It’s been a little over 50 years since the Shelby Mustang won its first sanctioned race on February 12, 1965 at Green Valley Raceway, just outside of Dallas, Texas. You may not remember this date, or the event, but you will recognize the photos taken that day of driver Ken Miles in his #98 Wimbledon White fastback Shelby airborne with all four wheels off the ground.
50 years ago on this eventful day, Glenn Alford was a young weekend crew chief for a Lotus 7 who couldn’t wait to take a few photographs of the amazing race car he had heard about—the Shelby Mustang.
Alford waited until after the Lotus had completed its first race on this cold Sunday morning in February to dash over to the pit area. There he found a group of men including several Shelby employees huddled around the GT-350, serial number 5R002 (5 = 1965, R = race prepped, 002 = Shelby serial number, and second Shelby Mustang produced). He quickly pulled out his camera and snapped off several exposures. That morning, Ken Miles put on a driving lesson. The Green Valley SCCA qualifying heat for B, C and D Production and GM (modified) cars found Miles up against a Merlyn, two Jaguar XKEs, a Triumph TR4 and a Morgan.
Both Shelby’s car and driver displayed their racing pedigree, leaving those race fans present something to remember in taking the checkered flag. The Merlyn, driven by Charles Barns, placed second, followed by one of the Jaguar XKEs (3rd) and the Triumph TR4 (4th). These drivers also left the track with something to remember, a story to tell their grandkids one day of how they were beaten by the best Carroll Shelby had to offer.
Ten year-old Art Sahlstein and his father were also there, having picked up free tickets to the race from W. O. Waits Ford dealership in Wichita Falls, TX. They sat up in the grandstand, but what set them apart from the rest was the video camera they had brought with them. Art’s father was the only person in attendance known to have filmed the race, in color, and the footage captures the Shelby passing the grandstand on several occasions, with the Merlyn in hot pursuit.
The younger Sahlstein has become a historian of this racing event, and said, “I grew up attending races with my father, and can remember Le Mans in 1962 when I was only 6 years old. The Green Valley races involving the Shelby and the Merlyn—the qualifying and the feature—were the two most exciting races my father and I ever witnessed. Hands down.
Ken Miles in the Shelby and Charles Barns in the Merlyn were on each other’s tails the entire day. They just battled back and forth. The Merlyn wasn’t as fast on the straightaways, but could corner better. Ken would pass Charles on the straights, but would get overtaken on a curve.” They swapped the lead an amazing 17 times.
In the fiercely contested feature race, Miles and his R code came in second overall to Barns and his Merlyn, after beating him in the prelim, but more importantly the Shelby team took home the first place trophy in the BP class. It was to be first of many wins to come for an R code in SCCA competition.
The 5-1/2 minute-long video below doesn’t have any sound, but check out the Shelby Mustangs and Cobras, as well as a Corvette and a handful of sporty European iron.