Early Shelby GT350s are still hot commodities, but later ones are lagging

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1966 Shelby GT350 3/4 front Mecum

The 1965-1970 Shelby GT350 has been near the bottom of our Hagerty Vehicle Rating list several times since early 2018. Because a vehicle’s place on the 0-100-point ranking has everything to do with how it’s currently trending in the market and not a judgement of its cultural importance or performance prowess, any number of factors can contribute to a ranking. Still, how could a car as loved as the GT350 consistently lag behind the market, and tie for the 16th lowest HVR score?

The Hagerty Vehicle Rating takes a number of data points, including auction sale prices, insurance quoting activity, and the number of new policies purchased, to gauge the popularity of hundreds of car models, and compare it to the overall collector car market. Vehicles that are keeping perfectly in line with the current market are right in the middle and receive a Hagerty Vehicle Rating of 50. Those that are outperforming the market get a higher score, up to 100, while those that are pacing behind get a lower score below 50.

Our first instinct was to wonder if GT350 continuation cars were drawing people away from the factory cars, or if buyers would rather clone a GT350 themselves and not have to worry about wadding up a piece of history on the outside wall of Turn 9 at Willow Springs.  

Or maybe high prices have been driving buyers off in search of more affordable sports cars—the case with a number of rare muscle cars.

It turns out that the early GT350s, the 1965 models in particular, continue to trend well. The most valuable GT350 we track is the 1965 GT350R with a #1-condition (Concours) value of $1.05M, and #2-condition (Excellent) value of $898K. Desirable and well cared-for models consistently bringing high prices, especially those that go to private sales. Even at auctions, where the price is out in the open, they still change hands at prices that suggest their values are holding. A 1965 GT350 sold for $324,500 in Scottsdale 2018.

In lumping all model years of the GT350 together, our data did not articulate how differently the early models are trending compared to the later ones.

The early models are the quintessential GT350 people remember. Their raw handling, combined with their roaring, high-revving small-block, make for a wonderful track experience that the later models lack. Unfortunately, as the GT350 evolved the package became less focused on performance and more about appearance. Unique grilles and bumpers became the distinguishing factors, rather than all-out performance. Ford took over the production from Shelby in 1968, and rather than being built by hand—so much so that no two 1965 GT350s were ever quite the same—in Shelby’s Venice, California shop, they were built alongside every other run-of-the-mill Mustang at Ford assembly lines in Michigan.

1966 Shelby GT350 logo
1966 Shelby GT350 Mecum
1966 Shelby GT350 interior driver
1966 Shelby GT350 Mecum

1966 Shelby GT350 side profile
1966 Shelby GT350 Mecum

It’s those later cars, like this 1968 GT350-H that went for just $71,500 that are bringing down the GT350’s Hagerty Vehicle Rating. The number of insurance quotes has fallen by 34 percent since peaking five years ago and in the last four years, and the number of quotes from younger buyers had dropped 50 percent in the last four years. Hagerty valuation expert Colin Comer weighed in on the topic:

“The ‘65s are always top-dog because of how raw and unfiltered they are, how special they were at the time and how they perform. It’s Sun Records Elvis vs. Las Vegas Elvis.”

That’s no reason to bring out the pitchforks for the later cars, they’re still holding their value, so while they’re rare, they’re not quite as special and don’t have the same magic as the Venice-built originals. Even with a few extra pounds and a sequined jumpsuit, it’s still Elvis.

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