Written by independent automotive journalist David C. Neyens
Lot #1395 – 1965 Ford Shelby GT350 will be selling with No
Without doubt, one of the greatest joys offered by the collector car world is the opportunity to rediscover great, previously unknown cars. Especially racing cars that decimated the opposition like thieves in the night and then disappeared, only to re-emerge years later. One such car, which will be offered with No Reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s 2022 Scottsdale auction, is this unrestored and as-raced 1965 Shelby GT350 (Lot #1395), modified for the original owner when new by the wizards at Les Ritchey’s Performance Associates to full “Drag Unit” specification.
First, a little background on the little-known GT350 drag program. Early in 1965, Don McCain, Shelby’s national sales director, conceived a drag-racing GT350 variant and racing program as a sales booster. McCain and Ford drag racing stalwart Les Ritchey of Glendora, California’s Performance Associates devised a host of modifications to McCain’s own GT350, dubbed “Performer.” Tailored to NHRA Sport Stock and AHRA B/Sports competition, McCain’s GT350 drag program was approved at Shelby American by July 1965 with limited factory support. Soon, records fell and word was out to savvy racers looking for that winning edge.
According to the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC), just eight GT350 drag cars, collectively designated “Drag Units,” were built – four 1965 cars and another four 1966 models. All began as randomly selected GT350 street cars at Shelby American’s LAX factory and once ordered as a “Drag Unit,” they were shipped to Performance Associates, where the drag-racing upgrades were exclusively performed.
However, in Southern California and virtually unknown to most Shelby fans and experts for nearly 50 years, lurked another GT350 drag car – SFM5S242, modified to full “Drag Unit” specification at Performance Associates in 1966. Raced by its original owner for the 1966 and 1967 seasons, it was retired after the NHRA folded Sport Stock into Super Stock for 1968. While a formidable low-12-second car, the Shelby’s owner knew it would no longer be competitive in the new class, and after a little clandestine street action, the car was stored and preserved as raced from 1971 until 2013, when it was purchased by the consignor from the original owner.
Delivered to Mel Burns Ford in Long Beach, California, SFM5S242 was equipped new with Le Mans stripes and tagged as a showroom car and dealer demonstrator at the urging of Shelby American. It remained with Mel Burns Ford until January 22, 1966, when San Jose drag racer Jerry Mendes purchased SFM5S242 for $3,377 and had it shipped immediately that day to Les Ritchey’s Performance Associates, where it received the entire set of Shelby Drag Unit upgrades. There, “GT6” was stamped on the Shelby’s engine, 4-speed transmission, 9-inch rear end and other locations during the process, signifying it was the sixth drag racing Shelby GT350 built at Performance Associates, – following the first 1966 car – 6S011 – and preceding 6S018.
The parts and precision work by Performance Associates added $1,494.63 to the GT350’s cost, and all original take-off parts were returned to Mendes, who either drove or flat-towed the car to drag races at California’s Sacramento, Fremont and Carlsbad strips. Mendes added further race preparations to the GT350, including surgeon-like weight reduction worthy of Ford’s famed racing operations. Mendes’ efforts worked magically, including achievement of a low ET of 12.38 seconds at 110.83 mph and setting an NHRA class record while the car was actively campaigned. Following retirement, the GT350 was placed into storage with just 6,455 miles from 1971 to 2013, when the consignor, a die-hard Shelby enthusiast and collector, purchased it directly from Mendes, strictly conditional on the car remaining in “as raced” condition. Never wet, at least since Mendes purchased the car in early 1966 to the present day, SFM5S242 retains the factory-original Wimbledon White paint finish, down to the factory assembly-line overspray it retains in various nooks and crannies.
Throughout his nearly 50 years of ownership, Mendes kept the GT350 road-registered annually. To anybody wondering about this GT350’s amazing provenance, it comes with original documentation, including ownership and California title records, plus Shelby American, Mel Burns Ford and Performance Associates invoices and correspondence. Now known to the Shelby faithful after so many years, the story of this spectacularly original and as-raced quarter-mile warrior was featured by Mustang Monthly magazine in 2013. A true showstopper to Shelby fans, it
Title: BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT: The Sixth Shelby GT350 Drag Car
Sourced From: www.barrett-jackson.com/Media/Home/Reader/the-sixth-shelby-gt350-drag-car-crossing-the-2022-scottsdale-block/
Published Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2021 18:58:51 +0000