First 1965 Shelby GT350R race car announced for Mecum auction

Historic ‘Flying Mustang’ was first to compete in a sanctioned race, when it also notched its first victory driven by motorsport legend Ken Miles

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The Shelby GT350R was the first to hit the track and score a win for the Mustang-based race car | Photos courtesy Mecum auctions

The first 1965 Shelby GT350R competition model built, entered in a sanctioned racing event and driven to victory by the legendary Ken Miles, will be offered for sale by Mecum Auctions during its 33rd annual Original Spring Classic, scheduled for mid-May at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

The GT350R is known as the “Flying Mustang” because of an iconic photograph shot during the race.

“Amazingly, Miles took the car to a dominating first-place finish and, en route to the win, was captured in one of motorsports history’s most memorable photos showing Miles and the Mustang airborne with all four tires of the car lifted clear off the ground,” Mecum said in a news release.

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The famous photo of the ‘Flying Mustang’ with Ken Miles at the wheel

The auction company announced the consignment of the historic race car during a special presentation Wednesday morning as Mecum began its collector car sale in Glendale, Arizona. 

The GT350R is one of 12 cars from the noted collection of John Atzbach. The collection includes nine Shelby Mustangs, two Lamborghinis and a 289 Shelby Cobra.  The Atzbach consignment also includes a vast array of Road Art, as Mecum calls its automotive memorabilia sales.

The late Ken Miles, who recently gained new recognition as a main character in the movie Ford v Ferrari, introduced the Shelby GT350R, chassis 5R002, to the world at Green Valley Raceway in California on Feb. 14, 1965.

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The seminal Shelby GT350R is introduced at the start of Mecum’s Glendale, Arizona, auction

“The first competition Shelby Mustang, the first to be raced, and the first to win, 5R002 simultaneously served as Shelby American’s factory engineering mule, a rolling test bed for ideas and components, including those that would constitute both the second team car (5R001) and all 34 customer R-models,” according to the news release. “Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant, Chuck Cantwell, Peter Brock, Jerry Titus and several other world-class drivers drove this car extensively in testing and development.”

Mecum notes in its release that “5R002 is an automobile so historically significant that accurately and completely summarizing its eminence can be difficult because of the many reasons for which it is important.

“To simplify, 5R002 is The Ken Miles R-Model. Few, if any, cars are so intertwined with the legendary and essentially mythical figure that is Ken Miles. Today, Miles is revered as one of the greatest figures in racing that the world has ever known, one who tragically died at the height of his career. 5R002 stands today as one of the most significant and historic competition cars ever constructed by Shelby American Inc.

“The car represents a legendary convergence of a chicken farmer from Texas, a gang of Southern California Hot Rodders ready to take the fight to the Corvette, a driver the likes of which we may never see again, and a ‘secretary’s car’ that thought it could fly.”

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For more information, visit the Mecum auction website.

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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