The Shelby GT350H was a special promotion, dreamed up between Ford, Carroll Shelby, and Hertz. 1,001 of these limited edition Shelby Mustangs were created as part of Hertz’s “Rent-a-Racer” program.
It’s a little absurd that in 1966 you could rent a powerful muscle car, and the Shelby GT350H was powerful. Each associated company had their own reasons for agreeing to participate in this. For Shelby and Ford, this was a great way to let customers test out a GT350 before they actually committed to purchasing it. For Hertz, this was a plan to revive their Sports Car Club.
Shelby and Hertz Team Up
In 1965, Ken Miles drove the Shelby GT350R to victory, and eventually, it became the SCCA B-Production champion. The SCCA championship held a lot of weight with Hertz, who needed something to save the Sports Car Club.
The Sports Car Club had started in 1958 as a way of allowing people with racing experience to rent more exciting vehicles than the average person. In order to be a member of the club, you had to demonstrate your ability to drive a sports car on crowded city streets.
Renting a sports car was more expensive than renting an average sedan, and obviously, without a backseat there was no potential to carry passengers, limiting the appeal even further. By 1965, Hertz was struggling to make the Sports Car Club something other than a money-pit.
Shelby’s manufacturing reach was limited, and not many people had the opportunity to try out a GT350. Working with Hertz gave Shelby the opportunity to expand the network of places where people could get into one of their cars and see it for themselves.
Hertz actually got a better deal on their Shelbys than Ford dealers did at the time. They were paying the same $3,447 that dealers did, but Shelby agreed to throw on the stripes for free. As an additional way of sweetening the deal, Shelby also guaranteed that the cars would not depreciate more than 2.5 percent per month.
Hertz was thrilled, and after the upper management got to drive a GT350, they were in love. They expanded their order and the GT350H became a remarkably popular program.
GT350 vs GT350H
The first 85 Hertz Shelbys were identical to the regular 1966 GT350s, except for their paint pattern. The Hertz Rent-a-Racers were almost all black with gold Le Mans style stripes, Hertz’s brand colors. Just like the GT350s, they had a manual transmission.
Then a few of these rental cars came back after running at SCCA events. They had roll bars welded into them, which in hindsight was probably a dead giveaway that the drivers had not adhered to the rental agreement contract. There were also reports of drivers burning out the clutch. The remaining GT350Hs were made with automatic transmissions. The automatic transmission GT350H was still no slouch, and Shelby himself kept one of these for his personal stable.
A rare Sapphire Blue Shelby GT350H
Though the majority of the Hertz Shelbys have the black-and-gold paint scheme there were limited numbers available in Sapphire Blue, Candyapple Red, Ivy Green, and even Wimbledon White. The side stripe features a prominent H. GT350Hs also had wheel-center caps that featured the Hertz logo, and Goodyear Blue streak tires.
1966 Shelby GT350H Specs
||289 CID Cobra V8 engine
||329 lb-ft of torque
|Cost Per Day
||$17/ $134.72 with Inflation
|Cost Per Mile
||17 cents/ $1.35 with Inflation
Heavier Than Normal Brake Pressure
The GT350H used competition brakes, which were unusual and confused many early renters. These brakes used a metallic brake pad and lining. Though this made them an ideal choice for heavy racing, they usually didn’t get warmed enough to be useful during the course of normal street driving.
A sticker was added on the inside letting people know that the vehicle was equipped with competition-grade brakes and that it might be necessary to use more brake pressure. A power brake booster was added to some units after customers complained that it was too hard to brake.
Placard warning drivers about the brakes
Legacy for Shelby and Hertz
All told, Hertz ended up making a little over 1.25 million on the whole enterprise, and Shelby ended up becoming a household name. Prior to this initiative, you would have only heard of Shelby-American if you were a west-coaster, and even then, only if you spent your weekends at the track.
Since then, Shelbys have become icons. A Shelby GT350H was even featured in War of the Worlds as the vehicle that Tom Cruise drives. The car in the movie is a real GT350H, that is now signed by Carroll Shelby, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Cruise.
This Shelby is a movie star
Hertz has tried to run similar programs since, but few have had the success that the original Rent-A-Racer program saw.
After the promotion ended, these Shelbys were sold to the general public through Ford dealers. It’s rumored that some of the GT350 Hertz models lost their high-performance parts on the way to the sales floor, but they also cost less than half of what a brand new GT350 did, and most of the rumors about these cars being abused have been greatly exaggerated.
These cars today are considered rare collector’s items, and finding one in a barn, even in miserable condition, is something Mustang enthusiasts dream about. Most of the people who have found them have been careful about restoring them to like-new condition, helping to preserve this chapter of Mustang and Shelby-American history.
Source: DIY Ford, Mecum | Image Credit: Road and Track, Mecum, DIY Ford, Paramount Pictures