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1966 Shelby Mustang GT350

JIM SMART October 18, 2022 All Feature Vehicles

This ’66 Shelby GT350 Has Been Lovingly Maintained by Mark Lopez’s Family for 46 Years

It was a cloudy East Bay area kind of day when I shook Mark Lopez’s hand and went to work burning these inspiring digital images of his ’66 Shelby GT350.

The car has a fascinating story, and Mark presented it and the car so well. The original classic Shelby Mustangs of the ’60s have the advantage of rarity and real racing history on their side. They spanked Corvettes in Sports Car Club of America B-production competition nearly 50 years ago, and they enjoy a great legacy in the automotive world. Mix in the effervescent personality and character of the late Carroll Shelby and you have a formula for attention and plenty of it.

The automotive press, of course, was crazy about the Shelby GT350 and gave the car high performance marks. When it started winning races, both the press and the public noticed. It very quickly shed its rebodied Falcon image. Two ’66 GT350s were delivered to Competition Press (now AutoWeek) in San Francisco by Shelby American on Nov. 5, 1965. These GT350s were among very few purchased directly from Shelby American in Los Angeles.

This particular GT350 was Publisher Russ Goebel’s daily driver for nearly two years.

In August 1967, Mark and Rick Lopez’s parents purchased 6S289 from Competition Press and used it as a daily driver for 10 years. It was driven on vacations down to Southern California, which Mark and Rick remember vividly. “Our dad drove the car at Sears Point Raceway the day of the first official race in December 1968,” Mark reflects, “then, in November of 1977, it was placed in the family garage where it was stored and maintained for nearly 28 years.”

Ford’s 271-horse 289 high performance V-8 was a high-revving mechanical tappet screamer that made peak horsepower at 6,000 rpm with an Autolite 4100 carburetor and header-style iron exhaust manifolds. What made the Shelby 289 high-performance Cobra V-8 different was its Tri-Y long-tube headers, Cobra high-rise dual-plane intake manifold, finned Cobra valve covers, and 715-cfm 4150 Holley carburetor with LeMans bowls. GT350s fitted with C4 Cruise-O-Matic transmissions got the 480-cfm Autolite 4100 carburetor also fitted with a manual choke. The 289 high performance V-8 was fitted with a wider harmonic balancer with counterweight along with special hi-po heads with spring pockets and screw-in adjustable rocker arm studs.
Early ’66 GT350 289 high-performance V-8s had hollow letter finned aluminum valve covers that evolved into wrinkled black with solid lettering. The hollow letter Cobra covers remain popular today. They’re available as cool high quality reproductions from Tony D. Branda Shelby & Mustang Parts along with the Cobra high-rise intake manifold.
Shelby Cragar GT 15 x 6-inch five-spoke mag wheels were a Shelby option until supplies ran out in 1966. Standard Shelby wheels were the 15 x 5 ½-inch station wagon steel wheels. Magnum 500 wheels arrived later in the model year. All had Goodyear Blue Dot bias-ply high-performance tires. The Lopez family’s GT350 was originally fitted with Goodyear stock car-caliber tires.
GT350 for ’66 included the Mustang’s redesigned multi-element horizontal bar grille. Instead of the corralled galloping horse, Shelby American went with the distinctive pony and tri-bar in red, white and blue on the left side, much as it had done for ’65. The GT350’s message for ’66 was refinement with a gentler demeanor, making it appealing to more buyers. What hurt sales was the GT350’s high selling price in the mid $4,000-5,000 range, which bought a high-end luxury car at the time. Competition Press bought 6S289 for $3,600. Buyers wanted more for their money than a hopped-up Mustang fastback.

Mark adds, “Over the years, my mom offered the car to me to get it restored, but I had other things going on at the time.” In July 2005, when Mark was at SAAC 30 with his son in Southern California, he brought the GT350’s glove box door for Carroll Shelby to sign. Shelby gladly signed the door. A month later, Mark moved the Shelby from his parents’ house to the shop, where restoration was begun in earnest.

Golden West in the East Bay community of Hayward, was an extraordinary restoration shop run by the late Jeff Dunn. Mark visited Jeff’s shop a few times a week during the 18-month restoration to chat with Jeff and watch the progress. “It was a great experience watching Jeff and his associate Chris Canadian put life back into 6S289 after 28 years of storage,” Mark relates, “Jeff was a true craftsman who restored our Shelby to a thing of beauty, yet knew how not to over-restore the car.” Mark and his family were very pleased with the final result of the restoration and maintain the car like never before.

Our world lost Jeff Dunn in January 2011 while he was doing what he most enjoyed, working on cars. Mark is glad that 6S289 was completed prior to Jeff’s passing, but he is sorely missed. Jeff was great at what he did and a great friend, as well.

Carroll Shelby’s ’66 GT350 was a slightly more refined version of the original ‘65 Shelby GT350 that was distinctive and user friendly with a fold-down rear seat, functional side scoops, sail pillar windows, softer ride and optional automatic transmission. Instead of just Wimbledon White, there was also a broader array of color choices and groovy options that made the GT350 appealing to larger numbers of buyers. This GT350 6S289 and one sister ship, SFM6S290, were media cars built for Competition Press in San Francisco. Publisher Russ Goebel copped this one for his daily driver, enjoying the car for nearly two years before it was sold to Mark and Rick Lopez’s father in August 1967. Mark’s family saw a GT350 for sale in the July 29, 1967 Competition Press classified section and called about it. It turned out the car for sale was 6S290, driven by William Finnefrock, president of Competition Press, and it had already sold. “After Mom cried a bit over the phone, Russ agreed to allow our family to come over and test drive his car, 6S289. He wound up selling the car to us,” Mark remembers.
Inside, the ’66 GT350 wasn’t much different from Ford’s garden variety Mustang fastback. The five-dial instrument cluster appeared in the Mustang early in 1965 with the GT Equipment Group and Interior Décor Group known as the Pony Interior. This cluster was a carryover into the ’66 model year on all Mustangs, including GT350. The wood grain deluxe steering wheel was a Mustang option. What made it different in the GT350 was a unique GT350 center cap. GT350s were also fitted with a Shelby tachometer mid-dash. Some got the mid-ship instrument pod with tachometer and oil pressure gauge (1965-66 GT350s had a tachometer on top of the dash). Shelby-specific racing lap belts made GT350 unique (6S289 has its original Ray Brown racing seat belts). The Blaupunkt Marine AM/FM radio was installed as a special option for Competition Press. How many GT350s have you seen with the Blaupunkt system as two separate components?


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