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Hot For Teacher

This 1965 Shelby Gave A Lot of Lessons

Story Rod Short / Images Keith Keplinger - July 04, 2013 10:00 AM

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“Driving this car wasn’t (and still isn’t) for the uninitiated. The Shelby School required a certain amount of instruction and seat time before a student could slide behind the wheel of these cars.”

When Van Halen released “Hot for Teacher” in 1984, the iconic song only reached number 56 on the pop charts.

Years later, the fondness for this recording grew when VH-1 proclaimed it “the 36th Best Rock Song” in music history. 

This 1965 Carroll Shelby School car might have been a disrespected but hard taskmaster in the beginning, but over time, the student’s appreciation grew for the lessons she taught.

“It looked kind of run down,” Bruce Kawaguchi said about first seeing the car. “I wasn’t sure I wanted this one since it did not have an engine, trans, front brakes or interior. It also didn’t have the number plate – plus someone had backed into the quarter panel with a freight train. It’s what it DID have, however, caught my attention. It had a roll bar, plexi door windows and a big gas tank. I would have bought it for the parts, but the number plate thing bothered me. Originally, we thought it was an R-model by the way it was equipped and the right fender had SFM 5R029, but we figured that it was probably altered. The original plate said 5029. I bought it anyway.”

Bruce bought it as a race car, but wound up buying another car and then racing it up until 1996. The school car resided under a cover for years before Bob “Stretch” Cunningham did the bodywork and paint in 2001. Afterwards, the car sat for another period of years before Mike Eddy and Doug Holmberg finally finished it. 

Driving this car wasn’t (and still isn’t) for the uninitiated. The Shelby School required a certain amount of instruction and seat time before a student could slide behind the wheel of these cars. Even then, they had to find what the car liked. This wasn’t a lightweight, low-slung foreign sports car and tire technology was much less forgiving than it is today. Students had to prove that they had just as much ability as the car and pray they wouldn’t run out of talent before they ran out of traction. Once tamed, this pony car could take students to places they might not have ever been, such as a podium finish in Victory Circle.

When it began in 1962 with a single car, Carroll Shelby’s Driving School was the first of its kind. Students received one-on-one instruction from Peter Brock. Students were encouraged to bring their own vehicles, but a bug-eye Sprite and an open wheel car were also made available as school vehicles. Things went well. John Timanus eventually came in to fill Brock’s shoes and, in 1965, the school received three Shelby G.T. 350 Mustangs for use by the students. The serial numbers for these cars were SFM 5021, 5029 and 5S451. As time went on, the three cars were upgraded with roll cages, a larger radiator, an R-code racing apron and an oversized 32-gallon fuel tank. In addition, some of the cars had their side and vent windows removed. The school eventually ended in 1967.

As with all Shelby models, the list of goodies is extensive. The K-code 289 HiPo V-8 received a new cam grind, which took full advantage of the new induction system, which consisted of an aluminum hi-rise intake with a Holley 715cfm four-barrel carb. With this and a set of tri-Y steel headers, low restriction mufflers and large diameter pipes, the little 289 was really able to breathe. Behind that was a BorgWarner T10 four speed, which led to a narrowed Detroit Locker rear.

Horsepower in a road racing car means little if you can’t apply it to the ground. A revised suspension with a larger front sway bar, adjustable Koni shocks and quick-ratio steering added to the nimbleness of this package. Out back, modifications were made to limit rear axle travel. Huge 11.3-inch four-piston Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes with 11-inch drums on the rear allowed students to drive the 15-inch Goodyears hard into the corners. A roll cage provided some safety while stiffening the chassis with the help of an export brace and a Monte Carlo bar.

Inside the car, an 8,000-rpm tach and an oil pressure gauge were mounted in a special pod atop the dash to dominate the driver’s attention. Three-inch-wide competition belts and a fiberglass rear shelf in place of the seat made it clear to even casual observers that this was no regular Mustang. The Carroll Shelby steering wheel didn’t have a horn button – it had to be activated by a toggle switch on the dash. On the outside, small blue rocker stripes and a badge near the filler cap were the only things that made this car different from other Wimbledon White fastbacks, which may be why the optional blue skunk stripes that ran down the middle of the car were so popular.

Shelby G.T. 350 number SFM 5029 would ultimately wind up in storage before being purchased by Dr. Bruce Kawaguchi, who has now owned the car for 40 years. A full restoration was just completed in the last few years, and the car was honored by the Los Angeles-area Shelby American Club with Best of Show honors. Today, it is still seen from time to time at selected driving events.

While relatively few were ever made, the impact that these first-gen Shelby Mustangs had on both the racetrack and the public consciousness was undeniable. We may not have always enjoyed it when they were first teaching us, but the benefits of what was learned are still felt today.    

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