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This year the GT350 was chosen

as the honored marque to commemo-

rate its 50th anniversary. Being

named the honored marque at this

event isn’t the result of having your

name drawn out of a hat. It is, first

and foremost, a unique marketing op-

portunity for a manufacturer who

pays a princely sum for the “honor.”

Exactly how much is a closely guarded

secret, but suffice it to say that you

won’t be seeing a Smart Car garner

this distinction in your lifetime.

Ford, of course, had an ulterior

motive in stepping into the honored

marque spotlight. They were unveiling

a new 2015 Mustang GT350 model

which they had designated the

GT350R. It was a state-of-the-art, out-

side-the-envelope, smashmouth per-

formance car that is sure to cause Z-28

Camaros and Chrysler Hellcats to

whimper and cower in their garages.

The Monterey Motorsports Reunion

was the ideal venue to plug this car.

FoMoCo’s marketing wizards under-

stood that the company was in busi-

ness to sell new cars, not to promote

fifty-year old antiques that would,

with additional publicity, only enrich

their present owners in the event they

wished to sell them. Ford would not

profit one whit. Like most other man-

ufacturers, Ford didn’t think twice

about standing on the shoulders of the

original Shelby GT350s in order to

beat the drum for their new car. Ma-

nipulating the Tire Photo would be

just one example.

A couple of Ford’s junior varsity

PR whiz kids were assigned to organ-

ize the tire photo op. Stands to reason:

it’s not a job for a marketing vice pres-

ident. The original concept was to po-

sition all forty of the vintage racers

entered the special all-GT350 race in

the shot with the Michelin Tire bridge

in the background. A pair of prototype

2016 GT350Rs would be positioned

prominently up front. To underscore

the historical connection between

these new cars and the original

GT350s, there were four GT350 fac-

tory R-Models at the event, two of

which were entered in the GT350 race.

They should have been parked in the

very first row to show the direct con-

nection between the original racers

and the new cars after which they

were named. There were also a hand-

ful of GT350s with actual race history

from the 1960s, when they were in the

hands of independent racers, and they

should have been behind the row of R-


The rest of the field would be

made up of GT350 street cars, turned

out with competition options so they

could be vintage raced. To the un-

schooled they might have looked like

original R-Models, but with 36 of those

cars built originally – and about 29 re-

maining – the difference was signifi-

cant. Additionally, there were a few

Mustang fastbacks in the field dressed

up as Shelby racers, but these cars

were based on little more than the de-

sire of their owners to participate in

the vintage racing phenomena.

Organizing a photo op like this

takes a great deal of thought and ad-

vanced planning because there is only

one chance to get it right. There are no

do-overs or rewind button. The track

is available for a specific time frame

and once the cars are moved into place

they cannot be jockeyed around and

rearranged. And this is where the Ford

PR flacks tripped on their shoelaces.

The time of the shoot was made

known in advance and for competitors,

getting their car into this picture was

one of the must-do things of the week-

end. When the time came to assemble

the cars on the track it was like a

school of fish; once one began turning

the others all quickly followed suit.

The cars had to be driven counter-race

direction on the track. They entered

where the race cars normally exited

into the paddock and drove up the

Corkscrew and around the back of the

track, coming to a stop on the far side

of the Michelin Bridge.

Due to a lack of organization at

the start, owners of non-race GT350s

quickly saw an opportunity to get

their cars into the picture. Out in the

GT350 parking corral, adjacent to the

paddock, there was something of a

bum’s rush as astute GT350 owners

realized there was no one in charge

and no system to separate vintage

race cars from all the others. They


Fall 2015 311

Race cars line up in the pits. As soon as the

first ones were started and made some

noise, all the others quickly followed suit.

All lined up, it was “hurry up and wait”

until someone, who really wasn’t sure of

what to do, started giving directions.

The two R-Models (5R103 on the left and

5R098 on the right) were two cars with ac-

tual 1960s racing history. They were

parked so far back they were practically in

another zip code.

With owners safely out of the picture the

photographers could get down to business.