The color of Mustang money

1966 Shelby GT350 front 3/4

The New Year started fast for green Mustang fastbacks. With some help from Hagerty, the 1968 Highland Green Mustang GT driven by Steve McQueen in the seminal 1968 movie Bullitt made a public debut after spending decades in hiding. Two days before McQueen’s famous steed took part in the January 14 introduction of Ford’s 2019 Mustang Bullitt, another portal into the pony car’s history briefly flashed open when an Ivy Green 1966 Shelby GT350 crossed the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee, Florida, auction.

Of the 2378 GT350s made for 1966, #2086 is significant not for any special options or racing pedigree but for its condition. With just 6975 miles from new, #2086 might be one of the most original of its kind.

Bidding started at $100,000 and escalated in $25,000 increments until hammering 90 seconds later at $250,000 (plus 10-percent buyer’s premium)—shortly after the auctioneer shouted, “The reserve is off!” That figure was below the $275,000–$325,000 pre-sale estimate, but it was in line with Hagerty’s #1 condition (concours) value.

John Kraman, TV commentator and analyst for Mecum, calls the car “a time capsule.” He says that while “it shows some patina, overall it looks like a one-year old car. Even the carpet shows no evidence of wear.”

1966 Shelby GT350 front view
1966 Shelby GT350 interior

The condition, Kraman says, was the overriding factor in the quick bidding, even if some purists don’t consider the green color and automatic transmission an ideal configuration. (Most of the 1000 GT350H “rent-a-racers” ordered by rental giant Hertz were automatics, as well. A 1966 GT350H owned by Carroll Shelby sold at Bonhams’ Scottsdale auction for $253,000.)

“We’ve all heard the overused adage, it’s only original once, but I think it bears repeating here,” Kraman says. “The focus on originality is stronger today than ever.”

Coincidentally, this Shelby was bid to $250,000 at Mecum’s Indianapolis auction in May 2015, against a pre-sale estimate of $300,000–$400,000. In October of that year, an ad appeared on Hemmings.com from Ron's Toy Box, a dealership in Bettendorf, Iowa, offering the Shelby for $249,995. The dealership, which had taken the car in a trade, tried selling it on eBay in October 2017, and bidding stalled at $120,000.

The Mustang becomes a road racer

Powered by a Shelby-tweaked version of the Mustang’s high-performance 289-cubic-inch V-8 and featuring a Shelby-modified chassis, the 1965 GT350 was a loud, rough-riding, sub-3000-pound no-compromise machine. Competition models would win the SCCA B-Production Championship in 1965, ’66, and ’67.

1966 Shelby GT350 profile
Mecum

Chassis and driveline changes made the 1966 GT350 somewhat less brutal to drive, though its raw character remained. Rear-exit exhaust replaced the side-exit pipes used in ’65; Plexiglas windows replaced the Mustang’s rear pillar vents; a steel hood replaced the fiberglass part used on the ’65 Shelby; and new quarter panel scoops fed cooling air to the rear brakes. The Mustang’s full gauge instrument panel and fold-down rear seat spruced up the cabin.

For 1966, color choices were expanded beyond the Wimbledon White offered in 1965 to include Candy Apple Red, Sapphire Blue, Ivy Green, and Raven Black. Howard Pardee, the 1965 and 1966 GT350 registrar for the Shelby American Automobile Club, confirms that 305 of the ’66 models were Ivy Green, although colors of five cars remain unknown. Shelby made a very small number of 1966 GT350 convertibles and drag racers.

1966 Shelby GT350 wheel detail
1966 Shelby GT350 engine
1966 Shelby GT350 Shelby glove box signature
1966 Shelby GT350 tail light detail

A pampered life

This GT350 was ordered on June 27, 1966 and shipped to Stark Hickey Ford in Royal Oak, Michigan. The distinctive 10-spoke alloy wheels were optional for $268. The car’s first owners, Norm and Donna Ruby, added miles sparingly, and service records show an oil pan replacement in November 1966. By 1981, the car had been driven 5800 miles.

In August 1982, the GT350 took second in the SAAC Concours d’Elegance at Great Gorge in New Jersey. Carroll Shelby’s autograph adorns the glove box door. According to history relayed by Mecum, a later owner inquired about buying the car when he saw it at a Shelby meet. The GT350’s owner promised to call if he decided to sell, and he did just that—nearly three decades later. The car changed hands and, all told, had at least five owners before Ron's Toy Box took possession, according to SAAC information.

The Shelby Registry listing for #2086 in June 2010 indicated the car having 6784 miles along with original paint, interior, wheels and tires, engine, and drivetrain. The GT350 was driven 116 miles from then until the Mecum Kissimmee auction in January, where a collector in the western U.S. acquired it.

1966 Shelby GT350 rear 3/4
Mecum