1965 Shelby Mustang GT350: Buying and selling classic Shelbys evolved from …

Vernon Estes is only 24 but his knowledge of vintage cars – Shelby Mustangs and Shelby Cobras in particular – rivals that of a veteran twice his age.

How did Estes, of Leawood, get to be a young man living in a vintage-car world? “I always found older cars more interesting,” he said. “New car stuff gets boring.”

“When I was 10 years old my mom would drop me off at Barnes and Noble and I would read everything I could. I love the history.”

History led him to American racing classics. What was more American than the modified Mustangs and Cobras built by Carroll Shelby, the self-proclaimed chicken farmer who wore striped bib overalls when he started racing sports cars in the early 1950s?

“I was pulled in by the Shelby story,” he said, and the international success of the Ford-powered Cobras that won the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964 and FIA World Sportscar Championship for GT cars with the Cobra Daytona coupe in 1965. Shelby was instrumental in the development of the Ford GT40 that beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

When he was 17, Estes arranged a six-week internship at the Shelby American, Inc., in Las Vegas after corresponding with the company president via an online forum. “It was like going to a car show every day,” he said. He helped the company compile a registry of its cars and occasionally did work in the prototype shop.

Estes graduated from the University of Texas with a Master’s degree in accounting. “When I was in grade school I collected Shelby-related literature and memorabilia,” he said. Success in buying and selling thousands of items online led him to creating a business selling classic cars, mostly Shelby Mustangs and Cobras. He has sold some rare and valuable models in addition to selling cars on consignment.

Estes recently bought a 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, number 45 of 562 built. Ford asked Shelby to build a high-performance Mustang that could compete with Corvettes in sports car racing. The ’65 GT350s had a 289-cubic-inch V-8, four-speed transmission, side exhausts, no back seat and came only in Wimbledon white. The iconic blue stripes and Cragar wheels found on Estes’ car were the only options.

“I find the ’65 and ’66 Shelbys intriguing because they are the perfect mix of sports car and muscle car,” he said. “The fastback is one of the prettiest cars because it is stylistically simple,” he said.

In 1966, Shelby Mustang production rose to 2,378, and the cars were more user-friendly. They had a back seat and were offered with an automatic transmission in a variety of colors. Hertz even bought 999 for rental cars and 800 of those were black with gold stripes.

“The 1965 is the holy grail because it was a race car for the street with no frills and no concessions made for creature comforts. It is the purest year. Sometimes something is just right the first time.”

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