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In 1966, the Sports Car Club of America announced it would recognize sedans as a National Championship category for the first time. Eligible cars fell under the provisions of the FIA Appendix "J," Group II and classes were based on engine displacement: A Sedan, 2000cc to 5000 cc; B/Sedan, 1300cc to 2000 cc; C/Sedan, 1000cc to 1300 cc; D/Sedan, under 1000 cc. The SCCA planned two concurrent racing series for these sedans - one amateur and one professional - each leading to a national championship. The amateur series included over 50 SCCA sanctioned national events throughout the United States, culminating with an invitation to the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) for the top three finishers in each class in each of SCCA's six geographical divisions.

The professional series, called the Trans-American Sedan Championship (the "Trans-Am" for short) was to be made up of seven professional races at road circuits across the U.S. Points would be given to each manufacturer based on their cars' finishing positions, leading to a Manufacturer's Trophy. The races would ultimately become mini-enduros, ranging from 200 to 2400 miles, from two to twenty-four hours. Pit stops for fuel, tires and driver changes would be mandatory; they were seen (correctly) as adding to the excitement.

While many of the same drivers participated in both series that first year, it was the lure of a Manufacturer's Trophy that piqued Ford's interest. Quite naturally, they turned to Shelby American to develop the Mustang into a Group II sedan racer. Rules stated that the engine displacement could be no more than 5 liters (305 cubic-inches) and maximum wheelbase was 116-inches. Eligible cars also had to be delivered with four useable seats and this effectively eliminated Shelby's GT350, which had already been homologated for B Production as a two-seater. Shelby could not have it both ways.

On November 29, 1965 a meeting was held at Daytona, following the ARRC. Shelby American's Competition Director, Lew Spencer, sat down with Ford's Sam Smith, Shelby American's Marketing Director George Merwin and Chuck Cantwell, Shelby's GT350 Project Engineer. The subject was FIA Group I and II Sedans, and how Shelby American would build them. It was decided that the cars would be purchased by Shelby American from Ford, on a D.S.O. basis, and sold by Shelby; however, they would be considered Ford products and would carry Ford serial numbers. An initial build of five Group I cars was planned; because they required fewer modifications, they would be built in Shelby's Production Department. An initial batch of ten Group II cars would be built in the Competition Department, reworked in a manner similar to the GT350 competition model. Cantwell's first job, in December of 1965, was to write the homologation papers. For the required photographs he took pictures of a stock white Mustang notchback sitting at a dealer's lot in downtown Los Angeles.

The actual work of building the cars fell to Chuck Cantwell and race fabricators Jerry Schwarz and Bernie Kretzschmar. Shelby sent them to the nearest Ford dealer, where they purchased a blue 271HP Hi-Po four-speed notch­back right off the lot. Working with a total budget of $5,000 (which included the purchase price of the car), they stripped it down and built it back up incorporating most of the tricks they had developed for the GT350 competition models. This car became the prototype, and it was used to establish what would become the production specifications for the Group II race car. As soon as it was finished they took it to Willow Springs Raceway. It was only fractionally slower than a GT350 R-Model.

The Mustang Group II sedan and GT350 R-Model were mechanically identical, but the rules required that the Group II car retain its stock steel hood (without a scoop), It also had to retain the original glass windows, seats for four and full interior upholstery including dash padding and door panels. The front steel valance was allowed to be notched to permit airflow to the oil cooler (the notch was about the size of a license plate ).

When it came time to produce the first batch of race cars, Shelby American sent word to Ford's San Jose assembly plant to build a small run of knock-down Mustang notchbacks. A total of twenty cars were made, in two separate production runs of ten cars each. The first group was delivered to Shelby American in early March of 1966; six cars were built to Group II specifications and four became Group I sedans. All ten cars in the second production run were built as Group II cars. They arrived at Shelby American two months later, in May of 1966. All of the notchbacks were ordered in Wimbledon White with black interiors, 271­horsepower 4V 289 engines, four-speed transmissions and 3.89 rear axle ratios with Detroit Locker "No-Spin" units. They also came equipped with 15" x 6" steel wheels, front disc brakes, adjustable "export" shock absorbers, export front end brace, heavy duty front springs and GT fog lamps. Deleted were the outside rear view mirror, wheel covers, front stabilizer bar and front seat belts. All cars carried the Ford VIN prefix 6R07K.

Once the cars arrived at Shelby American they received virtually all of the R-Model mechanical parts and modifications. The suspension was essentially brought up to 1965 Shelby specs: A-arms were lowered one inch; a one-inch front sway bar and Monte Carlo bar were added along with the GT350 Pitman and idler arms. Over-ride traction bars were installed at the rear. [These over-ride bars are often the only clue to identifying a Shelby factory-built racer; all of the competition parts were readily available to independent racers who built their own Mustang racers, but few elected to install 1965-style traction bars.]

Under the hood was a GT350 competition specification engine, balanced and blueprinted with ported and polished heads, a "Cobra" hi-rise aluminum intake with 715 CFM Holley carburetor, a 7 1/2-qt. "Cobra" finned aluminum oil pan, steel R-Model valve covers with specially fabricated breathers, Tri-Y headers leading to 2 1/2" straight exhausts terminating ahead of the rear wheels, an oil cooler with remote "Cobra" oil filter adapter and an 18-qt. Galaxie radiator.

The stock Mustang interior was retained, and a four-point roll-over bar was installed. The GT350 16" diameter wood­rim steering wheel was used (with a dash-mounted horn toggle switch). A full set of R-Model "CS" gauges were mounted in the dash in front of the driver: fuel pressure, oil temperature, 160 MPH speedometer, 0-8000 RPM tachometer, oil pressure and water temperature (left to right). Ray Brown 3-inch competition seat belts and shoulder harness were used on the driver's side only. A Stewart-Warner 240­A electric fuel pump was mounted in the trunk where the battery was relocated (it was mounted on the rear end hump). A 32-gal. R-Model gas tank was used, complete with 3 1/2" snap-open competition cap and spun aluminum splash bucket. Klik-pins replaced the hood and trunk latching mechanism. American Racing 15" x 7" magnesium five­spoke wheels were used; the front and rear fenders had their wheel openings rolled to accept them.

Since a majority of these cars continued to be raced into the 1970s, many updates and changes were made as they matured (and as Trans-Am rules were loosened). As a result, it is difficult to tell exactly how each car came from Shelby American. Some of the early cars had a scooped-out fiberglass panel that was pop-riveted between the trunk and passenger compartment, allowing a spare tire to be carried. This met the FIA's requirement. These panels were removed by most racers when they campaigned their car but it was never removed from car #1. The early cars also apparently came with heaters and defrosters, but at least one car (#12) had the heater-delete option. And the stock Mustang gas cap was retained on the early cars even though it was not functional. Later cars had a round, aluminum disc riveted over the fuel filler hole.

Options for the Group II car were few. They included a one-piece, fiberglass R-Model driver's seat and a l/2-inch rear anti-sway bar. Side mirrors were either dealer or owner installed and this explains the wide variety of mirrors seen on photos of the cars when they were raced, as well as their placement. One car (#2) shows evidence of having factory "power brakes" utilizing a MICO master cylinder ( the same type as used on some GT350Hs). The price of a factory-built racer was $5,500. Sixteen Group II cars were built and sold during the 1966 model year (along with four Group I cars). One possible reason why such a relatively small number of cars was sold was likely due to the availability of the Group II unique parts. Everything used by Shelby American to make a Mustang into a Group II racer was available separately from Shelby American's parts department. This allowed drivers like Tom Yeager, Bob Johnson and Dick Thompson to successfully campaign independently-prepared Mustangs.

Despite their small numbers, the Shelby Group II Mustangs earned points for Ford in five out of the seven Trans-Am races in 1966. That season was highlighted by victories by John McComb and his co-driver Brad Brooker in the 6-Hour Pan-American Endurance Race at Green Valley Raceway, near Fort Worth, Texas. Their win tied Ford with Plymouth and Jerry Titus' come-from-behind victory a week later at the Riverside 4-Hour was enough to give Ford the Manufacturer's Championship. Not to be over­shadowed by all of this was the fine driving of Shelby Group II drivers Bill Pendleton and Jim Kless who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 1966 ARRC at Riverside International Raceway on Thanksgiving weekend.

Most of the 1966 Mustang Group II notchbacks continued to be raced the following year, but they were essentially obsoleted (not to mention outclassed) by the 1967 Mustang Group II cars - also built by Shelby American - as well as a factory-backed team of Bud Moore-built Cougars and Roger Penske and Mark Donohue's Camaro. This second generation of Trans-Am sedans outpowered and outhandled the previous year's models, and they were driven by top drivers like Titus, Donohue, Gurney and Parnelli Jones. As the 1966 Mustang notchbacks moved down the race car food chain, they were purchased by those who weren't able to afford the very latest equipment and upgraded as much as the rules permitted. Each succeeding year they became less and less competitive as rules evolved to favor the newest cars.

In addition to the sixteen production Group II Mustang notchbacks and one prototype, Shelby American also produced four Group I Mustang sedans for rallying in Europe and Australia. These cars also fell under the provision of the FIA's Appendix J rules. To qualify as a Group I car, a higher minimum production requirement existed (a 1000 minimum vs. a 100 car minimum for Group II). With the large number of Mustangs produced by Ford, it was relatively easy to convince the FIA that these minimums had been met.

Like the Group II cars, the Group I cars began life as Wimbledon White notchbacks with black interiors, 289 Hi-Performance engines and 4-speed transmissions. They were delivered in the same way the Group II cars were. While none of the three remaining cars has yet to surface, paperwork from Shelby American on the last one has. With a selling price of $3,730 - almost $2000 less than a Group II car - it is obvious that fewer unique competition pieces were installed. The Shelby Group I "Street Rallye Hardtops," as they were called, appear to have been little more than 1966 GT350 street cars clothed in notchback bodies.

Under the hood, a one-inch anti-sway bar was added along with a Monte Carlo bar and the special Shelby Pitman and idler arms. The front A-arms were also lowered one inch. The battery remained in the stock location and the stock Mustang radiator was also retained. Engines were not disassembled; they received the GT350 street model treatment: a Cobra aluminum hi-rise intake manifold with 715 CFM Holley carburetor and a 7 1/2-qt. Cobra finned aluminum oil pan. They were delivered with stock Hi-Po cast iron exhaust manifolds and rear-exiting exhaust.

A Cobra 8000 RPM tachometer was mounted in the center of the dash (using the same mounting bracket employed on the 1966 GT350). Ray Brown 3-inch seat belts and 2-inch shoulder harnesses were furnished for both front seat passengers and the standard 1965 Mustang steering wheel was retained. Detroit Locker units were installed but over-ride traction bars were also not part of the Group I package (under-rides may have been). According to the homologation papers, both the 16-gal. and 32-gal. fuel tanks were available. Car #4 was delivered with the smaller tank and correspondence from the owner indicates that its 150-mile range was inadequate for European rallyes.

The role these Group I Mustangs played in European rallyes is still not known. The previous year, a team of red Hi­Po Mustangs competed in the famous Tour de France event and they received some coverage in the U.S. No such notice was garnered in 1966, however. It is likely that because they did not appear all that different from a standard Mustang - and because Shelby's magic name would not have been attached to them - they were probably not viewed as anything special in Europe. By the time they were no longer competitive they just "disappeared." So, it is not surprising that the current whereabouts of the three "surviving" cars is not presently known. Their small number, however, make them among the rarest of Shelby American cars.



© 2007 Walt Boeninger - all rights reserved