It is hard to believe that 50 years have gone by since the inception of the 1966 “Hertz Shelby GT 350”, the original “Rent A Racer”. As the story goes, it is well known and it has been circulated since the beginning that Carroll Shelby was more interested in racing and not in building production cars. Nevertheless, he did and all of us Shelby aficionados are thankful for it. There are many car brands out there and they all have a strong allegiance, but the Shelby group is an extremely tight network. It started with the Cobra owners club and then morphed into SAAC, Shelby American Automobile Club. This is the club which was founded and headed up by Shelby loyalist Rick Kopec in 1975, and over the last 40 years his dedicated team at SAAC has done an amazing job of gathering comprehensive data, creating the registry, providing information about various events in an effort to preserve and promote the Shelby Marque. I personally have been a member since 1976 and have owned a total of seven Shelbys including two 1966 Hertz Shelbys. I went to my first Shelby National Convention meet, SAAC 2 in 1977 in Hershey, Pennsylvania and have been a loyalist ever since. I am also one of the representatives for SAAC in the state of Florida.
In 1965 Shelby built roughly 562 Shelby GT350 Mustangs including some 34 “R” Model race cars. The formula was basic, starting with a factory 289 HiPo Fastback Mustang, deleting the back seat, then slightly tweaking the small block Ford with a different cam, intake, carb, distributor, headers, wide ratio 4spd, suspension mods and a 9” Ford posi rear with 3:89 gears. This combination could move the stock Shelby from a 0-60 time of just 0ver 6 seconds and a 15 second quarter mile et. It could be ordered in any color you wanted as long as it was Wimbledon White. The Shelby Mustang was born. There were approximately 262 left over 1965 Shelby Mustangs that became known as “Carryover” cars. They received some minor ’66 upgrades such as side quarter windows, side scoops and in some cases different wheels not available on 1965 Shelby’s.
In late 1965 the Shelby American General Manager Peyton Cramer cleverly negotiated a deal with Hertz to offer the 1966 Shelby GT350H Mustang as a rental car. Ford and Shelby supported the concept as it was geared to deliver the Shelby Mustang into the hands of racing enthusiast-minded rental and buying customers. If you were a Hertz Sports Car Club member back in 1966, and a Ford fan, you could drive off the rental car lot in a performance Shelby Mustang Fastback for a cost of $17 a day and 17 cents a mile. As a kid, I remember seeing them lined up at the San Francisco International Airport.
Roughly 1,001 of these fastbacks were built for Hertz in 1966. Two prototypes and the rest of the 999 cars were offered in the following colors, the majority in Raven Black and then 50 or so each in Sapphire Blue, Candy Apple Red, Wimbledon White and Ivy Green all sporting Gold Le Mans racing and side stripes. All Shelbys were built in Los Angeles at the Shelby American Los Angeles airport facility. All Hertz cars were “True Shelbys” with standard equipment including, GT wood simulated wheel or a very rare Italian made real wood wheel (which became standard on 67 Shelbys), 9000 rpm Shelby tachometer, racing seat belts, fold down rear seat, 14” Magnum 500 styled steel wheels and center caps, a special “Mico” master cylinder with a bold brake warning label sticker pasted on the center of the dash stating that heavier brake pressure may be required. Only a handful were offered as a factory four speed model, less than 100 is the number, the majority of the Hertz cars were equipped with automatic transmissions. There were other running production changes during the course of assembly of these cars that can determine rarity and huge differences in collector value. The holy grail of Hertz cars being an early Black and Gold car equipped with a factory 4 speed, real wood steering wheel, early factory suspension mods, welded over-riders and a steel hood. Most of the later cars had automatic transmissions, bolt-on under-rider traction bars and a fiberglass hood. The 1966 Hertz Shelby is truly a unique car and has always been high on the list of Shelby’s sought by collectors and enthusiasts.
Luckily the legacy continues. The Hertz Shelby was reintroduced in 2006 and a brand new 435 HP 2016 Hertz Shelby is already showing up at the rental car agencies…..rent one now!