Friday, December 5, 2014

AUTOS: A Fleeting Nod to America's Original "Pony Car"

ACM Postcard sent this past summer announcing Member's first peek of the Masters of Mustang exhibit before opening to the public. (The Tomaso Collection)
As always, thanxs solely to Tacoma Bureau Chief Mary Ellen, upon my latest visit "Down south," albeit not the "Deep, Deep, South," nee Arizona; Hya! That 'Awntie Harriet used to question me 'bout regularly... Mary Ellen took me to my Numero Uno Tacoma haunt, America's Car Museum, or simply ACM - which houses many treasures of the vast Harold Le May collection.

As a dyed in the wool "FoMoCo" Aficionado, specifically a  (Ford) "Mustang Man," Mary Ellen had been promising to take me all summer long to see the museum's Masters of Mustang exhibit which opened  Thar' this past mid-June, and will be departing the building's top floor at the end of this coming December, which is almost here; CRIKEYS, MATES!

Thus having paid the requisite $5 parking fee and donning our wristbands after having checked in, before we could even begin looking over the  exhibit, a term I use loosely, since I cannot S-E-E any of the cars very well anymore, especially as the museum lighting tends to wash out the cars colours... A very friendly ACM volunteer gave us a brief run-down upon the Mustang exhibit we'd come to puruse.

And ain't trivia grand? As the very nice female volunteer seemed so certain of herself, informing us that one of the four 1966 Shelby GT-350 Convertible's, the green one was on display. Claiming there was a red, blue, yellow and green chassis built, to which later on Mary Ellen read a small plaque proclaiming all four still survived...

As perhaps I'm getting wiser in my old age? Since although I was certain that there were actually six convertible's built, I sagely kept my mouth shut and just enjoyed the exhibit instead, before firing off an email to an authoritative Shelby friend 'O mine upon the matter, scribbling the following;

 Hey, just  returned from Le May ACM,  i.e.; America's Car Museum Monday, which has a somewhat "decent" grouping of Mustang's honouring the 50th anniversary exhibit - thru the month of December; with the two most important cars both being 1966 Shelby's, one being a drag car and the other a convertible, both GT-350's.

And from all of my "history" learning's I thought there were 6 GT-350 convertibles built that year, yet both the museum's volunteer & the car's display tag claim that only  four were produced. (One each of red, blue, yellow and green, with the green one being on display)

So any idea which is correct? And where I can get some concrete info? As WICKEDpedia' claims 4, while a Mustang forum page claims six...

To which Dave McDonald, NO relation to Dave MacDonald; Hooah! An ex-Shelby American Cobra driver;

As Dave, Dave's NOT Here; Hya! WASAAC's (Washington Shelby American  Automobile Club) '66 Shelby GT-350 Technical Contact responded with the following information:

It's been known for some time now there were only four 66 GT350 convertibles, the last 4 cars built.  The number of 6 Convert's was a long standing rumor that has been squashed.  The best reference is the latest SAAC Registry which now has so much info it has been broken into sections, 65-67 Shelby's are one section, 4th edition, dated 2011.  The SAAC website,, should have all the info if you want to buy one but you can probably get one cheaper on eBay...

Ah, guess Y'all can teach 'Ol DAWGS' New Tricks after all, eh? As I suppose if I still kept up upon my past knowledge of Shelby-lore, I'd have known this, and hence the female ACM volunteer in Questione was indeed correct!

Thus Mary Ellen began describing the small armada 'O Mustangs on hand, which primarily focused upon the early 1960's, with the first three being a grouping of the three different versions offered over the years, including the (bone-white) Wimbledon 1964 1/2 Coupe, a silver '65 Fastback and a red '66 Convertible, or were the latter two red 'N silver? As all I recall now is the white and silver hues sparkling at Mwah underneath their glaring lights; so forgive me for the possible juxtaposition...

Next up was just a plain hood on display, appropriately a Le May Hood - from their personal collection, with mural of different various Stang's' with autographs including: Edsel Ford  II, John Force, Ashley Force-Hood, Robert Height, Steve Saleen and 'Ol Rufus, aka Parnelli Jones...

Then there was a lone example of a '71 Mach 1 on display, as I told Mary Ellen that the 1971-73 model years were the longest (wheelbase) body style ever produced, as these chassis were the final hurrah to the "Muscle Years," before something known as the OPEC Oil Embargo forever re-defined not only the Mustang's shape, but much of the automobile industry's as well, as "Downsizing" became Avant Guard.

Then a lone 1992 'Stang, black I believe, to which I don't recall Mary Ellen's exact disparaging remark, although basically comparing it to a cartoon,  albeit the 5.0-liter era was the start of the Mustang's resurgence performance-wise, as the fourth generation (1979-93) Fox platform Five-point-Oh liter cars definitely made Mustangs popular again.

A solitary 5.0 "Police Interceptor," aka  police car sat on display, to which Mary Ellen mused she didn't know that they'd made Mustang police cars. To which I was well aware of, and think they were also made in the 1990's. As I seem to recall they were used by the CHP, i.e.; California Highway Patrol, made forever famous in "CHiP's."

A relatively stock '67 GTA awaited us next alongside  the Police  Interceptor, to which I showed off some of my remaining Mustang knowledge by pronouncing that GTA stood  for GT Automatic. Although the Bullitt "clone"  next to the GTA should have been parked alongside the Police Interceptor for humour's sake, as police car  vs. BAD ARSE Hombre Steve McQueen;  Oh Never Mind!

As the Bullitt example was nicely done and even featured its passenger side visor autographed by McQueen's first wife, Actress Neile Adams.

As it'd have been kOOL if there had been an "Eleanor" (clone) Mustang inspired ride from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds II on hand nearby the Bullitt rod...

Amid the flotilla of 'Stangs, sat the three most valuable chassis on display, with the exhibits two heaviest "Hitters" being the 1966 Shelby GT-350 convertible previously mentioned above, along with another unknown "Gem" to Mwah, a factory '66 Shelby GT-350 Drag Car! to which I believe there were also four of these produced? As both cars are owned by the same local private owner, who I'm told has quite the  collection 'O cars!

And completing this triumberant of 1966's was one of the remaining 1,001, or was it 999? GT-350H's, which I'm pretty certain Mary Ellen told me that the "Hertz DOUGHNUT!" (GT-350H) "Rent-a-Racer" was a beautiful shade 'O burgundy with gold stripes along with being a rare 4-speed car...

Which so far, my research says only the first 85 cars were equipped with 4-Speeds, as Hertz was concerned over the clutches being "BURNED-UP!" And opted for the rest of its production run to be automatics. Also, the 4-Speed cars came in Hertz's official colours of black 'N gold, nee Raven Black, so not really sure on the GT-350H in  question...

Although I have ridden in an ultra-rare 1-of-50 blue with gold stripes automatic Hertz Shelby's on multiple occasions; even having been so fortunate as to drive I-T once!

And on the heels of all of my renewed Attenzione upon Mustangs & Shelby's, was totally caught off guard by the announcement that Ford has unveiled its brand new version of the Shelby GT-350!

Another mystery was presented to Mwah by Mary Ellen, when she inquired what does AC Cars stand for? As 'Ol Shel (Carroll Shelby) sold the name Cobra to Ford in 1965, who were keen to capitalize upon the name's marketability, having long since blurred the lines between the AC Cobra, Cobra Mustangs and even Cobra Jet engines!

BUUUUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!! Put 'Dem No. 2 Pencils Down; Times UP!

AC Cars Ltd was originally known as Auto Carrier limited in 1911, albeit its initial name was Auto Cars and Accessories when first formed in 1903 when producing 3-wheeler vehicles.
Then with the advent of a new partner, the company was rebranded as AC Cars Ltd in 1922... And the rest, as they say, is history!