In the 1960s, Shelby American was little known outside the West Coast racing community. The 1965 G.T. 350 raised awareness, as did that car’s 1965 SCCA B/Production championship. But the idea to put a special version of those winning cars in the hands of hundreds of Hertz rental customers across the country was a stroke of marketing genius by Shelby’s sales manager, Peyton Cramer. Hertz welcomed the idea, too, seeing potential to revive its flagging Sports Car Club.
Hertz ordered 1,000 of the cars. Ultimately, 1,001 1966 G.T. 350H models were built: two prototypes and 999 production versions. Mechanically they were very much like the other 1966 G.T. 350s, though there were some running changes, primarily to suspension and brake components. All received the Mustang’s folding rear seat, and all were equipped with AM radios. Most (nearly three-quarters) wear the iconic Hertz colors of Raven Black paint with gold stripes, while others were delivered in Wimbledon White, Sapphire Blue, Ivy Green, and Candy Apple Red. The red and green cars did not receive the gold Le Mans stripes over the hood, roof, and decklid. And some of the white cars were delivered with standard blue G.T. 350 side stripes (a corner cut by Shelby American to help fill the Hertz order more quickly).
There are many myths and legends of G.T. 350H models being rented on Friday, raced on Saturday and Sunday, and returned to Hertz, sometimes broken, missing parts, or even with the wrong engine underhood. Greg Kolasa, the Hertz Shelby registrar for the Shelby American Automobile Club, wrote an excellent book,
which variously debunked and confirmed some of those tales. (Kolasa’s book is no longer in print at CarTech, but copies are available at Tony D. Branda Shelby & Mustang Parts, cobranda.com.)
It is true, per Kolasa, that there were myriad problems with the rental fleet. Renters without racing experience had all kinds of trouble with the car’s competition-oriented metallic brakes, forcing a number of changes. Hertz agencies also received little or no training on how to tune the high-performance car, so some ran poorly or were robbed of parts to keep other H cars in the fleet running.
Not true, says Kolasa, is the story that Hertz lost its shirt on the Shelby deal. He crunched the numbers. Considering what Hertz paid for the fleet, what it got when it sold the cars back to Shelby, the maintenance costs, the daily rental fees ($16 average), and so on, Kolasa figures that Hertz made on the order of $1.25 million all told. “Not bad for a program with the money pit image that it had,” he writes.
n SAAC’s Hertz Shelby registrar, Greg Kolasa, explained the mystery of why the G.T. 350H in this Ford archival press photo wears 10-spoke wheels when the Hertz Shelbys were shod with 14-inch chrome Magnum 500s: “That’s not a G.T. 350. While we don’t...