Ford created a new class of car almost overnight with the introduction of the Mustang Sports Coupe partway through the 1964 season, catching the rest of the US auto industry off-guard. The brainchild of Lee Iacocca, subsequent savior of the Chrysler Corporation, the Mustang is one of the most remarkable automotive success stories of modern times and arguably the pinnacle of Iacocca's long career with Ford. Legendary Texan racing driver Carroll Shelby's team had been campaigning Ford's with considerable success in North America, winning the SCCA's B-Production title three years running in the mid-1960s. Capitalizing on his success, Shelby began manufacturing a Shelby GT based on the Mustang, which were officially sanctioned and sold through selected Ford dealerships. The first Shelby Mustang – the GT350 – arrived in 1965 powered by a modified version of Ford's 289ci high-performance small-block V8 producing 306bhp, with options of a 340-360bhp unit in competition trim or 400bhp supercharged. A 4-speed Borg-Warner manual gearbox was the stock transmission on early Shelby Mustangs, though a heavy-duty, 3-speed automatic soon became available as an option. The running gear was up-rated appropriately to cope with the GT350's increased performance, though outwardly there was little to distinguish Shelby's GT350 from the standard product apart from a pair of broad 'racing' stripes down the body centerline.
In 1966, Carroll Shelby, as shrewd a business man as he was a racer, struck a deal with Hertz to offer a high-performance rental car to the public for the first time. This made the legendary performance of the Shelby GT350 accessible to the public. Enthusiasts that might not have been able to afford such a car could now rent it on a Friday afternoon and drop it off at Hertz on Monday morning, after a weekend full of racing or high-speed cruising. The cost to rent all this performance was just $17 a day and 17 cents per mile. One thousand GT350s, with the majority finished in Hertz's colors of black and gold, were delivered to the company for use around the country in 1966.
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