The search for my second Shelby G.T. 350 took three long years, beginning in 1999. I saw and inspected a number of Shelbys, but over that three-year period it wasn't meant to be. My wife, Helen, said, "Be patient, you will know when it's the right one and the one you can't live without."
It turned out that by 2002, Helen was right! I was poking around a genuinely obscure website (I couldn't even tell you how I found the site!) when I ran across what appeared to be a very nice '66 G.T. 350! The website ad emphatically stated, "Yes, this is the Mustang with the expensive VIN!"
What was also very cool, was that the Shelby was located in Whittier, California, not far from my home. I don't recall exactly the day of the week when I called the owner, Ron Skinner, but I do remember that I went to see the car two days later and we made a deal on the spot! So in less than a week after finding the Shelby online, it was parked in my garage. I was now the proud 3rd owner of Shelby G.T. 350 #2060! AKA, my second Shelby.
This is what is encapsulated in the Shelby Registry (the most recent is the 4th Edition, 2011):
Green. Shipped to Ford Motor Co. storage (Wixom, MI) 6/27/66. Date ordered 7/25/66. Shipped to Stark Hickey Ford (Royal Oak, MI) 7/26/66; they were invoiced $3,547 plus $214 for ten-spoke wheels plus $40 rear seats plus $64.75 freight for a total $3,865.75. On 8/24/66 Stark Hickey received a credit in that amount and the car was returned to Ford Motor Co. storage (Wixom, MI). Date ordered 3/2/67. Shipped back to Stark Hickey Ford (Royal Oak, MI) 3/2/67 who was invoiced $2,867 plus $214 for ten-spoke wheels plus $45.45 radio plus $40 rear seats plus $69.75 freight for a total $32.36.20. Purchased by Shawn Hunter (Livonia, MI). Purchased by Ron Skinner (Whittier, CA) ’82 who stored the original engine an installed a 289 Hi-Po with 351W heads, Boss 302 crank, four-speed transmission and LeMans cam. The fender aprons and firewall were painted white and the engine had a lot of chrome and polished aluminum. It was featured in the ’95 Pony Pin-Ups calendar. Purchased by John S. Saia (Rolling Hills Estates, CA) 2/1/02.
Because I went to retrieve the car in the middle of a workday, I drove the Shelby to the office after picking up the car. This is my first photo, February 2002, with the new Shelby. At the time it wore California plates, "66K TOY".
A few more 'when new' (to me!) photos...
As this is written, I've had the Shelby now for 13 years! I have added nearly 20,000 miles (in many 35 mile increments!) over these years. It has never let me down.
Well, not exactly!
There was this time when my brother Domenic and his son Patrick were visiting and we (me) were hammering the Shelby up the Crenshaw hill, not far from home. I was driving it hard when your typical idiot lazily pulled directly in front of me, without checking his mirrors, as I was about to pass. I had no choice but to immediately get off the gas from full-tilt. The back-torque from the 4.57 gears put so much strain on the clutch that the clutch disc and clutch hub separated entirely (which, incidently, spells N-E-U-T-R-A-L!). Both Domenic and I thought we broke the driveshaft, but without all the associated clanging that would have occurred. We coasted to a parking lot, and ended up dragging it home using a tow rope with a Lexus GS300....about a quarter mile.
Obviously this necessitated a new clutch disc and pressure plate, so we replaced the Ford Hi-Po clutch with a CenterForce clutch assembly. That is the only time the Shelby has let me down.
....although I came close (but no cigar!) a short time later. I was on my way to work on a Friday (which was my 'Drive-the-Shelby-to-Work-Day' every week). When at the first traffic light, the clutch pedal lost it's 'tension'. I immediately knew that something was wrong, but was not certain what could have happened. I quickly turned around and headed for the barn (home) without attempting to shift or stop and landed in the Shelby Garage. This gave me time to think about what could have broken.
As it turned out, frustratingly, it was the small pressed-steel fulcrum (pivot) for the clutch fork that failed and the fulcrum collapsed, therefore there was nothing on which the clutch fork to pivot.
The backstory on the L-shaped fulcrum is that it was 'modified' slightly to fit the Lakewood steel blowproof bellhousing. By 'modified', the edge was ground off enough to enable the fulcrum to fit the curvature of the steel bellhousing. The grinding effort evidently was not what you'd call finessed...grinding overheated the pressed steel fulcrum thus causing the metal to become brittle and weak. Blueing was clearly evident in the area where it first cracked and then utimately collapsed.
Needless to say, the trans had to come out (again!) and the fulcrum had to be replaced. I have the fulcrum somewhere, and when I find it, I'll photograph it for the website. So that was close to a failure, but no cigar!
I have done a few modifications to the Shelby with the intention to make it even better. Every modification has been subtle and literally invisible to the casual observer, and largely in the suspension. For example, I replaced the gas shocks that were on the car when I purchased it from Skinner. So a brand new set of four Konis were ordered up and installed...at the initial soft setting. The old Firestone tires on the Shelby were replaced with fresh Bridgestone G-Force tires.
I did the 1" Shelby drop which significantly improves camber roll and lowers the center of gravity. While I was in the area, the spring seats that rest on the upper control arms were replaced with rollerized spring seats. This removes significant suspension stiction and enables the suspension to 'work' so much better and with a lot less interference. The front springs were already new 620 lb. units, but I topped them off with urethane seats. Speaking of added urethane suspension components, the strut rods, sway bar mounts and sway bar links got the same treatment. Finally, in front, the tie rod sleeves were replaced with billet aluminum sleeves which are quite stout.
Two other upcoming modifications to the front end:
A much stronger competition front lower crossmember
Roller bearings for the idler arm, to again remove some steering stiction.
In the rear, the spring bushings and rear shackles received urethane, and the shackle plates are now three times thicker than original thereby reducing side-to-side axle movement...not a panhard rod in sight!
Also in the engine room you'll find an Edelbrock aluminum high-volume water pump, and a polished coolant catch tank attached directly to the driver's side of the radiator. A four row aluminum radiator is coming next, it's just a matter of installing it. This engine never overheats even in traffic (which I avoid like the plague anyway!).
And a note to Mr. Skinner: That goofy rubber cap you added to plug-off the water pump-to-heater hose tube....yeah, I found a penny inside the cap. That was cheesy!
If you go back to the engine photo at the top of this blog entry, you can see the 'cap' before I changed the water pump. Here's two photos of what I discovered...
You can also see (below) that the water pump heater hose port is now appropriately plugged-off.
Under that distributor cap are two sets of points. I still enjoy setting the dwell and see no immediate reason to add electronic ignition. Go ahead, call me old fashioned!
You may notice a few changes in the engine room from the previous photo (above, taken soon after I purchased the Shelby).
All of the aluminum Shelby engine parts (valve covers, oil pan, intake mainifold) are polished with blue highlights. And finally, aside from the white engine compartment, all of the black Shelby parts and hood hinges are powder coated.
The entire dual exhaust system is stainless steel, from the cylinder exhaust ports and header bolts to the tips of the tailpipes. The headers are Scott Drake stainless steel Tri-Ys. The remainder of the dual stainless exhaust system is Magnaflow (with an X-pipe, rather than an H-pipe). The exhaust sound is loud, lumpy at idle, unique, and a recording that I enjoy hearin' every time I run it up under load. It's sonic therapy!
The entire exhaust system was expertly installed by Tim Taylor's team at San Pedro Muffler, San Pedro, California. Well done guys, and thanks!
Another change I've made has been the steering wheel. When I got the Shelby in 2002 it had a period correct 'aftermarket' wheel that you could buy at any Shelby dealer....a really nice wheel!
It has evidently been repaired (poorly) internally in the hub area. I think the spokes in the center are cracked or cracking, and there is a very uncomfortable looseness in there as well, so I've changed it out to a more modern, but still reasonably correct wheel.
I will mount the older wheel on a nice thick block of walnut and make an exceptionally nice wall display plaque. The challenge will be accurately drilling (or somehow making) a very precise 3½" hole. Photos when that's done!
Period correct 'aftermarket' steering wheel:
Modern replica steering wheel:
The Shelby is also radio delete and heater delete...you can see the radio delete plate in the photo above. It's certainly fun to tell a new passenger to turn on the radio or turn up the heat!
Here's the heater delete plate...from inside.
and from the engine room...
There are a few other cosmetic modifications to the Shelby that most folks don't notice, however, they're distinctive:
The G.T. 350 badge on the taillight panel is chromed, with white lettering (instead of brushed aluminum and black lettering).
In the interior, there's blue piping on the front seats, blue carpet (rather than black), along with blue trim strips around the windshield and rear glass.
And by now, if you've got a sharp eye for detail, you'll have noticed the Cobra badges on the wheel hub covers and on the air cleaner hold-down.
So for now, that's the 2060 Story...so far!
Stick around, there's more to come!