Very First Out Of Four 1966 Shelby GT350 Convertibles Now Up For Bids

Jul 6, 2020 5 min read
Very First Out Of Four 1966 Shelby GT350 Convertibles Now Up For Bids

This ultra-rare and historic Shelby is the only one still powered by its original engine.

When it comes to the 1966 Shelby GT350 convertible, there was some confusion of how many were actually produced. The majority of enthusiasts believed that a total of 6 GT350 convertibles were produced for the 1966 model year, but that number was proven incorrect after documentation was discovered in Carroll Shelby's Gardena office. In paperwork that was dated June 7, 1966, a statement read “Four experimental convertibles are being run through the shop at present time … One of these units is sold and the other three will be used for test purposes in anticipation of a 1967½ GT350 convertible.” Clearly, only 4 actual '66 Shelby GT350 convertibles were ever built, and this stunning example is the very first. That's right, this 1966 Shelby GT350 Convertible from the John Atzbach Collection is the very first one assembled out of the four cars. This example is currently up for bids through the Mecum auction in Indy.

<img src="1966-shelby-gt350.png" alt="The very first 1966 Shelby GT350 Convertible out of four">

For years, there was plenty of confusion surrounding these cars, but here is what is known to be fact. All four '66 Shelby GT350 convertibles were painted a different color with this very first example finished in a stunning Ivy Green complete with unique Hertz Gold-colored rocker stripes and the only Shelby without the "H" normally found on GT350H cars. A photograph that was published in an issue of Autoweek from December 7th, 1967, showed this car in the background and proved this color combination to be true. The other three were finished in Red, Sapphire Blue, and Springtime Yellow. Two of the cars featured automatic transmissions, and the other two were shifted via a 4-speed manual. In fact, these four cars would be the only four Shelby cars in the first two production years that were fitted with factory air conditioning. Last but not least, only one of those cars retains the original engine, and that would be this Ivy Green example being offered here through Mecum with Serial No. 6S2375.

Under the hood sits the original 289-cubic-inch V8 engine that is backed by an automatic transmission. The 1966 convertibles were the same as the 1966 GT350 fastbacks except for brake-cooling scoops on the quarter panels that were turned non-functional due to the folding mechanism for the convertible top, and the addition of the aforementioned air conditioning. After this first convertible was completed, it was delivered to Shelby American as an experimental test car to prepare for a possible 1967 1/2 Shelby GT350 convertible.

This '66 GT350 convertible spent eight months as a test guinea pig before it was plucked by Shelby's Hi-Performance Motors in El Segundo, California, with an invoice price of $2,870.61 that was reduced to $2,250 per agreement with Shelby American. This car made its way to Hayward Ford in Hayward, CA, on February 14th, 1967 where it was utilized as a pace car at SCCA Bay Area until the car was bought by Derek Scott of Walnut Creek complete with "Shelby Pace Car" lettering on the doors. Under Scott's ownership, the car was media-blasted and repainted in white before being resprayed again in blue. At this time, the interior was also changed from its original black to blue along with other modifications.

The Shelby convertible changed hands through another owner before being sold to Joe Wallace from Alameda, California. Wallace returned the interior to factory specifications. Later on, Clifford Hornback of Vinita, Oklahoma, discovered this car in the mid-'70s in rough shape. Knowing the value and rarity of this Shelby, an extremely careful and meticulous restoration was started on the car with the help of Jim Wicks, a noted Shelby enthusiast. Thankfully, the original Shelby parts were saved from the car including engine and suspension components. Just two changes were made to the car from its stock setup being the over-the-top "Le Mans" stripes in Hertz Gold to match the rocker stripes and the addition of a Paxton supercharger.

In July 1982, the car was featured in Mustang Monthly magazine. After its restoration was complete, Hornback drove the car to Shelby events across the nation and added over 30,000 miles. Eventually, the car joined the John Atzbach Collection, and it became a sight to behold at the Mustang's 50th Anniversary in Tacoma, Washington, in 2014 among plenty of other Mustangs and Shelby GTs parked at LeMay America's Car Museum.

This is an extremely rare car with a colorful history, and the fact that it is even up for bids at this moment at Mecum is unbelievable. The others sit in collections where they will likely remain, but as mentioned above, this example is the very first one built and still wears its original Shelby components unlike the other three. Up for bids through Dana Mecum's 33rd Annual Spring Classic in Indy, this historic 1966 Shelby GT350 Convertible is ready to call a new place home. Anybody with deep pockets and a love for historic, rare vehicles may want to jump in on the bidding war before it's too late because this likely won't happen again any time soon - or ever again. As of this writing, the current bid is at $100,000 with an estimated ending auction price somewhere between $1,300,000 and $1,700,000.

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