Fifty-five years after Ken Miles drove a 1965 Ford Shelby GT350 Competition Model to victory in its first race on Valentine’s Day, the Original Venice Crew (OVC) has announced a special edition of their authorized continuation sports car to honor that achievement and its driver. OVC, which builds the world-class continuation car, will offer three Ken Miles “Flying Mustang” Editions; only one will have a 9-inch fixed axle rear end and the other two will feature the pioneering IRS system.
“Ted Sutton and I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Ken Miles while we were part of the Shelby American team in 1965,” said Jim Marietta, CEO of OVC. “While Ken was celebrated for his leadership as competition director overseeing the Shelby Cobra, Daytona Coupe and GT40 programs, he was also a development driver for the Ford Shelby GT350. Together with his son Peter, who is also portrayed in the recent Oscar-winning film, ‘Ford v Ferrari’, we’re honoring his contribution to making the Shelby GT350 a winner with this trio of special edition cars.”
Miles and the Shelby team entered the first competition car (often called an “R” model) in the SCCA race on February 14, 1965, at Green Valley Raceway. One of the most prolific motorsports photos in history is of Miles’ car airborne, which is why the Shelby is often called the “Flying Mustang.”
Not only did Shelby American and Miles win their first race, the Shelby GT350s began dominating their class across North America and Europe. Today, first generation Shelby GT350’s are fan favorites at events like Le Mans Classic and Goodwood.
“I’m pleased that my father’s contributions to the 1965 Shelby GT350 R program are being honored with these special cars,” said Peter Miles. “I know that my dad felt it was a serious challenge to develop what Shelby called a ‘secretary’s car’ into a championship caliber racecar. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him, as well as Jim Marietta, during the many hours spent testing the Shelby GT350 at Riverside Raceway back then. Usually that car wore the number ‘3’ on its side. Now we are coming full circle with these three cars. For me, the ‘Flying Mustang’ is making the perfect lap.”
The three special cars will delete the package tray and sound deadening materials in order to duplicate the configuration when Miles developed and raced the car. Special Miles graphics will be painted on the cars; his commemorative signature will be added and Peter Miles will also autograph them. The only difference between the cars will be an optional independent rear suspension available on one of the cars that was intended to be raced, but never went into production for the 1965 season.
In 1963, Miles became Shelby’s Competition Manager. Until then, Cobras raced with limited success. With Ken doing the preparation, Cobras placed first and second at Riverside in February that year.
Miles went on to drive in more races for Shelby than any of the other team members and his record was also the best. During 1963, Miles raced a Shelby Cobra 16 times, winning three and placing second in six. The next year, he won ten events in a Cobra and turned the new Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe into a Le Mans class winner. He also became a development driver, along with Bob Bondurant, for the new Ford Shelby GT350.
In 1965, Shelby American took over Ford’s effort to campaign GT40s. Their success made Ford a serious contender for the World Championship. That is when, the Shelby GT350 began to dominate North American tracks, beginning with Miles’ famous drive in North Texas.
OVC began with former Shelby American employees Peter Brock, Jim Marietta and Ted Sutton, who worked on many key projects at Shelby in 1965, including the first “R-Model” Shelby GT350 (5R002). Sutton also helped create the first 427 Shelby Cobra and Sunbeam Tiger while at Shelby American in the 1960s. Brock designed key features for the continuation car when Marietta and Sutton formed the “Original Venice Crew” in 2015.
That year, OVC entered their car in its first vintage race at Hallett Raceway near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Driven by Vince LaViolette, Shelby American Vice President of Operations and Chief Test Driver, it won the Shelby’s inaugural race only a few hundred miles and about 50 years after Miles won in Texas.
OVC will assemble the cars at the Shelby facility in Southern California, just as Carroll Shelby and the racers did in 1965. Each OVC built Shelby GT350 begins with the same Mustang, originally equipped with a High-Po 289 c.i.d. engine and a Borg Warner 4-speed that was the basis for the car. The Miles edition cars will feature an engine supplied by the Carroll Shelby Engine Company coupled to a period correct 4-speed transmission and authentic Shelby shifter. The car bodies are fully reconditioned and built to competition specs. Customers can choose a traditional 9-inch fixed rear end or independent rear suspension. The cars start at just US$298,000.
OVC has licenses from Carroll Shelby Licensing and Ford Motor Company to build a run of 36 of the 1965 Shelby GT350 competition cars. The sports cars will receive a Shelby serial number; documentation is submitted to the Shelby American Automobile Club Registry and the official Shelby American Registry administered by Carroll Shelby International. Those interested in a Shelby from OVC can call (714) 305-8578. Additional information is available at www.ovcmustangs.com.