The Bullitt Mustang’s reign as the top-selling Mustang didn’t last long

A 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R has become the most expensive Mustang ever sold at an auction setting. The record-breaking Shelby GT350R sold for a whopping $3.85 million, eclipsing the previous record-holder, the 1968 Mustang GT hero car that was driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt. No less than Ken Miles, the British racer who was prominently featured as one of the main characters in the movie, Ford v. Ferrari, drove the specific Shelby GT350R, nicknamed the “Flying Mustang.” The $3.85 million sale price now ascends to the top of the ladder as the single most expensive Mustang to ever sell at auction. It’s going to take a special Mustang to unseat the new record-holder.

What’s so special about this 1965 Shelby GT350?


Let’s start with the driver who drove this particular model — codenamed “5R002” — extensively.

Ken Miles was a British sports car racing driver and engineer who is most famous for winning the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans onboard the Ford GT Mk.II.

That race, considered as the most famous race in motorsports history, turned Miles into a household name. But before Miles shot to fame for his role in Ford’s conquest of Ferrari at Le Mans, he, alongside Bob Bondurant, Chuck Cantwell, Peter Brock, Jerry Titus, tested, drove, and raced this 1965 Shelby GT350 to racing glory.

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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In addition to being called the “Ken Miles R-Model,” this Shelby GT350 is also referred to as the “Flying Mustang,” a nickname it earned after winning more than 10 races in the B-Production series during the 1965 SCCA season.
Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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More than all the racing accomplishments — there’s a lot of them — the 5R002 is also identified as the first-ever Shelby R-Model competition car ever built. Shelby did such a great job with the car that it also became the first Shelby Mustang to ever win a race. It also served as the foundation for Shelby’s second R-Model racer, the 5R001, as well as 34 customer R-models that were sold off.

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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As far as Shelby Mustangs are concerned, the 5R002 is widely regarded as the most historically significant Shelby Mustang in the world.

That’s saying something considering how many of these awesome machines have been built for the road and the track. It just so happens that the roots of all those models can be traced back to one model: the 5R002.

Where’s it been all this time?

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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The ownership history of the 5R002 Shelby GT350 is as fascinating as all of its on-track accomplishments. For a car that’s as important to the overall history of Shelby, Ford, and the Mustang, 5R002 has changed been bought and sold more times than you’d expect. After dominating the racing scene in 1965, Shelby American sold 5R002 to Bill Clawson, an enigma in the Ford Performance Division for just $4,000.

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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Clawson successfully raced 5R002 for two years before selling the car to Dale Wood and Russell Fish, a pair of racers from Texas who, to the surprise of no one, also dominated the racing scene in their area while driving 5R002. Two years after buying the car, the pair sold 5R002 to Luis Blanq-Cacaux, a racer — notice the trend here? — from Monterrey, Mexico. Blanq-Cacaux also raced 5R002 for two years before parking the car in a yard near Monterey. That’s where the car stayed, untouched, for 17 years before Mark Gillette of Dallas, Texas, discovered and immediately purchased it in 1989.

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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Gillette eventually sold the car to his business partner, Rick Nagel, who then sold it to Steve Volk. It was during Volk’s ownership of R5002 that it was prominently displayed at the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, Colorado from 1994 to 2010. It wasn’t until Volk sold 5R002 to famous Shelby collector John Atzbach in 2010 that the racer returned to the public eye. It was displayed at that year’s Quail Motorsports Gathering in “as-found condition.” It also turned up at the prestigious Kirkland Concours in Washington that same year, also in “as-found condition.”

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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Atzbach eventually commissioned John Brown of Thoroughbred Restorations in Oklahoma with the arduous task of restoring 5R002 back to its original racing configuration. The monumental task took countless of hours, but it all paid off in the end. The fully restored 5R002 debuted at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours and predictably won the Best in Class Award for its division. Since then, the racer has traveled all over the U.S., appearing in one show after another, leading up to its record-breaking sale at Mecum Auctions.

Is it worth the $3.85 million price tag it just sold for?

Ken Miles' Mustang Shelby GT350R Becomes The Most Expensive Mustang Ever Sold At Auction
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Consider this: if 5R002 wasn’t as successful as it was, there’s a real chance that Ford’s muscle car movement would’ve sputtered before it had a chance of taking off.

If that would’ve happened, you can effectively erase the Mustang from the history books.

Knowing that now, it’s safe to say that the $3.85 million price tag it sold is well justified.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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