of cars had joined the near-specification fraternity, yielding what ultimately was the eventual quantity of 252.
These two additional cars were used to further evaluate an automatic transmission (a feature that worked extremely well and would find its way onto the 1966 option list) and a full vinyl roof, which didn’t work well at all, and, thankfully, did not find its way onto the 1966 option list.
People were scurrying around, seeking a second source for the delinquent trim parts, while others laid out the production schedule for the remainder of calendar year 1965. That production schedule was remarkable because for the first time ever, larger paper was needed to keep track of the production quantity.
Not only was another column needed to denote the cars built with automatic transmissions, but several others were needed, as well, to keep track of the various colors in which the cars were delivered. That innocuous production schedule captured two of what may be considered the four most significant evolutionary steps in the growing up of the Shelby Mustangs: the availability of an automatic transmission and colors other than white.
From its inception the year before, constant criticism was heaped on the GT350 for its limited color palate. For 1966, Shelby American listened to the consumers and offered the GT350 in a selection of colors other than white. This was the second in a series of steps that occurred over a number of years that transformed the Shelby Mustang from the pure performance car of its first year into the luxurious Grand Touring car of its last.
But despite the significance of the offering, the availability of tangs supplied in colors other than white. At that time, Shelby colors is something of a historical mystery with little factory doc-responded in the negative. Literally, the next chronological piece umentation available to detail the process. What is known is that of documentation on the subject was the mid-September build as the 1966 car was being planned and discussions were ongo-schedule listing the colors. The chosen hues were standard Musing between Shelby American and the San Jose Assembly Plant, tang paints—Candy Apple Red, Ivy Green, Raven Black, and, of the Mustang factory queried Shelby, somewhat prophetically course, Wimbledon White—with the exception of Sapphire Blue, in April, as to whether the Los Angeles automaker wished Mus-which was culled from the Thunderbird color chart.
With no paperwork substantiating the choice of Sapphire Blue, Cantwell today sheds some light on what was likely the thought process then: with Guardsman Blue with white stripes being synonymous with Shelby American—their World Manufacturer’s Championship–winning Cobra Daytonas were so painted, as were the GT40s that scored the first-ever win for the type—that color scheme would have been a no-brainer for their street GT350s, which would have been the exact reverse of what was available on the 1965 GT350. But with Ford having discontinued Guardsman Blue in 1965, the desired color was not available, so any paint color choice was limited to currently-available hues. Sapphire Blue was the closest-available blue to Guardsman, so it was the obvious candidate.
And so it was that Ford painted the Mustangs with the Thunderbird paint and waived the premium paint charge that was normally levied against cars painted in non-standard colors. Back in the day, a customer could literally order a Ford car in any currently available color from any other Ford product line, provided he was willing to pay the premium paint charge and wait, sometimes as long as four months.
As for the number of colors selected, some 1967 Shelby documentation, retroactively, explains the rationale for that number: five provided a good balance between the number of colors that were manageable for nationwide distribution throughout Shelby’s dealer network and ample consumer choice.
S for Supercharged
Just after the beginning of fall, Shelby wheeled one of the early near-specification cars (serial 6S051) into the paint bay and applied a fresh coat of one of their new-for-1966 colors, Ivy Green, making it both chronologically and by serial number, the first colored 1966 GT350. The car rolled on 15-inch Shelby Cragar wheels and a set of white GT350S side stripes were applied to the car’s door bottoms. The car was the prototype for what was then planned as a new, separate model of 1966 GT350, the supercharged GT350S. The idea of adding a supercharger (or “blower”) to the engine went back to early 1965 when Paxton Products’ Joe Granatelli approached Carroll Shelby with the idea of “blowing” a 1965 GT350.
Shelby provided a test car to Granatelli and, in a short while, a belt-driven Paxton supercharger was residing beneath the hood of the Shelby. In a side-by-side test against a nor-mally-aspirated and substantially lighter 289 Cobra, the GT350 handily walked away from the Cobra. Now a believer in the potential of the Paxton performance add-on, Shelby ordered 500 supercharger kits. When installed on a GT350 fitted with an Autolite 460-cfm carburetor (the standard GT350’s Holley 715-cfm carb didn’t fit within the supercharger’s air box due to the long “noses” on the fuel bowls), the supercharger boosted the car’s gross horsepower from 306 to in the neighborhood of between 390 and 400. In more impressive terms, the Paxton power-boosted engine was compared to the HiPo’s original un-Shelby-ized 271 hp, allowing Paxton Performance to claim a whopping 46 percent increase in power. That performance didn’t come cheap, however, as the Paxton option cost nearly $700, installed.
When 1966 rolled around, it was initially decided that a special model Shelby, the GT350S, would be offered from the factory. However, after further consideration of the added inventory issues of a separate model Shelby, it was decided to offer the Paxton supercharger as simply an option on the standard GT350 line. Car 051 made the rounds of the automobile magazines and was road tested by a handful of them. Then, after the car’s prototype duties were fulfilled, it was sold to a business friend of Shelby’s (the president of a bank with which Shelby American did a lot of business) and Shelby dealers were notified of the Paxton’s availability, around mid April of 1966. While it was likely that there was some undetermined quantity of dealer-installed supercharging kits and quite possible that some owners performed D.I.Y. supercharging, only 11 GT350s rolled out the door with factory-installed Paxtons. The Paxton supercharger was discontinued as a factory option after the 1967 model year, but was carried in the Shelby American accessory catalog until almost 1970.
On the last day of September, it finally happened: Shelby American shipped 1966 GT350s! That was the good news. The bad news was that there were only enough parts on-hand to complete and ship 30, rather than the hoped-for 50 cars. But parts for the quarter windows (still the linchpin item) were trickling in and there were high hopes at 6501 West Imperial that 200 cars could be completed and sent on their way to Shelby dealers across the country by the middle of October. That goal turned out to be overly optimistic; in fact, far less than half— 62, actually—were finished and shipped by mid October.
Nevertheless, the parts situation on quarter window components was slowing improving, thanks to the second source for the extruded frames. The side scoop components, too, were gradually arriving. But one supplier issue that never went away concerned the new, low-cost hoods, which were planned to be constructed by welding a stamped steel scoop to a standard Mustang hood to create the special Shelby unit.
With Ford’s stamping plants banging out Mustang hoods by the hundreds of thousands, the cost to Shelby American for the factory hoods was mere peanuts, and even with the additional cost of welding and seam sealing the scoops, the final cost was forecast to be far less than that of the older steel and fiberglass bonnets, which cost close to $65 a pop—no small piece of change in 1966.
The original plan was to have the hoods’ vendor, Pigeon Manufacturing, fabricate the hoods and ship them to San Jose, where Ford would install and paint them on the Mustangs destined for shipment to Shelby American. But Pigeon didn’t prepare the hoods correctly for priming and painting after attaching the scoop, so Ford—which had little time to sort out defective component issues—was unable to paint the hoods. Shelby American was forced to order more of the 1965-type steel frame/fiberglass top hoods at a considerably higher price than the metal hoods were to have cost and install them on an interim basis as the metal hoods were sorted out.
Adding insult to injury was the fact no price break could be gleaned from a large-quantity purchase because the fiberglass hoods were ordered on an interim as-needed basis. A hastily-implemented Plan B now had the metal hoods shipped from San Jose to Shelby American to be cleaned and painted there, but when they arrived, it was discovered that they weren’t packaged sufficiently and had received considerable shipping damage from the 350-plus-mile trip to Los Angeles. While the hoods were being repaired, more of the costly fiberglass/steel hoods were ordered to keep production flowing. Since some of the metal hoods were deemed sufficient for installation, fitment of them was an occasional—but infrequent—event that occurred randomly and sporadically throughout 1966 production. “We have been experiencing serious quality problems with the hoods supplied by Pigeon Manufacturing Co.,” was a phrase repeated again and again at Shelby American’s weekly staff meetings.
After the damage incurred from shipping the hoods back to Los Angeles from San Jose, a modified Plan A was devised: the procedure called for the fabricated hoods to be shipped from Pigeon to San Jose, where they were installed but not painted; cleaning and painting would be performed at Shelby American, which had learned the hard way that the safest, least damaging way to ship a hood was attached to a car. Fitting of the then-corrected steel hoods finally occurred with more consistency near the end of 1966 GT350 production, although to nowhere near the extent that was originally hoped for.
With a considerable excess of steel hoods remaining at the conclusion of 1966 vehicle production, Shelby American held a “fire sale” to dispose of their stockpile of brand-new metal hoods, which would be useless on the 1967 Shelby.
By the time the steel hood problem was ultimately sorted out, considerable cash had been expended ordering and fitting the old-style hoods. In the finest tradition of Robert Burns, it was an example of how the best-laid schemes of mice and men could go awry; a good idea had turned into something of a debacle that cost far more than it was designed to save.
Business as Usual
As the calendar turned its pages to October, Shelby American fell victim to one of Murphy’s corollaries, which stated that given a theoretically infinite area in which two objects must lie, those two objects will strive to occupy the exact space.
In this case, the space was the area under the car, ahead of the rear axle, and the two objects were the main frame rail and one of the traction bar bolts. Shelby American found that the bolt head of the rear traction bar pivot was contacting the cars’ main frame rail as the suspension went to full travel, causing a loud clunking sound.
The solution for the moment was to thin the bolt heads by grinding them, to provide clearance as the bolt head passed the frame rail. Although it was not a complicated fix, it was annoying and time consuming and just another example of how just when it seems things are beginning to settle into a productive routine, something crops up. Later, before implementing the simpler underride traction bars, a more permanent fix involved giving the traction bar a gentle “S” curve, which allowed the aft locating bracket to be moved ever so slightly outboard, providing clearance for the offending bolt head.
By early November, production was settling into a steady norm. The late-arriving Mustangs with automatic transmissions had arrived from San Jose and they, like the 4-speed cars, were steadily being turned into GT350s. It was estimated that production for the month of November alone would top 150 cars; quite a change from the agonizingly slow start of 1966 production. Then, two weeks later, the estimate was revised upward to 200 vehicles. Cars were, at last, being shipped to dealers and Shelby American’s in-house inventory of cars was also beginning to fill up.
But for all the success in building the cars, delivery of the Shelby 10-spoke wheels from the supplier was still a major issue.
They were promised by the third week of the month, then that promise was amended to the last week. When that week rolled around, no wheels showed up. Even worse, no new due date was promised either.
Shelby American continued to use 15-inch Cragar wheels to fill orders of cars with deluxe wheels and 14-inch steel wheels were still being used to satisfy the request for cars with standard wheels. Finally, in early December, there was some relief on the wheel front: chrome Magnum 500 wheels for the Hertz build had arrived, as had the gray-painted wheels for production orders. From this time forward, cars ordered with standard wheels had the new 14-inch Motor Wheel units fitted, but not surprisingly, Shelby 10-spoke wheels were delayed yet again and Cragars continued to be used for deluxe orders.
Late in December, it became apparent that the increased production of 1966 cars over that of the year before was having a desirable impact in the field: there was not adequate storage facilities on the East Coast for the inventory GT350s being dispatched there. Arrangements were made with a large vehicle transport company, Carter Auto Transport in Port Newark, New Jersey, to serve as a staging location for east coast dealer-bound Shelbys. Carter now joined Wixom, Michigan, and Shelby’s own LAX facility as staging locations for cars; each location served roughly one third of the country.
Aluminum wheels, due at this time, had still not materialized and near the end of January, 1966, Shelby dealers were officially informed of the change to 14-inch Magnum wheels. By that time, January drew to a close, all the production delays of the early days were just an unhappy memory as Shelby had shipped a hundred more cars than they had the year before. Small, nagging production issues still cropped up and except for the delays in receiving the cast-aluminum wheels, most were minor.
One issue that was a little more than just minor was San Jose’s delay in producing color 4-speed cars for Shelby and the slightly skewed popularity of the colored cars. San Jose built a block of cars in one color, then shifted to another colored block and so on, but as the cars were transformed into GT350s at LAX, some colors were in higher demand than others. This created color shortages, which, while certainly not catastrophic, were nonetheless a problem that needed tending to.
Finally, at long last, a shipment of aluminum wheels was received, but with the increased production capacity of Shelby American compared to the trickle of incoming wheels, they were used up as fast as they could be unpacked. By the end of March, 50 more wheels were due shortly, and again, they were consumed almost immediately upon receipt. Shelby American also marked a major milestone: 429 cars were completed in the month of March—more than had ever been completed in a single month before.
Record-Setting Year Draws to a Close
By the end of April, it was noted that Shelby American had received orders for nearly 1,900 GT350s, and almost 1,700 cars had been built and shipped to fill them. A few days later, Shelby noted that all of the two-seater 1966 GT350s had been sold; despite plans for a two thirds/one third production split in favor of four-seater cars, two-seat GT350 production totaled just 100 cars.
A couple of days after that, it became apparent that the end of the model year was drawing near as Shelby American began to plan for the buildout of its 1966 cars. Buildout refers to the process of carefully monitoring and adjusting parts inventory to ensure that at the end of production, all the cars have been built but that there are no parts left over. It involves a coordinated effort between sales, parts, and production to make sure that these cars are built and sold as expeditiously as possible, in order to make room for the beginning of the new model year.
Buildout was sometimes an interesting time for the automobile enthusiast and consumer because combinations of options, colors, power packages, and the like (combinations that may not have been available throughout the normal production year) were often suddenly available, in an effort to use up stockpiled parts. Shelby American was no different, as at the end of production, 50 GT350s were built shod with chrome Magnum 500 wheels—wheels that, in the course of normal production, were reserved for use on Hertz GT350s only. In the case of Shelby American—as in the case of many automobile companies at the same time in their production cycle—buildout time also meant pink slips for more than a half dozen hourly assembly line workers, as the company began planning for the 1967 model. By the middle of June, Shelby American was down to the final 75 vehicles to be completed, which happened in very short order. From now on, all that was done was to ship those cars, ship the remaining in-stock cars, and shuffle cars around the country thru the three distribution points to ensure that the areas of the country with maximum sales potential had the cars they needed to meet demand. It had gotten off to a very rocky start, but almost a full year after production of the 1966 GT350 had begun, 1,373 fastback GT350s and another 1,001 Hertz models had passed through Shelby’s LAX shops.
If a chronological telling of the story of 1966 GT350 production seems a little skewed, with numerous details divulged about the planning but far fewer of the actual production, that is a legitimate observation. The myriad problems of getting production underway naturally demanded a lot of attention on the part of Shelby American, and that attention translated into a lot of factory documentation of those problems. If the perception exists that once the supplier issues were sorted out and raw materials began to flow into 6501 West Imperial Highway that everyone simply sat back and watched GT350s put themselves together and roll out the hangar doors, nothing could be further from the truth.
Shelby American was a small company, but just like the mega corporations of Ford and General Motors, their business was about making money and ways to improve that eventuality were constantly being sought. As production settled into a routine, some ideas surfaced that, while not all planned at the start, could be implemented to save a buck here and there. For example, beginning in early February, standard Koni shock absorbers were no longer so, instead becoming additional cost options. Likewise, a lower-cost method of fabricating the aluminum valve covers was implemented later than desired because of issues with the manufacture of the parts, but allowed replacement of the sand-cast valve covers with ones cast from a reusable die. The style was also changed to a slightly simpler graphic design that didn’t require as much labor during the finishing process.
About midway through production, it was decided to replace the difficult-to-install traction bars atop the cars’ rear axles with units that mounted below the axle. This saved considerable time in that the bar mounts no longer had to be welded atop the axle and inside the passenger compartment. The new units, supplied by Traction Master, bolted to the spring at the shock absorber and were welded to the car’s frame to complete installation, but no access to the car’s interior was needed.
Time and money were saved by eliminating the lowered front ends of the cars. This procedure, which involved disassembly of the upper A-arms, re-drilling the arms’ locating holes, then reassembling the whole deal was time consuming and unnecessary for the vast majority of Shelby customers, and was felt to be a prime candidate for cost-savings, so it went by the wayside.
Over the years, types of valve covers, traction bars and front suspension setups have come to be generalized differentiations between early and late 1966 Shelbys. But not all of the engineering performed on the 1966 Shelby during production was designed to save money; there was a concerted effort to continually increase the car’s performance. Just before the end of 1965, Shelby American discovered that the GT350 with the automatic transmission performed better with the standard Ford carburetor than it did with the GT350’s 715-cfm Holley so thereafter, GT350s with automatics retained their Autolite 460-cfm carbs.
Production Goes Through the Roof
Despite production of the 1966 cars winding down in the spring and the unfortunate layoff of some production employees, the product development guys never sleep, and, in April, an interesting experiment was conducted—one that had a significant impact on the evolution of the Shelby Mustang a couple of years later.
Shelby American placed a final order with San Jose for four Mustangs; actually, to be technically correct, they placed two DSO orders with San Jose for two cars each. Two cars were equipped with automatic transmissions, and the other two were equipped with 4-speed gearboxes; the different transmissions are what prompted the cars to be built in two separate DSOs. The cars had the same HiPo power package as the other 2,374 cars sent by San Jose and the same export bracing under the hood and the same 9-inch rears.
The first interesting deviation was that the four cars were ordered with factory air conditioning. Back in the day, factory air was a fairly big deal, but in this case, the addition of air conditioning wasn’t the really big difference in this order.
But the most significant change was that the block on the special order that indicated “body style” for these DSOs was not marked with the usual “63A” for fastback, but instead indicated “76A” for convertibles.
These four cars were Mustang convertibles and soon became the first-ever GT350 convertibles. But originally, they were ordered as an experiment to evaluate a potential 1967½ model-year Shelby rag top. Shortly after the order was placed, however, Ford notified Shelby American that the order was unfillable because the combination of the HiPo 289 and air conditioning didn’t meet Ford requirements for adequate cooling at all vehicle speeds; they couldn’t build cars that were uncertified for regular production.
The solution was a letter from Ray Geddes, manager of Ford’s Special Vehicles group, to the production manager at San Jose granting special permission for the assembly plant to construct the cars. It is interesting that although the memo to San Jose was from from Geddes, the final version was signed by Carroll Shelby for Geddes.
All four cars had white tops and black interiors and were assigned the last four serial numbers of 1966 production, 6S2375-6S2378; -2375 and -2378 had automatic transmissions while -2376 and -2377 were the 4-speed cars. The quartet was painted, respectively, Ivy Green, Springtime Yellow (a pale yellow from the Mustang color line), Candy Apple Red and Sapphire Blue, and each car got the usual GT350 treatment, both mechanically as well as cosmetically.
Because of the folding top mechanism, there was insufficient room for the brake cooling scoops’ air ducting, so the GT350 convertibles received the same side scoops as their fastback counterparts, but they were non-functional cosmetic scoops. All four cars rolled out of the factory on chrome Magnum 500 wheels. The red convertible was almost immediately sold to Bob Shane (of The Kingston Trio) and Geddes got the blue car as his company wheels in Dearborn. The other two were retained by Shelby American as company cars and were used to evaluate the convertible concept which, ultimately, was proven to be very successful.
There is an oft-told story of how the convertibles were Carroll Shelby’s favorite 1966 cars, but while he was on an extended business trip, the car he was using was sold off as a used car, per Shelby American company policy when a certain mileage had been reached. The boss returned from travel to find that his beloved rag-top had been sold out from under him. Almost a decade and a half later, in 1980, fond memories of driving the soft-top 1966 prompted Shelby to team up with a California Mustang restoration shop, Beverly Hills Mustang, to produce a dozen 1966 GT350 convertibles. These cars continued the 1966 Shelby serialization and were numbered 6S2381 thru 6S2392. While not being built “in period” and not at Los Angeles, these are, nonetheless, considered legitimate “continuation” production Shelby GT350s built by Carroll Shelby. The numbering gap results from the then-current—and mistaken—belief that six, not four, convertibles had been built originally, and that the last two 1966 numbers (6S2379 and 6S2380) belonged to cars that had been built but were then of unknown whereabouts. As a result, those two serial numbers were never assigned to any legitimately-constructed 1966 Shelby GT350s.
When the last 1966 GT350 fastback rolled off the Shelby American line, more than four times the number of cars had been built as had been assembled in 1965. If production quantity, and consequently sales, was an indicator, it certainly seemed that softening the car, while simultaneously further differentiating it from its base Mustang roots, was the formula for success. As a result, 1966 marked the last year that the Shelby and the base Mustang from which it was derived shared so much body sheet metal. The 1966 models were a series of small, albeit important, compromises from the original performance-only GT350 and the slightly softened, second-year GT350 marked the first step of the reversal process of the Shelby Mustang from pure performance, with a secondary emphasis on style, to style with a secondary emphasis on performance.
1966 GT350 PRODUCTION STATISTICS
Body Style Available: 2-door fastback
Note: four experimental convertibles were built for concept evaluation
Quantity Built: 1377 (includes four convertibles)
Colors Available: Wimbledon White (39.1% of total build) Sapphire Blue (18.8% of total build ) Ivy Green (17.8% of total build) Candy Apple Red (21.5% of total build) Raven Black (2.3% of total build) Unknown (0.5% of total build) Springtime Yellow (1 convertible)
Interior Colors Available: Black
Note: two cars were delivered with blue and one with Parchment interiors
Base Price: $4428
Available Factory Options: Automatic transmission, Paxton supercharger, fold-down rear seat, LeMans top stripes (Top stripes on white cars were painted Guardsman Blue; top stripes on colored cars [except Hertz] were painted Chevrolet commercial white), Shelby deluxe alloy wheels (15-inch Shelby Cragars on early cars, 14-inch Shelby “10-spokes” later), radio, Detroit Locker rear.
Running Production Changes: First 252 cars: Built on 1965 Mustangs (with 1965 “5R09K” Ford VINs); 1965 interiors with smooth seat inserts; vertically ribbed door panels; 1965 padded dashes; 1965 Mustang deluxe interior fivedial gauge clusters with 1965 Mustang standard interior glove box doors. Engines had black blocks (1965 color) with large fuel filter canisters, small-letter COBRA intake, Buddy Bar valve covers (sand-cast, open-letter type). Override traction bars; Koni shock absorbers with lowered front upper A-arms; aluminum case T-10 transmissions. Standard wheels were Argent-painted 15-inch steel wheels; optional wheels were 1965-type Shelby Cragar 15-inch aluminum and chrome units. All cars delivered to Shelby American in Wimbledon White with rear-exiting exhaust without back-up lights. All cars had COBRA tachometers with Cobra logo at the top of the face. Serial numbers hand-stamped on 1965- type serial plates..
All cars after first 252: Built on 1966 Mustangs (with 1966 “6R09K” Ford VINs); 1966 five-dial gauge clusters (different from first 252 cars) with matching glove box doors; “Comfort Weave” textured seat inserts; horizontally-ribbed door panels; engines with dark blue blocks. Four colors other than white became available. Back-up lights located in lower rear valance panel and rear-exiting exhaust common to all cars.
Early cars, after first 252: Lowering of front A-arms and Koni shock absorbers gradually discontinued. Aluminum-cased T-10s gave way to mixtures of aluminum or steel cases and tail shaft housings depending on availability. Tachometers changed to types with COBRA logo at the bottom. Cars with automatic transmission used Holley 715 carburetor (same type as 4-speed cars). Serial numbers hand-stamped on 1965-type serial plates. Standard wheel was Argentpainted 14-inch steel type (very few actually received these) and deluxe wheels were cast-aluminum 14-inch Shelby 10-spokes. Steel-framed hood with fiberglass top interspersed with some all-steel hoods.
Late cars, after first 252: Traction bars changed to underride style. Valve covers changed to black die-cast (solid-letter type) design. Standard wheel was titanium-colored (painted) 14-inch Magnum 500 wheel and deluxe wheels were castaluminum 14-inch Shelby 10-spokes. Some very late cars received chrome 14-inch Magnum 500 wheels. Cars with automatic transmission used Autolite 460 carburetor on aluminum COBRA intake. Serial numbers machine-stamped on tags, similar to 1965 style, but with pre-printed “6S” in the serial number blank. Use of steel-framed hood with fiberglass top gave way to all-steel hoods.
Written by Greg Kolasa and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks