It’s hard not to love a Shelby Mustang isn’t it? It’s also arguably a dead-heat rival to the James Bond Aston Martin as the most iconic movie car of them all – Steve McQueen most famously drove a dark green 1968 Mustang GT Fastback in Bullitt of course. While the Mustang Shelby lives on forever in movies like Bullitt and Diamonds Are Forever, this variant of the famous high performance muscle car was only produced in two short runs from 1965-1967 and from 1968-1970.

When a Shelby Mustang in pristine condition appears, it always causes a bit of noise on the scene. Right now, we have a very special 1965 Shelby Mustang GT 350R about to head to auction at the famous Monterey Car Week which kicks off on August 6 running through to the Concourse d-Elegance on Sunday August 15. There are several auctions being held during Monterey from various automobile auctioneers such as Bonhams, Gooding & Company and Mecum; the Shelby will be up for auction via the Wisconsin-based latter company, who’s auction runs from August 12-14 – it should create quite a bit of a clamour.

What makes this particular high performance pony car so special is that it is one of just 35 models built in 1965 for the purpose of racing. Car SFM5R538 is not only in great condition, but it has a most impressively detailed history logged against its serial number beginning at its inception in San Jose, March 1965. A 6-month Shelby conversion then commenced to transform the Mustang into the GT 350R with the final completion date being November 10. It sat ‘on the shelf’ for just 8 days before it headed off to Alabama to become part of Treadway Ford’s roster. From here it met its first owner Roger West at a cost of $6,200 – a sum which included a spare set of wheels. West raced Shelby SFM5R538 all over and was crowned SCCA Southeast Champion at the end of 1967.

This was end of this particular period for the Shelby Mustang GT 350R, as the car was put up for sale by West and Simon Charles Kemp became the new owner in December that same year. While the Shelby didn’t clock up anything of real note with West, Kemp was to rectify this along with mechanic Peter Hood, and he ‘rebranded’ the Shelby Mustang as car number 23. Now SFM5R538 started to create its legacy with a Daytona race record (for a 289 cubic inch Shelby) of 184mph. 32 victories out of 54 starts (including an amazing run of 17 straight wins from 1968-69) later, and this remarkable Shelby had become the equivalent of a highly sought-after racehorse. From now on, the Shelby would gain the universally clumsy nickname of the most ‘winningest’ Shelby.

Kemp also moved the car on, but his attachment to it was by now too great, and he re-purchased the car once more – not for racing, but to partially restore and clean up the muscle car to its former glory as a show the car. The Mustang has since moved on from Kemp once more and undergone a full restoration beginning in 2014 courtesy of Thoroughbred Restorations in Oklahoma. The meticulous restoration was finally completed in 2020 which pretty much brings us up through 7 decades of excitement to the present.

The story doesn’t quite end there though, as following a show event in Indiana where the car was awarded a Division 2 Gold Award, Thoroughbred Restorations took the car back to correct the 14 minor imperfections that the award judges had noted.

While these racing Shelbys weren’t built or known for their comfort, being set up to comply with SCCA rulings for racing, this car is clearly the one to own if you have a love affair with the Shelby Mustang. Way back in 2001 a Mustang restored by John Brown of Thoroughbred Restorations was estimated to be worth $1.3 million – it will be interesting to see how the bidding goes on this one…


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