When Ford and Shelby racing historians consider the East Coast, Rhode Island's Tasca Ford quickly comes to mind as the principle center of many significant competition activities. But let's not forget Harr Ford. Located in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts, Harr was also a hub of East Coast Ford race activity, with solid connections inside Ford Engineering and Shelby American alike. So well connected was Harr Ford that in 1966 the service manager, Gus Zuidema, placed an order for the only 427-powered Cobra Dragonsnake ever built (the other five were 289 powered), immortalizing the Harr Ford dealership in the pantheon of Ford race history.
"Shelby was also interested in the quarter-mile"
"Snoopy ran a best time of 12.03 at 118 mph"
"A few purists quietly grumbled about deviating from originality"
Two years before that, the two-brother team of Bob and Walt "Snooky" Walls were making waves on the New England drag racing scene with a 1964 Fairlane Hi-Po 289. The Walls brothers co-owned Summit Mobil, also based in Worcester, a successful automotive repair shop and refueling station, the first of several the brothers would eventually operate in the area.
Taking turns rowing the Hi-Po Fairlane's T10 four-speed on weekends, Bob and Walt became regular fixtures at the numerous dragstrips and converted airport runways that dotted the New England landscape.
To keep their 289 running ahead of the pack, the brothers established a relationship with Harr Ford for the latest goodies from Ford's new Cobra racing program. One day in the spring of 1965, Harr high-performance sales manager Bill Fisher invited the brothers to a beer-fueled dinner meeting to discuss the possibility of replacing the K-code Fairlane with Ford's newest expression of 289 development, the Shelby Mustang G.T. 350.
Though the Mustang's primary mission was domination of the SCCA B/Production road race scene, the Shelby representative admitted that Shelby was also interested in the quarter-mile and needed feedback from experienced straight-line users. Out in California, Mel Burns Ford of Long Beach drag raced a light blue G.T. 350 to promote the idea. Though their service station was successful, the idea of coughing up $4,547 for a new G.T. 350 (almost $1,300 more than a fresh Galaxie 500 XL convertible), was daunting. But Harr sweetened the deal by knocking the total down to $4,200 and pledging to replace wounded driveline components at no charge. Can you imagine that? Most hot car buyers had to hide the fact they broke parts while racing. In this deal, the Walls brothers were actually encouraged to stress parts to the limit!
A deal was made, and on June 15, 1965, the Walls brothers took delivery of Shelby Mustang number 5S127, a stone-stock 1965 G.T. 350 that left Shelby's LAX conversion plant on April 26. For good measure—and to ensure better saturation at the track—Harr Ford ordered an identical car to be driven by the aforementioned Gus Zuidema.
True to form, a mere three days after taking delivery, the Walls brothers were at the Sanford, Maine, strip making low-14-second shakedown passes. They decided to name the car Snoopy (a play on Walt's nickname) and had it lettered up in the summer of 1965. Other running changes over the next decade included a swap to 5.14 gears, Hilborn mechanical fuel injection, and an alternate engine displacing 305 cubes (a 302 overbored 0.030). In full race mode, Snoopy ran a best time of 12.03 at 118 mph.
The brothers raced Snoopy through 1972, when the pressure of their successful gas station business took over their free time. The relatively unmolested Shelby had its Snoopy graphics gently buffed off, then was parked in a heated garage for the next 11 years. By 1983, Walter had bought out brother Robert's interest in the car; and recognizing the historical significance, he decided to get it ready for gentle road use and showing at Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) events.
Interestingly, over all the years of racing the guys never registered the Mustang with the state of Massachusetts. Instead, the limited road use was accomplished using dealer repair plates. But when Walt faced the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1983, he was forced to pay excise taxes and penalties going all the way back to 1965. Ouch!
Finally with license plates in hand, Walt began sharing the car at local car shows and cruises. By 1985 the paint was dull and faded, so Walt stripped the body to bare metal and resprayed it in the original Wimbledon White, but without the Snoopy race graphics. One detail that was added in 1985 were the twin Guardsman Blue racing stripes. Remember, Shelby only applied the distinctive stripes to public relations cars, demonstrators, and show units. Those G.T. 350s delivered for retail sale did not bear the stripes unless they were applied by the dealer.
For the next 15 years Walt and his sons Bobby and Steven enjoyed showing the car and even garnered two Second Place and one Third Place concours awards at SAAC meets. Walt passed away in 2010, leaving the heirloom Mustang to his sons. Having grown up with the car, they respected its significance as a rare Shelby but more so as a remembrance of their beloved father. After talking it over with close friends and the many folks who remembered its dragstrip exploits, the sons decided in 2015 to reapply the Snoopy graphics just as they appeared in 1966.
You won't find any computer-cut vinyl here. With the exception of a few retro stickers, the lettering and cartoon work is entirely rendered in paint by the capable Dennis Day. Predictably, a few purists quietly grumbled about deviating from originality on what most regard as the ultimate Shelby Mustang. But once they become aware of the one-family ownership, they applaud the decision.
We caught up with Snoopy at the 2015 Orange Drag Strip Reunion car show and at first assumed it to be a neat retro-themed clone. But after Steve Walls shared its story and a book full of vintage photos, thoughts turned to "where's the trailer?" Surprise! The Walls brothers drive Snoopy every week during the summer and even installed a T-5 manual transmission pirated from a 1988 Mustang GT. With the T-5's 0.675:1 overdrive gear, the 3.89 Shelby-spec axle ratio is reduced to a highway-friendly 2.65:1. Most of the 41,000 miles displayed on Snoopy's odometer were racked up after its 1985 repaint.
Though we haven't checked in with the SAAC, we'd venture to say Snoopy is one of a handful of 1965 G.T. 350s still in the hands of the family that bought it new. And despite having been a drag racer for the first decade of its existence, it hasn't been cut in any way and retains virtually every major component that was on it when Harr Ford delivered it new. That is because Walt and Robert Walls were obsessive about saving any parts removed to make way for drag race-specific upgrades. Bobby and Steven Walls are now in their early 50s and have their own kids, who also take a keen interest in maintaining Snoopy. There is no doubt this is one Shelby that'll remain in the family for generations to come.
At A Glance
1965 Shelby G.T. 350
Owned by: Robert and Steven Walls, Rochdale, MA
Restored by: Mostly original, repainted in 1985
Engine: 289ci/306hp V-8
Transmission: BorgWarner T-5 5-speed manual
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with 3.89 gears and Detroit Locker
Interior: Original black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 15x6 Shelby Cragar
Tires: P215/65R15 Goodyear Eagle GT
Special parts: Original T10 4-speed replaced by T-5 for improved cruising