You Can Go Home Again But Doing So Took This G.T. 350 Nearly 50 Years
The original 1965 Shelby G.T. 350 is among the foundations of the Shelby legacy. Of course the Cobra came first, but then Ford President Lee Iacocca asked Carroll Shelby to, in his words, "make a mule into a racehorse." Iacocca was as savvy an automotive executive as was ever born, and he knew that a youthful, sporty image helped sell cars. That's why the Mustang was developed in the first place. Shelby's idea was to take the Mustang racing, thus creating a "Chevy beater" and a performance image car for Ford.
The approach was straightforward yet highly effective: Take a lightweight, modestly equipped Mustang GT 2+2 fastback, juice up the horsepower by about 35 ponies, remove the back seat, improve the handling, sexify the looks a little, and call it the Shelby G.T. 350. Automatic transmission? Nope. Air conditioning? Not a chance. Corvette-beating performance? Absolutely.
Shelby American built just 562 of these rough-and-ready 1965 models. Each year after that, the original G.T. 350's race-bred performance was toned down just a smidge. That automatic trans and optional A/C came along soon enough, and over the years the car got larger and heavier. That's not to say that any 1965-1970 Shelby Mustang isn't a rare, sought-after, and now expensive collector car, but the dyed-in-the-wool Shelbyphiles put the original 1965 at the top of the heap.
Burt Boeckmann's Southern California–based Galpin Ford sold a lot of Mustangs in the mid-1960s. And when this Shelby guy came along offering a hopped-up Mustang as a way to sell more of them, Boeckmann was in, and became one of the first Shelby Mustang dealers in America.
Galpin sold a lot of Shelby Mustangs too, including 1965 G.T. 350 chassis 5S492. It was the quintessential 1965 Shelby: Wimbledon White with blue Shelby stripes, Shelby Cragar mag wheels, side-exit exhaust pipes, and the 306hp Hi-Po 289 with all the Shelby goodies, including the rare optional finned aluminum oil pan.
According to the SAAC Shelby American Registry, Galpin was invoiced $3,547 for the car, plus $214 for the Cragars and $141.75 in freight charges, for a total cost of $3,902.75. (The stripes were thrown in for free.) In a dealer-trade transaction the car went to Webster Ford in Caruthers, California, which sold it to its first retail owner on September 29, 1965. So even though Galpin didn't sell this car new as a retail unit, 5S492 absolutely passed through the dealership turnstiles on its way to the first owner. Somewhere along the way, in the early 1970s, it was parked in a suburban California garage and the engine was removed for freshening, with the odometer at around 44,000 miles.
It sat. And sat. Then sat some more.
With the passage of time, it became clear that the car wasn't likely to be restored or put back on the road anytime soon. The original owner sold it in 2009, and that owner consigned it to the 2012 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction.
This was about the time the whole barn-find phenom began to really gain traction. Barrett-Jackson's chairman, Craig Jackson, and president, Steve Davis, are serious muscle car experts and longtime friends of Carroll Shelby. They knew that this rough-looking gem represented a marketing opportunity of Hope Diamond proportions. The car, its matching-numbers powertrain, and miscellaneous parts were rescued from the garage, and the car was reassembled and serviced to put it in complete and running condition. Care was taken not to remove any important and serviceable original parts. The car was offered for sale at no reserve. The Shelby community buzzed. Who would buy this car? What would they pay? Would they restore it or leave it in its timeworn but spectacularly original condition?
The answers: Beau Boeckmann (son of Galpin's Bert and president of the Galpin Auto Collection) bought it for $385,000, and no, the car will not be taken apart and restored.
When the car was auctioned on that January Saturday in Arizona and the bidding passed $200,000, nearly all of the oxygen escaped B-J's massive tent structure. Boeckmann the younger couldn't be present, but Dave Shuten, his longtime friend and trusted employee, was there to bid on Galpin's behalf. After the sale concluded and it was clear that Galpin had won the car, I congratulated Shuten on bringing the car "home" to Galpin. Referring to the record price paid for a somewhat rundown-looking 1965 Mustang, he replied, "I'm either a hero, or I'm going to be fired."
The car is an amazing physical specimen, complete and in great shape. The rare steel-aluminum wheels are all in place (including the spare), as are the very expensive and difficult-to-replace things like the wood-rimmed, aluminum-spoked steering wheel and the Cobra-head-shaped tach and gauge cluster mounted on the dash just above the radio.
The exterior paint shows a few bangs and scrapes from its early days on the dragstrip, and the blue stripes have been waxed and polished through to underlying primer, white paint, and even metal in a few places. The car wears lots of event stickers and badges testifying to its attendance at a wide variety of 1960s club and racing events. Its original California black license plates are intact. As of the date our photos were taken, the speedometer read 44,945 original miles. The engine fires easily with a sharp, barking report from its glasspack mufflers and side exhaust dumps that exit just in front of the rear wheels. The clutch is a little heavy, as is the manual steering, and the car is absolutely honest in every way.
We asked Beau Boeckmann if he ever planned to restore the car. His reply was an enthusiastic, "No way! It's beautiful exactly the way it is," thus becoming an originality template or pattern car for any owner or restorer wishing to restore a 1965 Shelby to absolutely as-delivered, original condition.
After buying the car, Boeckmann said his goal was to drive it from his Southern California home to Monterey for the annual Monterey Car Week held each August. Upon taking delivery of the car after the auction, his Galpin Auto Sports crew continued massaging and fettling the car, not with any intent to cosmetically improve, alter, or restore it, but only to ensure that it was in top mechanical condition for the 1,000-or-so-mile weeklong roundtrip the boss had planned later that summer. And he did it, driving the car from the San Fernando Valley to Monterey, around to various events, and then home, with no meaningful problems or breakdowns to speak of. He had no fear: "Hey, it's just a Mustang, right?"
His father, Boeckmann family and Galpin Ford patriarch, has an interesting take on this car. Says Bert: "I usually agree with my son on most of the decisions we make around the business, but this one I just don't understand. I told him, ‘Son, why would you spend so much money on this Mustang that's all dirty and beat up? We used to sell them brand new for about $5,000, in perfect condition.'" Although Boeckmann the senior has since come around to agree that the car is something special to Galpin's history, some people embrace the barn-find phenom, and some just don't.
The immediately recognizable profile, colors, and stripe graphics of an early G.T. 350. This car sits right on all four corners, looking ready for any road or track on properly sized Goodyear Blue Dot Special tires wrapped around rare and desirable Shelby/Cragar two-piece mags.
Original Guardsman Blue Shelby stripes, the brilliant vision by Shelby American's chief designer, Peter Brock, is a seminal look that is little changed on Shelby Mustangs throughout the years, and it is still available on new Shelby Mustangs. As you can tell from this photo, they were painted on top of the factory Wimbledon White paint, and on this car have been worn and polished nearly all the way through to the underlying paint.
The car's original interior is mildly faded but still looks the business. Note lack of console or add-on A/C unit, and the presence of competition-style lap belts. There is little doubt this car took a few road course laps at full throttle and some passes down the quarter-mile for good measure.
This rare and costly wood and aluminum steering wheel is now being reproduced, but this one is no repop piece, instead showing just enough gentle wear and tarnish to evidence it as the car's original wheel. Note that the 1965 instrument panel still has the early band-style Mustang speedo.
A 1965 G.T. 350 engine bay looking only a little less shiny but otherwise as it likely did the day it rolled out of Shelby's Los Angeles–area assembly facility. Notice Shelby American's use of two different pieces meant to improve chassis structural rigidity: the triangulation brace, originally developed for convertible Mustangs, which ties the shock towers to the firewall; and the all-important "Monte Carlo bar," which further supports the shock towers from flexing in or out during high-load cornering.
We can't tell for sure if this Rotunda oil filter is an N.O.S. piece or a reproduction, but this is what they looked like in 1965, long before there were Motorcraft or Ford Racing pieces. Neat period touch.
The G.T. 350 was homologated as a two-seat sports car, so there is no back seat. Instead, the resulting package shelf makes a handy place to keep the spare, in this case not just a black stamped steel wheel but another of those great-looking Cragar Shelby mags.
The original (and slightly beat up) rear license plate and its metal Galpin frame are important elements of the car's presentation, as are great wheels and period-looking tires. It looks like during its first life the car was last registered in 1974, likely about when it came down for engine work and the long, long sleep until it was reunited with Galpin Ford.
Evidence of the Shelby's early history: stickers from Southern California's Lions Drag Strip and the American Hot Rod Association drag racing sanctioning body, plus dash plaques evidencing club membership and event participation. It is important that Galpin leaves all of this bric-a-brac on the car to document the Southern California heritage and "never been restored" status.
The Galpin-again G.T. 350 takes pride of place at the Galpin Auto Collection museum. Galpin's Beau Boeckmann is on the right; Galpin Auto Sport's general manager Steve McCord is on the left. The Galpin collection houses many fine, original Shelby Mustangs and Cobras, several of which were sold new by the company back in the day.