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.
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.
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.
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?