Mecum Auctions made worldwide news earlier this year with the sale of a famous 1960s Mustang that lept through the air and into hearts of muscle car and film fans the world over. But Bullitt isn’t the only classic pony known for having all four wheels leave the ground while under heavy throttle.
Today, at the start of their Glendale, Arizona auction, the company broke news they’ll be handling the sale of another famous leaping Mustang – the 1965 Shelby GT350R Prototype 5R002. The white and blue icon is known simply as the ‘Flying Mustang’ and will be heading to the upcoming 33rd annual Original Spring Classic, held in May at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, in Indianapolis.
The car was driven by talented wrencher and wheelman, Ken Miles, at Green Valley Raceway on February 14th, 1965 and marked the first time any Shelby Mustang was entered into a competitive event. There on a chilly morning, he took first place.
In the process, a photographer snapped an image of the car mid-air, frozen in flight. The pic sparked the vehicle’s distinct nickname of ‘The Flying Mustang’. Seeing the sky-high potential, Shelby rolled out a robust marketing campaign around the visuals, proclaiming, ‘See, our Mustangs really fly!’
Always A Racer
The car would go on to be used by teammate, Jerry Titus, who racked up additional wins at events in California and Arizona. It would also appear on the cover of the May 1965 issue of Road & Track and featured in several movies. In addition, it pulled duty as an engineering mule before being sold in March of 1966 to Bill Clawson, an engineer in the Ford Performance Division in Dearborn, Michigan.
The gearhead raced the car in locally in the Midwest before selling the ponycar to two enthusiasts in Texas. They continued to campaign the car before selling it to a new owner located in Monterrey, Mexico. He campaigned 5R002 for two years at which point he parked it on a trailer in a yard near his home. That’s where it sat until 1989 when it was discovered by Mark Gillette of Dallas, Texas.
The Terlingua Race Team
One of the unique pieces of the car’s livery are the fender badges, which sport yellow shields representing the Terlingua Race Team. In the early 1960s, Carroll Shelby and another friend came to own a small piece of property called Terlingua, located in southwest Texas. Not much was there in the dusty, dry patch of land but the pair flew down regularly to blow off steam, hunting and riding dirt bikes in the open country.
To have the area become more organized, the guys started forming building blocks of a community and even had a logo designed for the Terlingua City Council coat of arms. Shelby liked the final product, which featured a rabbit and desert sun. He wanted to use it in some fashion for racing and figured a faux Terlingua Race Team was just the ticket. With the recent development of the GT350R, the shield was applied to the fenders of 5R002 just in time for the debut at the Green Valley Raceway. From it, the logo made it’s way to other Shelby vehicles as well as other racecars.
The Road Back Home
Mark purchased the car and brought it back stateside only to quickly sell it to Steve Volk, who showed the car at the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, Colorado, in “as found” condition. It’d remained there for the next fourteen years.
In 2010, Volk sold the car to Shelby collector John Atzbach, who showed the vehicle before commissioning a full restoration, performed by Thoroughbred Restorations in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The final piece debuted at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours on the occasion of the Mustang’s 50th anniversary. It’s continued to be shown around the country, including at the 2016 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, and was even driven around the Laguna Seca raceway for a recent Rolex promotion.
Off To Mecum Indy
News broke this morning that the car will jump once again, this time not off a racetrack but to Mecum’s upcoming 2020 Indy block. There, like the Bullitt Mustang before it, 5R002 will cross and go home to a new owner. During the televised announcement, Dana Mecum proclaimed if there was a Mustang to break the Bullitt Mustang record, it would be this one. That icon sold at Mecum’s 2020 Kissimmee auction for $3.74 million.
According to Dana, this landmark prototype racer opened the door for all of Shelby’s race efforts as well as creating other vehicles like the 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake.