Mustang Masterpieces: Featuring the Cars of Carroll Shelby. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
There are a lot of books written about the Ford Mustang, but it is easy to forget that the car has been around for the better part of five decades. Author Jerry Heasley’s latest release, Mustang Masterpieces, is different, as he has chosen to focus his attention on those Mustangs that have a connection to American automotive legend Carroll Shelby.
The book begins with a short foreword by Shelby, who has been a personal friend of the author for the past 25 years. From this we learn that Carroll has great respect for Heasley, and acknowledges that he would consider him an expert on Shelby products and automobiles. Jerry’s knowledge is firsthand, and is supported by interviews conducted with all the major players involved with the iconic company, including Shelby himself.
The book begins with a look at how Carroll Shelby came to prominence on the world stage with his stunning Cobra race cars. The success for Ford, which provided the engines for Shelby-American, helped give the blue oval the high-performance image it needed. When the Ford Mustang debuted in the spring of 1964, Ford brass called upon Carroll Shelby to help them promote their new pony car through road racing. In 1965, the Shelby GT350 dominated SCCA racing, and a partnership that is still going strong today was formed.
What makes this book compelling is the fact that it is not just a fact-based, chronological history. Instead, the author fills the book with stories of real people and their involvement with significant Shelby automobiles.
One such story is that of Mark Gillette and his quest for SFM5002. This is the serial number of the first competition Shelby Mustang, a 1965 Shelby GT350R, that can now be seen on display at the Shelby Collection in Boulder, Colorado. The car was found tucked away in Mexico, where it had been hidden for decades after finishing its days on the race track. The author doesn’t divulge the purchase price, but hints that it was a relative bargain, especially when compared to its estimated current value of one million dollars (even in unrestored condition!).
Another iconic name in the automotive world is Vic Edelbrock. The intake manifold king enjoys spending time with his two daughters, vintage racing a pair of “user-friendly” 1966 GT350s. Daughter Christi says the appeal of the cars is that “they are forgiving,” and that “they are safe.”
In 1966, car rental company Hertz ordered 1,000 Shelby GT350s. Shelby American painted most of them in the Hertz corporate colours of black and gold, but the author’s research revealed that 200 of the cars were painted in four other colours: white, red, blue and green. Due to the size of the order, the cars were given a unique model designation, GT350H. I was intrigued to learn that it was Carroll Shelby’s ingenious idea to approach the car rental company in an effort to boost his own company’s sales. In short order, he doubled his output. I was even more intrigued by the fact that many of these cars could be bought from the company a year later for a song. Makes you wish time travel was a reality.