Old And Mean: The Original Venice Crew Cranks Out New Build 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350s

The Original Venice Crew worked in Shelby’s garage cranking out Cobras, GT40s, and whatever ole’ Shel’ happened to be cooking up.

When the 1965 Mustang first hit the streets it was both a cultural phenomenon and a sales success launching a whole new class of what would come to known as the “pony car.” As part of Ford’s Total Performance campaign in the 1960’s, they approached Carroll Shelby, who described the mild mannered Mustang as a “secretary’s car,” and asked if he could spice it up for the street and track.

What he and his Venice shop came up with was the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350/R. It was a bare bones purpose built machine without any interior items to speak of and tons of performance modifications to the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes. The R version was even more brutal dominating B-production SCCA racing for three straight years. Production numbers were in the 100’s for the standard version and only a few dozen R’s were produced in its initial two-year production run until they changed to the 1967 body style.

Enter the Original Venice Crew. They’re the team that worked in Shelby’s original garage cranking out Cobras, GT40s, and whatever ole’ Shel’ happened to be cooking up. They got together to build 36 – and only 36 – new build 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350s with an MSRP of $250,000.

These cars, however, and not merely reissues or recreations but new builds with original engines and bodies that stay faithful to the vision of the 1965 car. Starting with a 1965 Mustang fastback donor car, they strip it down to bare metal before turning it into an R-spec version. The blocks are original 289 cast iron pieces bored and stroked to 331 cubic inches with aluminum heads provided by the Shelby engine Company. The engine generates 450 hp in a car that weighs about 2,400 lbs. Paired with a period correct T-10 4-speed manual transmission and Independent Rear Suspension, which wasn’t used on the production GT350 in 1965 due to cost but appeared on a prototype, the car is faster than the original.

Other updates include a Peter Brock designed front aero package, refined rear window, quarter glass installation, and the obligatory spartan interior that is fully compliant with road racing rules. And as it is registered as a 1965 car, with the blessing of both Ford and Shelby American, it can be raced in vintage events.

The attention to detail is evident throughout the car, and as it was designed and built by the same crew that put together the originals over 50 years ago, they are time capsules, history pieces, and a snapshot of racing’s past. As Jay Leno observes below, the car has a visceral feel that is rather rough but more connected to the road than newer cars with layers of safety gear, electronics, and added weight separating the driver from the road. Now, if only I had a quarter mil to spare! Buckle up.