Tony Dreier doesn’t mind driving his fabulous 1966 GT-350 Shelby Mustang around and having some fun with it. He actually drove it regularly for years before he restored it.
But Dreier jokes that “I try not to have it out of my sight too long,” and you can’t really blame him. He isn’t paranoid or overly protective, it’s just that his Shelby has a bit of a star-crossed past. It was apparently stolen several times during its early days. It’s been chased, shot at, kidnapped, repainted, recovered and eventually banished to a salvage yard. Dreier, a resident of Clintonville, Wis., doesn’t expect the Mustang to ever go missing again while he still has the title, but you never know.
“It’s a little sketchy. I only have information from the guy I bought it from. It was bought brand new [in San Antonio, Texas] and it was stolen once or twice or three times, he wasn’t even sure, and the insurance company paid out on it a couple of times, and after about the third or fourth time they scrapped it and took it to a place called Apache Salvage Yard in San Antonio,” Dreier says. “A guy named Lee Eubanks must have bought it from the salvage yard, and whoever had stolen it last had painted it green. They must have figured that would camouflage it. I know that for a fact because I did see some green overspray in the trunk when I took the car apart.”
Dreier is a devoted Mustang enthusiast who already had a pair of beautiful 1966 Hi-Po Mustang GTs when he decided to try to track down a Shelby. That was back in 1988. He passed on one “fixer-upper” Shelby and tried to pass on a second one, but fate seemed to bring them together.
“Actually, I saw an ad in Olds Cars … A friend of mine helped put me on to one in Ohio, I believe is where it was. It was very rusty and needed a lot of love. … I walked away from that,” he says. “ He was asking 6,500 bucks for it, and I walked away! I think I could have given him $5,000 and he would have taken it! Then a few weeks later I found out about this one in San Antonio and I talked to the guy on the phone. He said he had two would-be buyers coming so he said ‘Let me call you back.’ Well, when he called me back he said ‘Those two guys didn’t take it, so if you want to come and take a look at it you’re welcome to.’ I figured right then and there that the car must be in rough shape, otherwise the other guys would have bought it."
“When I got down there I could see it was in pretty bad shape, and I had a round-trip ticket, and I said ‘Maybe just take me back to the airport and I’ll continue my search.’ So then he said, ‘Why don’t you make me a lesser offer,’ so I made him another offer. He said bump it up another $500 and we got a deal. I thought, what the heck, it will get me back to Wisconsin, so why not? So I bought it and drove it all the way home, 27 hours back from San Antonio!”
The ’66 GT-350 had 130,000 miles on the clock at the time and had probably deserved a better life than it had been provided in its first 22-plus years. But the Shelby lucked out and landed with a guy who loved ’66 Mustangs, and Dreier quickly began stockpiling parts for a restoration he knew he would tackle some day.
In the shorter term, however, Dreier decided he wasn’t going to let the GT-350 sit. There was no use in babying it, so he got some use out of it.
“I used to drive as a regular driver every day [laughs]. Oh yeah, I used to take it to the grocery story. Well, it had a lot of nicks and chips, so I thought, well the car can’t be hurt anymore than it is, and I know I’m going to restore it, so why not go ahead and drive it?”
CAROL SHELBY’S NEED FOR SPEED
Carol Shelby’s big factory Mustang adventure officially began in December of 1964 when production of the 1965 GT-350s began. By then, of course, Shelby had already made a big name for himself as a successful race driver, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959, and as the brains behind the lethal Shelby Cobras that eventually dominated the Grand Prix racing scene. Shelby’s next big challenge came after his company received an initial fleet of 110 Wimbledon White Mustang fastbacks from the San Jose, Calif., factory that were equipped with the 289-cid, 271-hp K-Code V-8. This was 10 more units than were needed to make the GT-350 eligible to compete in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing.
The conversion process included removing or deleting many stock Mustang parts that added weight, including hoods, exhaust systems and grille bars. Fiberglass hoods were bolted on and fiberglass shelves replaced the backseat. The cars were painted with Guardsman Blue stripes on the rocker panels and door bottoms and given 10-inch Le Mans stripes on the hoods. They also got special GT-350 identification inside and out.
Under the hood, the GT-350s received a “Cobra” aluminum high-rise intake manifold, Holley four-barrel carburetor, special cast aluminum finned valve covers, “Tri-Y” headers, better breathing mufflers with dual side pipes and a cast-aluminum 6.5-quart oil pan. Output was advertised at 306 hp. Shifting was done with done through a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed. The stock 15 x 5 ½-inch wheels were often swapped for American Racing or Crager models. The tires were state-of-the-art Goodyear Blue Dots.
Production that first year wound up being 562 GT-350s — a figure that included 521 GT-350s, 34 GT-350Rs and four special drag racing cars.
For 1966, Shelby made some changes to its production process and logistics, and also made some efforts to deal with the car’s biggest issues — they rode rough with their competition suspensions and Detroit Locker rear axles, they were pricey, and Ford mechanics weren’t particularly eager (or qualified) to work on them.
Dealers hoped to be able to offer customers four-seaters that were more comfortable and practical than the racy ’65s. Shelby responded by making the Detroit Locker axle optional and replacing the traction over-ride bars with units that were easier to install. Koni adjustable shocks were eventually discontinued and the expensive wooden steering wheels were replaced with GT-type wheels with GT-350 emblems. The Guardsman Blue side stripes were now made of tape, and the GT-350s were offered in Candy Apple Red, Sapphire Blue, Envy Green and Raven Black, in addition to Wimbledon White. A C-4 hi-po automatic transmission was put on the options list and an AM radio became optional halfway through the year.
Toward the end of the production run, Shelby also offered a Paxton supercharger for an extra $670. Only 11 GT-350s were believed to have gotten the superchargers.
The base price of the 1966 GT-350 dropped about $119 to $4,428 for the coupe. A total of 2,374 fastbacks and four convertibles were built for the model year. That total included 1,001 special GT-350H versions that were sold to Hertz to be used as rental cars.
TOUGH TIMES IN TEXAS
Dreier’s car was delivered to Hemphill-McCombs Ford in San Antonio on January 6, 1967. It included a rear seat for $40 and an AM radio for $45.45. The total dealer invoice on the car, with delivery charges, was $3,049.25.
The car had various minor repairs done to it very early on, from the information Dreier received. It had a hole in the differential welded up, the radio was sent out to be fixed, and some weather stripping was repaired, all within the first 2,205 miles.
There were other minor repairs, too, and for some reason the car was also repainted. The details are unclear, but this was probably about the time the car started getting stolen with some regularity. In 1971, it wound up in a local salvage yard without the engine and transmission. It was soon purchased by Eubanks, who pieced the car back together to some degree, then sold again in 1983 to Ken Anders, who repainted the car its original red. Anders then sold the Shelby to Dreier five years later.
“It was advertised as a restored car, but it was in pretty rough shape,” Dreier recalled. “[The driver’s side] rear quarter panel was sectioned, so it must have got tapped in the back end one time. I put two new quarter panels on it … I had two NOS quarter panels which were very hard to get back them. When I got it I bought a whole bunch of NOS parts for it: door handles, gas cap, and the taillights … and put them all away because I knew I was going to restore it some day. Then finally one day, in about 2012, I got a little nervous because I wasn’t doing much and I started ripping it all apart and working on it."
“I basically disassembled it and anything that needed attention got attention. I had it down the bare frame … I have two friend that have an auto body shop, and they don’t do restorations, but I said ‘If I get this car prepped and have it ready for paint, would you guys paint it?’ And they said yeah, they would do it. So they painted it for me.”
Aside from installing new carpeting, Dreier didn’t have to do much to the interior. The upholstery and dash still look great and are original, as far as he knows. He replaced much of the wiring using a donor car, and also re-mounted the body side scoops ahead of the rear fenders, which had been “mudded into the car” at some point in the past.
“And I put some nice Koni shocks in and a modern battery. I think I worked on this one for three years. It wasn’t bad. The nice thing about southern cars is you never have to fire up a torch to get any bolts loose because everything is rust-free.”
Dreier also considered himself lucky that he didn’t have to do any engine or transmission rebuilding. He did verify that the drive train was not original, and he also discovered the GT-350 had originally been an automatic car that had been converted to a four-speed.
“It came out of Shelby American with an automatic. I didn’t know that when I bought it, but I wanted a four-speed car and I assumed it was a four-speed car, but it was actually an automatic converted to a four-speed,” he said.
“It’s not a numbers-matching engine. Visibly, it looks right, and it’s got the Hi-Po heads on it, but in the bottom it’s got stock rods in it that are balanced. When I restored the car I had the engine out and took a look myself and the guy that I bought it from was from was honest. He told me it’s a built and balanced 289... I really didn’t touch the engine and transmission …Visibly it’s 100 percent correct. I have the correct intake, correct carburetor and I have the correct Hi-Po heads. And I know the rear end is the original Ford 9-inch.”
As a reminder of the car’s rather colorful past, Dreier decided to leave the scuffed driver’s side window in place.
“Apparently one of the times it was stolen, the cops were after it and they were trying to shoot the tires out. I’m thinking they must have been trying to shoot the driver out because those are buckshot marks on the window,” he says. “I have new glass for it, but I’m going to leave the history.”
Dreier chuckles at the notion that the GT-350s were built to be fast, responsive, good-handling cars in their day. Standards have certainly changed in that regard.
“You know, these are old-time cars, they don’t drive like new ones. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing like a new car that is tight and handles and steers so well. These are more of a handful.”
If Dreier wants to head out for an exhilarating ride, he has multiple choices these days. In addition to his fabulous ’66 Shelby, he has a ’66 Mustang GT, a pair of 1986 Mustang SVOs and an ’86 Mustang GT.
“I just sold one. I had six Mustangs and that’s too many,” he jokes.
Dreier has certainly gotten his money’s worth out of his Shelby. He still feels fortunate that the previous owner talked him into buying the car, and ponders how many other similar cars wound up in scrap yards, fields or sheds and were never saved.
“I often wonder how many got squashed. I have a registry book and there’s a lot of them with no history and a lot of cars they have no clue where they are or who owns them,” he says. “They were just a cheap Mustang back in the day and nobody thought they’d ever get to be too valuable.”
SHOW US YOUR WHEELS!
If you’ve got an old car you love, we want to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
*As an Amazon Associate, Old cars earns from qualifying purchases.