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1965 GT 350 Drag Car

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At the end of May 1965, the GT 350 project team was looking at building a car for NHRA B/Sports Production competition. The Dragonsnake Cobras made a name for themselves on the drag strip, why couldn’t the GT 350 do the same. Don McCain, a Shelby sales rep, approached Shelby American public relations head, Max Muhleman, about building a special drag car as a PR stunt. He asked that Shelby American supply the car, Goodyear would provide the tires and certain Shelby dealers would pay to have their names painted on the car when it was run in their areas. The car was to be campaigned at seven major NHRA races in California. 

Alan & Bethany Sorkey’s ’65 GT350 Drag Car

The prototype for the drag series is pictured above.  It was given to Bill Stroppe a race car and engine builder. Stroppe got approval from the NHRA for his modifications to the car. The mods were:

  • Machine port the heads
  • 1 5/8″ exhaust valves
  • 1 7/8″ intake valves
  • Heavy duty valve springs 
  • Belanger drag racing headers
  • Blue printing and balancing of the engine
  • clearance on rank and rods @ .003
  • rod side clearance @ .024 per journal
  • Combustion chamber cc’ing to 44 per chamber
  • Set deck clearance to .005 cold, so when hot they would shrink to .0015
  • Set piston clearance to .005 to .008
  • Cure Ride 90/10 uplock shock on the front
  • Gabriel Silver Eagle 50/50 downlock shocks in the rear
  • Hurst Competition shifter
  • 9.00x 14″ tires on 5″ wide wheels
  • Torque strap on engine
  • Rework the distributor to 3 1/2 degrees @ 1,800 rpm; 4 degrees @ 2,000 rpm; 7 degrees @ 3,000 rpm; 10 degrees @ 4,000 rpm
  • Rear end ratio 4.86
  • Driveshaft loop
  • Plenum chamber for carburetor

The street versions of this car did not receive the special drag racing engine. They were given the Shelbyized hi-po 289. The 306 horsepower would make the cars cheaper and eliminate the problem of owners blowing up an expensive racing engine installed by the factory. The racing engine was available as an option without a warranty.

Engine in the Sorkey GT 350

The drag GT 350’s came with a scattershield, and a drag clutch & pressure plate. When the buyer got the car these parts were in the trunk.  Even though the parts were included in the price of the car, it was up to the buyer to install them during preparation of the car for the strip. That also saved having to take the cars apart at Shelby American to install them.

Stroppe also developed a set of ladder torque arms. He looked at all the loop holes at NHRA and AHRA. He lengthened the front spindles, modified seat tracks,  re-radiused the rear wheels and relocating the front control arms. He even looked at a very special roller cam engine with a set of Weber stacks as a “factory experimental”. Most of his exotic modifications never made it past the conversation phase.

The first drag car was sold in August of 1965 to a dealer in Lorain, Ohio. A second car went to a dealer in Long Beach, CA, Mel Burns Ford. There were 13 drag GT 350’s built in total, nine were 1965 models, four were built in 1966.

What did a Drag Racing GT 350 cost?
GT-350 Drag Mustang$5,041.50$5,441.50
“AFX” Lift Kit
(rear lift bars)
SICR-6250-A Racing Camshaft
.272 degrees duration, .450 degrees lift

*Source of information: the Shelby American Guide published by the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) Get your own copy at SAAC, well worth the price.