The “Flying Mustang “ In The Market Again

The example that will be put on the block at Mecum’s first 2022 auction is none other than THE “Flying Mustang” itself. This example is arguably the most important Mustang in the marque’s history. It is the first Shelby GT350 “R-Model” produced, and that’s not the only first it can boast of. It is the first competition Shelby Mustang, the first model to be raced, and it was also the first to claim victory.

At the time, Ford wanted a high-performance image for the Mustang to change the public’s perception of the Mustang as a ‘secretary’s car’. The creator of the powerful Cobra, in true Shelby fashion, decided to create a machine that did not only qualify for SCCA Production Sports Car competition, but one that would completely dominate it.

Shelby and his team then created a blueprint for Mustang performance that Mustang enthusiasts still follow to this day.

5R002 was not just Ford’s racecar, it was also Shelby American’s factory engineering guinea pig. They used it extensively to try out new ideas and components, even those that would be used for the second team car (5R001) and all the other 34 customer R-models.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

In 1965, it was presented to the FIA for homologation for SCCA B Production class racing, and the official homologation papers showed the illustration of the example. World-class drivers like Ken Miles, Chuck Cantwell, Bob Bondurant, Jerry Titus, and Peter Brock drove it extensively during testing and development.

In the film “$1,000,000 Mustang”, Carroll Shelby shared how extensively the car was driven, saying “Ken Miles and Chuck Cantwell drove 50,000 miles in that test mule Mustang” referring to the 5R002.

Chuck Cantwell was asked about this quote, and he replied with, “I wonder which month of testing Carroll was referring to? I’m sure we put a LOT more than 50,000 miles on that car.”

Not only was it used as a test car, 5R002 was also a demonstrator. It was used to entice prospective R-Model buyers of the enormous potential of the car.

5R002 was also one-of-a-kind in terms of appearance as it is the only car that was built to its unique specification. It has a lot of parts and design attributes that is not seen in any and all the other R-models.

After it was completed, on January 27, 1965, 5R002 started its promotional duties at the Riverside International Raceway in California. For its formal press introduction, journalists were encouraged to drive street models, while the 5R002 with Ronnie Bucknam behind the wheel gave demonstration rides.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

The event was a success, with a lot of journalists heaping praises on the car. Jerry Titus, writing for Sports Car Graphic was the first to go on print, and the GT350 getting an illustrated feature article. Titus was able to drive the 5R002 with Ken Miles. The car really made an impact on Titus as it wasn’t long before he signed with Shelby American as a team driver, and he spent a lot of time during the 1965 season driving the 5R002.

On February 14, 1965, 5R002 made its racing debut at the Green Valley Raceway near Dallas, Texas. It was there that 5R002 cemented itself in the history books as the first Mustang to lift off.

Almost every enthusiast magazine featured the image of a Wimbledon White Ford Mustang fastback flying up in the air a foot off the ground with Ken Miles at the wheel. The picture was captured with the Mustang in mid-flight, and it helped that the GT350 left its B Production competition in the dust that day. It showed how the Mustang have grown, and according to Hot Rod magazine, from a “gentle little colt into a roaring, snorting stallion.”

Ford banked on the “Flying Mustang” photo, and they built a marketing campaign around it branding the GT350 as an exciting champion. On its first outing, it was already able cinch victory, and it also took the first of the three straight class wins on that day for Miles in a Mustang racer of his own.

After the race, Shelby had a press release that marketed the GT350 as “a true dual-purpose sports car that is a top performer on and off the track.” The Flying Mustang image was displayed in Shelby marketing materials with the caption, “See, our Mustangs really fly!”

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

The GT350 simply outran its competition.

Two weeks after the 5R002 claimed its first victories in Texas, on March 3 and 4, Jerry Titus won four consecutive SCCA B Production class wins. It was immediately followed suit by many more victories. A second place at Riverside on April 18, class wins at Phoenix on April 24 and 25, and another victory at Santa Barbara on May 30.

The 5R002 was also seen on the cover of Road and Track on their May issue, along with the GT40 103, the factory competition Cobra CSX2513 and Carroll Shelby. Inside the magazine, they had a well-detailed comparison between the street and competition GT350s where they showed a street model along with the 5R002.

The example also made its silver screen debut with its cameo on the “Shelby Goes Racing with Ford” where it was shown to be driven by the legendary Peter Brock at the Willow Springs Raceway.

Check Cantwell, the GT350 Project Engineer also tried his luck in this legendary car, and he was able to get second place at the regional B Production on the 24th, and the next day, he was able to get first in class in the national race.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

On August 8, two weeks later, Ed Leslie handled the 5R002 in a non-championship race at the San Francisco Candlestick Park. He was just a second in BP behind Jerry Titus who was in the 5R001.

As the 5R001 was completed and subsequently released, 5R002 was reined back in to act as a factory engineering car to help in further developing the GT350R program. This task included a grueling 2,000-mile tire test that was conducted by Goodyear at Daytona.

Almost immediately after, on November 28, it was on the track again for the SCCA American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) where it was registered as an alternate car for Chuck Cantwell. Sadly, for Cantwell, all the drivers showed up for the race, so he was not able to join. Jerry Titus claimed victory in the 5R001 and the B Production championship.

The 5R002 and Jerry Titus returned to Green Valley on February 12, 1966, where he won B Production and got 12th overall win in the Saturday regional race. He finished second in class in the Sunday national race behind the Gene Hamon-sponsored GT350R.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

According to the documentation that would come with the sale, there is an invoice dated March 31, 1966, that shows that the 5R002 was sold to Bill Clawson of Dearborn as a “test car – as is” for $4,000. Clawson was an engineer in the Ford Performance Division that reported directly to division head Ray Geddes.

Geddes played a huge role in the sale of the 5R002 to Clawson as he successfully convinced Ford to pay part of the purchase price, as well as delivery and transport costs. Geddes also worked it out to have Ford secretly sponsor Clawson as he raced the 5R002. These are all documented in the various receipts and working notes that was meticulously kept on file.

Clawson maintained a detailed and extensive documentation on everything that was done on the car and even his correspondence with Shelby American and Ford. The documents are not only valuable in terms of historic significance, but they’re actually quite interesting to read. They also gave more information about the 5R002 that showed what really happened to the car during those years.

Clawson’s records revealed a very important and interesting fact about the 5R002 and its engine. After he experienced a few engine failures, Clawson asked Geddes for help in getting a reliable replacement from Ford for the example. Geddes immediately replied that Clawson should go to Kar Kraft, a Ford contractor in Brighton, Michigan to get a specific engine.

What was a simple request became a chance of a lifetime as the engine that Geddes was referring to was the full racing spec GT40 engine. To make it doubly special, it was even the Ford “XE” experimental engine version that was not supposed to leave the Ford property to make sure that GM could never get ahold of it. All the paperwork to confirm all these information is in the detailed files that Clawson kept. Both the engine and the documentation to show its rich and detailed history will go with the sale.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

Clawson used the 5R002 to race in the SCCA Midwest circuit with Ford quietly sponsoring his races through the known Detroit dealer Stark Hickey Ford.

On May 7, 1966, at Grattan, Michigan, Clawson was not able to attend the qualifying race, so he ended up in the 22nd place at the start of the race. He fought his way through the tracks and finished fourth in BP. At Grayling, Michigan on May 22, Clawson ran into overheating problems, so he was only able to cinch third in BP. On May 28, at Waterford Hills, Michigan, he was able to get a class win and second overall. On May 29, he claimed second in class and overall. In the same weekend, his son, Scott, was also able to win B Production in the Novice race in the 5R002.

The 1966 season finished with an additional three overall wins, two second in class wins, and a fourth overall win. His son, Scott, repeated his performance in the Novice race and got another win. Clawson qualified for the SCCA National Championship for that year but was unable to arrange transportation to attend the event.

Clawson had a much lighter schedule for 1967 and added two more B Production wins to the ever-growing list of victories of the 5R002.

In 1968, Clawson sold the car to Dale Wood and Russell Fish. The example went on to dominate SCCA Southwest Division and Russell Fish won practically every race. In the 1969 season, Fish recorded 18 B Production wins in 21 races. He also had 18 first place finishes which included 10 overall wins, and he eventually claimed the 1969 SCCA Southwest Division B Production Championship.

Luis Blanq-Cacaux from Monterrey, Mexico purchased the 5R002 in 1970 for only $3,500. He added another $350 for the open-wheel transport trailer that carried the example. The example was used in the Mexican Trans Am series and the Mexico 1000. 5R002 was campaigned for a couple of years and it was then parked after painting it with gray primer.

5R002 sat there in the open yard near Monterrey until 1989, when it was discovered by Mark Gillette. Gillette immediately purchased the car, brought it back to the U.S. and sold it to his business partner Rick Nagel. It was then sold to Steve Volk who placed the 5R002 in the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, Colorado in its ‘as found’ condition. It was on display for 14 years.

Voik sold the 5R002 to Shelby collector John Atzbach back in 2010. In its as-found condition, 5R002 was displayed at the Quail Motorsports Gathering and at the Kirkland Concours in Kirkland Washington.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

Atzbach then tapped the expertise of John Brown of Thoroughbred Restorations in Oklahoma City to bring back the car to its original racing configuration as it was in February 1965. The detailed and painstaking task took four years to complete. They took contributions and feedback from more than three dozen devoted enthusiasts with a lot of them former Shelby personnel who was somehow involved in the conception, construction, and development of the car.

They spent thousands of hours and went to different parts of the United States to get all the possible information about the car that they can. 5R002 is very well documented with a lot of first-hand information coming from those who worked on the example.

The Flying Mustang made its after-restoration debut at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours which was also Mustang’s 50th anniversary. As a proper tribute to the great marque, Chuck Cantwell, one of the original GT350 project engineers drove it to the podium to receive the Best in Class Award.

In the same year, it was also judged at the National SACC judges who gave the example a well-deserved 947/950 score for the SAAC Division I, with only a three-point deduction.

The example was also placed on a special show of “Important Ford Prototypes” where it was displayed with other legendary Ford prototypes like the “Mustang I”, “Mustang II,” and “Mustang III”. Like its victories on track, the 5R002 also dominated the different concours events that it entered.

1965 Mustang GT350R
1965 “Flying Mustang” GT350R
Image from Mecum Auctions

It should be noted that it was also given the “Car We Would Most Like To Drive” Award given by Road & Track magazine.

The example is the first of the GT350 prototype to be manufactured. And it is undeniable that the car greatly contributed to Mustang’s success and popularity back in the 60s which continued until today.

Interestingly, the legendary Ken Miles Flying Mustang was sold at Mecum just last year and now the current consigner is putting it in the market again. Highly regarded cars like this are rarely in short-term ownership, so this the best chance to add a legendary, highly awarded GT350 to your car collection.

Watch out for The Flying Mustang at the Kissimmee 2022 happening on January 6-16, 2022.

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