The Beginning of Trans-Am Racing

Compiled from
Shelby American World Registry - 1997
Shelby American Issue #50 - Bill Hanlon

In 1966, the Sports Car Club of America announced it would recognize sedans as a National Championship category for the first time. Eligible cars fell under the provisions of the FIA Appendix "J," Group II and classes were based on engine displacement: A/Sedan, 2000cc to 5000cc; B/Sedan, 1300cc to 2000cc; C/Sedan, 1000cc to 1300cc; D/Sedan, under 1000cc. The SCCA planned two concurrent racing series for these sedans - one amature and one professional - each leading to a national championship. The amateur series included over 50 SCCA sanctioned national events throughout the United States, culminating with an invitation to the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) for the three finishers in each class in each of the SCCA's six geographional divisions.

The professional series, called the Trans-American Sedan Championship (the "Trans-Am" for short) was to be made up of seven professional races at road circuts accross the United States. Points would be given to each manufacturer based on their cars' finishing positions, leading to a Manufacturer's Trophy. The races would ultimately become mini-enduros, ranging from 200 to 2400 miles, from two to twenty-four hours. Pit stops for fuel, tires and driver changes would be mandatory; they were seen as adding to the excitement.

While many of the same drivers participated in both series that first year, it was the lure of a Manufacturers Trophy that piqued Ford's interest. Quite naturally, they turned to Shelby American to develope the Mustang into a Group II sedan racer. Rules stated that the engine displacement could be no more than 5 liters (305 cubic-inches) and maximum wheelbase of 116-inches. Eligible cars also had to be delivered with four useable seats and this effectively eliminated Shelby's GT350, which had already been homologated for B/Production as a two-seater.

On November 29, 1965 a meeting was held at Daytona, following the ARRC. Shelby American's Competition Director, Lew Spencer, sat down with Ford's SamSmith, Shelby American's Marketing Director George Merwin and Chuck Cantwell, Shelby's GT350 Project Engineer. The subject was FIA Group I and II Sedans, and how Shelby American would build them. It was decided that the cars would be purchased by Shelby American from Ford, on a D.S.O. basis, and sold by Shelby; however, they would be considered Ford products and would carry Ford Serial Numbers. An initial build of five Group I cars was planned; because they require fewer modifications, they would be built in Shelby's Production Department. An initial batch of Group II cars would be built in the Competition Department, reworked in a manner similar to the GT350 competition model. Cantwell's first job, in December of 1965, was to write the homologation papers. For the required photographs he took pictures of a stock white Mustang notchback sitting in a dealers lot in downtown Los Angeles.

The actual work of building the cars fell to Chuck Cantwell and race fabricators Jerry Schwarz and Bernie Kretzschmar. Shelby sent them to the nearest Ford dealer, where they purchased a blue 271 Hi-Performance four-speed notchback right off the lot. Working with a total budget of $5,000 (which included the purchase price of the car), they stripped it down and built it back up incorporating most of the tricks they had developed for the GT350 competition models. This car would become the prototype, and it was used to establish what would become the production specifications for the Group II race car. As soon as it was finished they took it to Willow Springs Raceway. It was only fractionally slower than a GT350 R-Model.

The Mustang Group II sedan and GT350 R-Model were mechanically identical, but the rules required that the Group II car retain its stock steel hood (without a scoop). It also had to retain the original glass windows, seats for four and full interior upholstry including dash padding and door panels. The front steel valence was allowed to be notched to permit airflow to the oil cooler (the notch was about the size of a license plate).

When it came time to produce the first batch of race cars, Shelby American sent word to Ford's San Jose assembly plant to build a small run of knock-down Mustang notchbacks. A total of twenty cars were made, in two separate production runs of ten cars each. The first group was delivered to Shelby American in early March of 1966; six cars were built to Group II specifications and four became Group I sedans. All ten cars in the second production run were built as Group II cars. They arrived at Shelby American two months later, in May of 1966. All of the notchbacks were ordered in Wimbledon White with black interiors, 271 Horsepower 4V 289 engines, four speed transmissions and 3.89 rear axle ratios with Detroit Locker "No-Spin" units. They also came equipped with 15" x 6" steel wheels, front disc brakes, adjustable "export" shock absorbers, export front end brace, heavy duty front springs and GT fog lamps. Deleted were the outside mirror, wheel covers,front stabilizer bar and front seat belts. All cars carried the Ford VIN prefix 6R07K.

Once the cars arrived at Shelby American they received virtually all of the R-Model mechanical parts and modifications. The suspension was essentially brought up to 1965 Shelby specs: A-arms were lowered one inch; a one-inch front sway bar and Monte Carlo bar were added along with the GT350 Pitman and idler arms. Over-ride traction bars were installed at the rear. These over-ride bars are often the only clue to identifying a Shelby factory-built racer, all of the competition parts were readily available to independent racers who built their own Mustang racers, but few elected to install 1965 style traction bars.

Under the hood was a GT350 competition specification engine, balanced and blueprinted with ported and polished heads, a "Cobra" hi-rise aluminum intake manifold with a 715 CFM Holly carbureator, a 7½ quart "Cobra" finned aluminum oil pan, steel R-Model valve covers with specially fabricated breathers, Tri-Y headers leading to 2½" straight exhausts terminating ahead of the rear wheels, an oil cooler with remote "Cobra" oil filter adapter and an 18 quart Galaxie radiator.

The stock Mustang interior was retained, and a four point roll-over bar was installed. The GT350 16" diameter wood rim steering wheel was used (with a dash mounted horn toggle switch). A full set of R-Model "CS" gauges were mounted in the dash in front of the driver: fuel pressure, oil temperature, 160 MPH speedometer, 0-8000 tachometer, oil pressure and water temperature (left to right). Ray Brown 3-inch competition seat belts and shoulder harness were used on the driver's side only. A Stewart-Warner 240-A electric fuel pump was mounted in the trunk where the battery was relocated (it was mounted on the rear end hump). A 32 gallon R-Model gas tank was used, complete with a 3½" snap-open competition cap and spun aluminum splash bucket. Klik-pins replaced the hood and trunk latching mechanism. American Racing 15" x 7" magnesium five spoke wheels were used; the front and rear fenders had their wheel openings rolled to accept them.

Since a majority of these cars continued to be raced into the 1970s, many updates and changes were made as they matured (and as Trans-Am rules were loosened). As a result, it is difficult to tell exactly how each car came from Shelby American. Some of the early cars had a scooped out fiberglass panel that was pop-rivited between the trunk and passenger compartment, allowing a spare tire to be carried. This met the FIAs requirement. In 1967 the SCCA required a metal bulkhead between the passenger compartment and the fuel tank/cell. These panels were removed by most racers when they campaigned their car but is was never removed from car #1. The early cars apparently came with heaters and defrosters, but at least one car (#12) had the heater-delete option. The stock Mustang cap was retained on the early cars even though it was not functional. Later cars had a round, aluminum disc rivited over the fuel filler hole.

Options for the Group II car were few. They included a one-piece, fiberglass R-Model driver's seat and a ½-inch rear anti-sway bar. Side mirrors were either dealer or owner installed and this explains the wide variety of mirrors seen on photos of the cars when they were raced, as well as their placement. One car (#2) shows evidence of having factory power brakes utilizing a MICO master cylinder (the same type as used on some GT350Hs).

The first car went to Cooper Clark & Associates. They paid $6414.00 for the car in a bidding war as only one of three cars were completed in time for Sebring in 1966. Later factory built cars were sold for $5,500. Sixteen Group II cars were built and sold during the 1966 model year (along with 4 Group I cars). One possiable reason why such a relatively small number of cars were sold was likely due to the availability of the Group II unique parts. Everything used by Shelby American to make a Mustang into a Group II race car was available from the Shelby American parts department. This allowed drivers like Tom Yeager, Bob Johnson and Dick Thompson to successfully campaign independently prepared Mustangs.

Despite their small numbers, the Shelby Group II Mustangs earned points for Ford in five out of the seven Trans-Am races in 1966. That season was highlighted by victories by John McComb and his co-driver Brad Brooker in the 6-Hour Pan-American Endurance Race at Green Valley Raceway near Fort Worth Texas. Their win tied Ford with Plymouth and Jerry Titus' come from behind victory a week later at the Riverside 4-Hour was enough to give Ford the Manufacturer's Championship. Not to be overshadowed by all this was the fine driving of Shelby Group II drivers Bill Pendleton and Jim Kless who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 1966 ARRC at Riverside.

Most of the 1966 Mustang Group II notchbacks continued to be raced the following year, but they were essentially obsoleted (not to mention outclassed) by the 1967 Mustang Group II cars - also built by Shelby American - as well as a factory-backed team of Bud Moore built Cougars and Roger Penske and Mark Donohue's Camaro.


The Shelby American World Registry has assigned these cars production numbers which correspond to the order in which they were built, according to Shelby American work invoices.

PROTO Prototype Group II racer.
Originally purchased by Shelby American from a local Ford dealership. Modified to Group II specs and used as development and test car. Purchased from Shelby American by Donald Peck (Santa Monica, CA) 4/15/66 as used race car "as is". Raced by Don Pike/John Timanus in Pan-American 6-Hour (5th); Don Pike/Scooter Patrick in Riverside 4-Hour Trans-Am (DNF). Present owner Rick Nagel (Dallas, TX).

CAR #1 First production car, invoiced 3/24/66 to S&C Motors (San Francisco, CA). Purchased by Cooper Clark & Associates (CA); driven by Dick Terrell. Finished 5th in SCCA Northern Pacific Region. Borrowed by Jim Kless and driven to 4th Place in 1966 Riverside ARRC after Kless wrecked his car (Group II Car #5) in practice at Riverside several weeks before the ARRC. Featured on cover of Car Life 9/66; Motor Trend 12/66; featured in Car Lif's Mustang Guide. Subsequent owners: George Petri (CA) '66; Ceil Yother (CA) '77; Bill Hanlon (CA) '83. Restored to original specs; featured in The Shelby American #50. Purchased by current owner Robert Clemens (MO) '87.

CAR #2 Invoiced 4/28/66 to Frontier Ford Sales (Niagra Falls, NY). Purchased by Eugene Novy (Cheektowaga, NY) 5/24/66. Advertised for sale in Competition Press & Autoweek 8/26/67. Purchased by Peter Schwartzott; painted green w/ white stripes, #733. Finished 7th in SCCA Northeastern Division '68. Advertised for sale in Competition Press & Autoweek3/8/69. Purchased byCarl Engel, Prospeed Racing (NY) 5/29/69. Finished 14th in SCCA Northeastern Division '70. Purchased by Paul Hunter (Canada) 4/1/73. Raced to Novice Championship '73; then stored in chicken coop. Purchased by Don Henderson (Ontario Canada) '81. Restored and shown at SAAC-8 (Dearborn, MI) 7/83. Pictured in The Shelby American #44. Purchased by Gary Barnes (Phoenix, MD) '85. Traded to present owner Michael Gaffney (Bloomington, IL) '88.

CAR #3 Invoiced 4/1/66 to S&C Motors (San Francisco, CA); purchased by Peter Talbert and delivered to him at SCCA Regional Race at Camp Stoneman (Pittsburg, CA). Pictured on Cover of Car Life 9/66. Raced in Mid-America 300 Trans-Am, driven by Peter Talbert/John McComb (3rd); Bryar 250 Trans-Am, driven by Peter Talbert/S. Whitney Griswold (DNF). Second owner unknown. Subsequent owners Ira Morrison (CA) '69. Carl Goodman (CA) '73. Carl Stein (CA) '81. Presently unrestored and racing in SCCA events.

CAR #4 Invoiced 4/28/66 to West Ford Sales (Newton, MA). Purchased by Anthony Fucci (Shrewsbury, MA). Finished 7th in SCCA Northwest Division '66. Raced in Bryar 250 Trans-Am, driven by Ken Duclos (who borrowed the car from Fucci) and Robert Arego (DNF). Fucci finished 4th in SCCA Northeast Division '67; finished 1st in '68 season (10 1sts, 1 2nd, 1 3rd; finished 11th in '70 season. Purchased by Terry Bennett (NH). Purchased by current owner Steve Pollock (Rockville, MD); car is presently in unrestored and as last raced condition.

CAR #5 Purchased by Jim Kless. Invoiced 6/2/66 to Rod Cerveth Ent. (San Carlos, CA). Finished 1st in SCCA Northern Pacific Division '66. Totally destroyed at Riverside Raceway 11/66.

CAR #6 Originally purchased and raced by Ray Cuomo (NY). History not known. Still owned by Cuomo; still in unrestored condition.

CAR #7 Invoiced to Marv Tonkin Ford (Portland, OR). Purchased by Bill Pendleton (Portland, OR). Finished 3rd in SCCA Northern Pacific Division '66. Finished 2nd at '66 ARRC at Riverside. Totally destroyed at Delta Park Race Track (Portland, OR) 4/67.

CAR #8 Invoiced 8/25/66 to Benito Lores (Callao, Peru) and shipped to Peru via boat. Current whereabouts not known.

CAR #9 Driven by Jerry Titus, finished 1st in Riverside 4-Hour Trans-Am 9/66. Finish clinched 1966 Manufacturers Trophy for Ford. Purchased by Ted Gildred (CA) and shipped to Mexico. Purchased by Juan Carlos Bolanos (Mexico). Purchased by present owner Alvaro Diaz (Mexico).

CAR #10 Invoiced 6/1/66 to Riesmeyr Motor Company (Crestwood, MO). Purchased by Russell Norburn, Jr. (NC). Raced at Mid-America 300 Trans-Am, driven by Norburn/Pete Feistman (DNF); Bryar 250 Trans-Am driven by Norburn/Feistman (5th); VIR 400 Trans-Am driven by Norburn/Feistman (2nd); Marlboro 12-Hour Trans-Am driven by Norburn/Feistman/Peter Gregg. Totalled in practice by Gregg at Marlboro Park Speedway 8/88.

CAR #11 Invoiced 6/29/66 to Harr Ford (Worchester, MA). Purchased by Peter Lake (Boston, MA). Raced at Bryar 250 Trans-Am, driven by Peter Lake/Skip Barber (3rd); VIR 400 Trans-Am driven by Peter Lake/ Curtis Turner (5th). Finished 4th in SCCA Northeast Division. Present whereabouts are not known.

CAR #12 Originally built for Ken Miles who was killed testing a J-Car at Riverside before he could drive it. Invoiced 8/24/66 to Turner Ford (Wichita, KS). Purchased by John McComb (MO). Finished 1st in SCCA Midwest Division '66. Raced at Pan-American Trans-Am, Green Valley, TX 9/10/66 (1st); Riverside Trans-Am9/18/66 (4th); Continental Divide SCCA National '66 (1st); St. Jovite Canada '66 (2nd). Invited to '66 ARRC at Riverside (DNF). Featured on Cover of Sports Car Graphic 12/66. Finished 1st Midwest Division '67 (points combined with those won with '67 Car #10). Raced at Daytona 300 Trans-Am 2/3/67 (DNF); 24 Hours of Daytona 2/4/67 (DNF); Polar GP, Green Valley, TX 3/67 (2nd); Green Valley Trans-Am 4/16/67 (17th); Mid-Ohio Trans-Am 6/11/67 (11th). Pictured in '67 Motor Trend World Automotive Yearbook (pages 146-147); pictured in Sports Car Graphic 6/67. Purchased by Keith Thomas (MO) 6/67. Finished 2nd in SCCA A/Sedan Midwest Division '67 (behind John McComb in '67 Car #10). Independence, KS SCCA National 6/67 (2nd); Lake Afton, Wichita, KS SCCA National 8/67 (2nd); Continental Divide Raceway Trans-Am 9/67 (DNF); Mid-America SCCA National, Wentzville, MO 10/67 (2nd); War Bonnet Park, New Manford, OK SCCANational 10/67 (2nd). Invited to '67 ARRC at Daytona (finished 5th but upgraded when 4th place car failed tech). Finished 3rd A/Sedan Midwest Division for '68. Lake Garnett, KS SCCA National 7/68 (2nd); Lake Afton, Wichita, KS SCCA NAtional 8/16/68 (1st). Set A/Sedan lap record and tied A/Production Corvett of Don Yenko for 2nd fastest lap ever run atLake Afton. Finished 3rd Midwest Division '69. Cotton Carnival GP (1st); Salina, KS SCCA National (1st); Kansas City GP SCCA NAtional (2nd); St Louis Mid-America Raceway GP SCCA National (2nd); Lake Garnet, KS SCCA Nationals (2nd); Ponca City, OK GP SCCA NAtionals (2nd); War Bonnet Park, OK SCCA Nationals (1st). Invited to '69 ARRC at Daytona (DNF). Lone Star GP, TexasInternational Speedway, College Station, TX SCCA National (1st); Ponca City GP, OK SCCA National (2nd). Raced limited schedule from 1971 to 1973. Purchased by Melvin Hammontree 1973. Purchased by Max Anderson '78. Purchased by current owner Gary Spraggins (Kingwood, TX) '68. Car is presently restored to 1966 specifications.

CAR #13 History and present whereabouts are not known.

CAR #14 Invoiced 7/14/66 to Paul Fahey (New Zealand) and shipped by boat. Sold as used car to reduce taxes. Raced in New Zealand with both 1x4V and 4x2V Weber induction system. Road tested in New Zealand's Mototman magazine 12/66. Currently owned by John Chapman (New Zealand) restored to 1966 specifications.

CAR #15 Invoiced 6/9/66 to Stan Bennett/Roth Leasing Co. Purchased by Dr Gilbert Weed (Portland, OR). Finished 4th in SCCA Northern Pacific Division '66. Subsequeently purchased by Ole Snoer (WA). Purchased by present owner Thom Canon (Medford, OR) '79.

CAR #16 Reportedly purchased by Shelby American employee (name not known). Driven to Charlotte, NC. Purchased from used car lot by present owner Wayne Bard (Seminole, FL) 7/69. Driven until '77 and garaged and untouched since then. Delivered with aftermarket chrome Crager 15" x 6" chrome spoke wheels. Reportedly never raced.