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The '65 Mustang GT350R Finally Gets IRS--It Only Took 50 Years!

 453 It would take Ford a full half century to incorporate an independent rear suspension on their legendary pony. The Mustang, no matter the horsepower, trim or model year, had always sported live axle, hard-tails. Think about that for a moment…  455 On February 14, 2015, an event put on by the Los Angeles Shelby American Automobile Club (LASAAC) in February at California's Willow Springs International Raceway, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Mustang GT350R's first victory. The attendees of this very special gathering got an even more special treat: to see what could have been…  444 50 years to the day that the first GT350R drove to victory at Texas' Green Valley Raceway with Ken Miles at the wheel in his own version of the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”, the engines of the two Venice/BRE GT350Rs came to life for the first time in public. One, a retro-fitted interpretation of the original, and another sporting an Independent Rear Suspension!  450 Members of Carroll Shelby's "Original Venice Crew", including Peter Brock, Ted Sutton, Jim Marietta and Duane Carling, were on hand—and were the skilled hands behind the “new” ’65 GT350R builds.  439 Jumping into racing with their newest and already very popular offering was not an easy deal in the beginning. Ford had come to Carroll Shelby to prepare the high-powered steeds after a failed attempt to deal directly with the SCCA to get the Mustangs in B-Production. The SCCA was concerned about being dictated by manufacturers and dismissed Ford’s original overtures. Shelby was able to talk to SCCA president, John Bishop and enter the cars as an independent team.  442 Klaus Arning, who notably designed the independent rear suspensions of the 427 Cobra and the GT40, penned this same type of utility for the 1965 Shelby racecar—and Ford had actually budgeted to offer the IRS as an option on their homologation street GTs. But due to budgeting concerns of the actual production cost, the program was dropped, and the race cars ran a live axle despite the IRS being tested by Shelby. Not until the 2015 model year would IRS be incorporated into the popular pony car.  445 Legendary designer Peter Brock, whose drawing board mastery includes the iconic 1963 Corvette Stingray and the Shelby Daytona Coupe had originally penned the livery, scoop, front valence and rear window for the GT350Rs. All those enhancements made it to the modern interpretation of these cars.  451 The Mustang has been undoubtedly one of the Blue Oval’s best selling and most popular cars. From its introduction through the end of the first model year in April 2015, Ford sold 419,000 copies. From the GT350R’s first win in B-Production, the marque would go on to the pony car wars of the SCCA Trans-Am series—where it took on Camaros, Chargers, Javelins and more of the muscular four seat (albeit sans back seats) coupes, and came away with several championships; to drag racing made memorable with all of John Force’s Funny Car Championships; to NASCAR where the brand is raced today in the Nationwide series. The car continues to sell extraordinarily. In 2014, the galloping horse sold more than 80,000 examples.  449 With backing from Jim Marrieta and support from Randy Richardson (president of LASAAC), Brock and the Venice Crew took two donor '65 K-body Mustangs and built identical live axle and IRS GT350R versions. In these builds—begun in mid-2014 at Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) shop in Henderson, Nevada—they hoped to incorporate all the elements they felt would have made the 1965-'67 SCCA B Production championship-winning cars even better.  438 In an era of “Win on Sunday—Sell on Monday” one would think that manufacturers would put every last bit of advantage into the cars. Ultimately that was left to the teams. Consider the “unfair” acid dipped Mark Donahue/Roger Penske Camaro, for example. It would seem logical that the Mustangs would get IRS— an above board improvement that would have made those cars simply unbeatable. Needless to say corporate boardrooms overshadowed several developments. Despite the executive wrangling, the cars still won races—a lot of races! But these Venice/BRE cars proved a point, too.  447 According to Richardson, "It was a great event to reveal two completely unique Mustangs and to be present to experience the sights and sounds of these cars at speed. Shelby fans experienced 50 years of history, all topped off by Shelby American employees and a dinner program. We even had Jerry Schwarz on the phone to greet everyone and talk about working with Ted, Jim and Peter on the original R-Model 50 years ago."  446 Former Shelby star drivers John Morton and Allen Grant gave a wonderful display of mastery in the amazing new/old machinery. They both were very impressed with the improved handling of the IRS car and the newer improvements on even the hard-tail. “You can really feel a difference,” said Marietta.  454 It’s not often you can go to a historic track and truly see time tuned backward and a “what if” scenario played out. Thanks to the surviving members of Shelby’s legendary Venice Crew and their “new/old“ GT350Rs, many of us felt like we did.  
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