$3.85m 1965 Shelby GT350R Becomes The World's Most Expensive Mustang

An auction of the 'Flying Mustang' GT350R has seen the Bullitt car usurped as the world's most valuable Pony car
$3.85m 1965 Shelby GT350R Becomes The World's Most Expensive Mustang

We wouldn’t blame you for assuming no one would pay more than $3.74 million for a Ford Mustang. After all, the Pony to achieve that record-breaking price was Steve McQueen’s daily driver in Bullitt, but its claim to the title of ‘world’s most expensive Mustang’ has been short-lived.

It’s been pipped by the 1965 Shelby GT350R prototype, named the ‘Flying Mustang’ after an image of the car clearing the tarmac at Green Valley Raceway by at least a foot. The famous shot would later be used in Shelby marketing materials with the caption: ‘See, our Mustangs really fly!’ Flew it certainly did at Mecum’s Indy auction last weekend - it went for $3.85 million.

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Built to have a crack at the SCCA Production Sports Car series and change people’s perceptions about the Mustang, the GT350R is a car of firsts. Shelby’s first -R model, its first to race, and its first to win. The chap who did most of that winning was one Ken Miles, Shelby’s chief test driver who raced a Ford GT40 MkII to victory at the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours. He’s now also known as that guy played by Christian Bale in Ford vs Ferrari.

‘5R002’ had a spell as a development mule when its ‘5R001’ successor took over racing duties. It later returned to competition, but only for a brief stint. It was retired by Shelby in 1966, a mere year after being built.

$3.85m 1965 Shelby GT350R Becomes The World's Most Expensive Mustang

It was sold to a Ford Performance Division engineer for a mere $4000 (around $32,000 adjusted for inflation) with the description “test car – as is”. 5R002 continued racing. And winning. It was sold in 1968 and again in 1970, before spending the best part of two decades sat doing nothing.

After being discovered in 1989 it became a display piece in the Boulder, Colorado Shelby American Museum, where it stayed for 14 years. In 2010 ownership passed to Shelby collector John Atzbach, who commissioned an extensive four-year restoration to return the car to original spec.

$3.85m 1965 Shelby GT350R Becomes The World's Most Expensive Mustang

From there, the GT350-R returned to winning, albeit in concours showdowns rather than circuit racing. In 2015, it bagged both the ‘Best in Class’ and ‘Car We’d Most Like to Drive’ gongs at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

If you could have either this or the Bullitt car, which would it be?


Olivier (CT's grammar commie)

Oh I remember about reading on 5R002 getting auctioned and I expected it to be a record sale; I’m not disappointed. This thing is probably the most significant car in the entire Mustang history, more than the very first Mustang (the Wimbledon White convertible), more than the ‘67 Bullitt Mustang. Before that, the Mustang was seen a bit as a secretary car, not as a sports car. Shelby had the task to change that perception, and 5R002 was that car. It was the car that was actively tested by the whole Shelby team (tens of thousands of miles were spent driving it during development), the car that was used to convince journalists the Mustang wasn’t a joke, and the car that had the most significant racing wins in the Mustang’s history.

5R002 has everything: originality, race cred and wins and podiums, early history, official Shelby usage, notable drivers in its history, and importance. The Mustang wouldn’t be the car it is today without 5R002, so it was to be expected that it would reach such a high price. And just like the Bullitt Mustang, it was the only time for a while, and probably the last time for a very long period, that such an important Mustang would be for sale. Even Little Red, which is very famous in the community, won’t reach that kind of price if it ever comes for sale.

07/22/2020 - 04:00 |
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