The Peter Brock Specials

Legendary Automotive Designer, Peter Brock, redesigned the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R making his own rendition of the modern great.

The 2020 model year of the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R was the last, and arguably the best year, of the highly acclaimed vehicle. The second incarnation of the 1960s great was lauded in automotive media for its innovative large displacement flat-plane crank (nicknamed the Voodoo) that revved to 8,250 rpm. It drove on wheels made of 100% carbon fiber, a first for a mass-produced car, and then there was the sound—a mix of Italy and Detroit, it screamed race car as it popped and snarled, as its rpm range climbed to the heavens. When the sounds of the combustion engine are all gone, people will still remember, the roar of the Voodoo’s unique V8. The second-generation GT350R was one of the best second acts of any car, it lived up to its predecessor while also making history in its own right. 

For its final production year, Ford revised the car by adding: new front suspension geometry inherited from the new 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500; and a new faster processing ABS module.  The changes meant that the 2020 R-model was 1-second faster around a racetrack due to better performance under hard braking and trail braking. The front suspension changes also eliminated “tramlining”—the tendency for a tire to follow the cracks in the asphalt’s surface on a rough road. 

Ford also included a new exterior package to celebrate the final year of the now-iconic car: They announced the Heritage Edition that included Guardsman Blue vinyl stripes over Wimbledon White paint. Cars equipped with this package would be painted in the exact same colors as the original 1965 Shelby GT350. The body’s exterior emblems were also changed to blue from red, which was the same for the chassis plate on the inside of the car.

The Heritage Edition was priced at $1,965.00 which signified the first year of the original car, 1965. The package was the most popular option for the 2020 R models, with more than 260 units being sold.

Despite its unique and historic livery, the vinyl stripes seemed lacking to some. Ford could not have included an additional paint option for stripes without substantially raising the Heritage’s price—which was the case with the new GT500 that has a $10,000 painted stripe option. Only one GT350R came with painted stripes from the factory: it was the last vehicle, in the fleet, to be produced. A car that was reportedly ordered and owned by Bill Ford, it was treated to the same painted stripes as the GT500. Still, what would the average owner do if they wanted to replace the vinyl stripes for paint?

This article is the story of one man’s journey to obtain painted stripes. His path ultimately led to his car being designed by the original 1965 Shelby GT350’s designer, and in the end, he not only got an accurate paint job, but his car is now historically significant.

Troy Rees, a 20 year veteran in the United States Marine Corps, sought out to honor the Shelby GT350R history by replacing vinyl stripes with painted ones.
Rees flew Cobra and Huey Marine light attack helicopters in Iraq and Afganishtan. He now serves as a weapons tactics instructor.

Troy Rees, a career serviceman in the US Marine Corps with over 20-years of wearing the uniform, lives out in San Diego, California. He flew Cobra and Huey Marine light attack helicopters and now serves as a weapons tactics instructor. Rees originally had his eyes on a 2020 Ford Performance Blue GT350R with white stripes before changing his mind to the Heritage Edition, after Ford announced the special package in December 2019. As Troy recalls it, “My wife had a lot to do with me securing the allocation to order the Heritage Edition.” He placed his order and it arrived at Kearny Mesa Ford, a dealership in San Diego, in July of 2020.

Although he loved his new Mustang, the vinyl stripes bothered him. He wanted them replaced with paint. As he says, “When I got it, I intended to get the stripes painted. I looked around for someone local… [The shop that he choose] took a long time to get it done—I don’t think that they understood the significance of that car, but they ended up getting the stripe color done wrong… The dimensions were the same that Ford gave us, but the color was way off and it was pretty important on that car, so I thought I need to get this done again—I can’t leave the color like it is, so I just started calling people, mostly, to figure out what the color was and trying to figure out how they got it [so] wrong. I was trying to call some old restoration places so I could kind of get an idea of the color. I called a few places and just [by] pure luck that Jim Marietta of OVC answered, and all I was looking for, at that point, was trying to get the paint color right.” 

THE HISTORY OF THE SHELBY GT350R

Jim Marietta is the head of The Original Venice Crew (OVC). OVC refers to the small group of fabricators, race car drivers, and builders who in the 1960s changed the automotive world. These men and women were the people behind Shelby American. They won championships, the 24 hours of Le Mans, and they made their leader’s name synonymous with greatness. They originally operated out of a small shop in Venice, California. Among Carroll Shelby’s first workers was a team of talented drivers including Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Dave MacDonald, to name a few, and those drivers drove machines designed by the famous designer and aerodynamicists, Peter Brock, and built by the world-class race car fabricator, Phil Remington.

The cars became legendary and have become enshrined in automotive lore with many being worth millions today. One of those iconic cars was the 1965 Ford Mustang G.T. 350 Competition Model.

When Ford sent Mustangs to Shelby American in 1964 they were all painted plain white. Their specific paint color was Wimbledon White which is an off-white, eggshell color. The Mustang’s were sent to Shelby to be transformed into race cars, the result of a directive straight from Ford’s Vice President, Lee Iacocca, who wanted the Mustang to gain some performance credibility.

The white Mustangs sat in rows at the newly opened Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) facility, that Shelby American had moved into in 1965. Many of these vehicles would be turned into street cars, only a few would be transformed into racing machines, the Competition Model. This latter model had an “R” in its serial number (e.g. 5R002), and a decade after it had been produced, many would only refer to these cars as the 1965 Shelby GT350R.

Shelby’s team worked to make the Mustangs ready to compete against Corvettes, Porsches, and Triumphs, as well as other manufacturer’s entries, that raced in the SCCA’s B-Production category. Head engineer, Chuck Cantwell, led the team, legendary driver Ken Miles, perfected the vehicle on track with fellow drivers Bob Bondurant and Jerry Titus, and designer, Peter Brock, worked on the aesthetics. 

OVC’s continuation Shelby GT350 Competition Model allows people to experience automotive history in a newly built vehicle.

Brock, an automotive designer who had left Chevrolet for Shelby, had gone from working on the 1963 Corvette Stingray to helping design the Shelby Cobra. His first signature work was redesigning that Cobra’s body, replacing it with new aerodynamically shaped panels. The new Cobra broke all of the contemporary design rules of the time. Called the Shelby Daytona Coupe, it smashed records and won the 1965 FIA World Championship for Shelby American—beating Ferrari, the reigning champions. After those successes, he was now focused on transforming the new Shelby Mustangs from mundane to extraordinary.

As a young man, Brock idealized the American racer, Briggs Cunningham. Cunningham’s cars raced around the world and even in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. His cars were always painted in the same livery that honored his home. “The American colors in Le Mans in 1963 were white with blue stripes. I emulated that,” says Brock. Ford asked him if he could make the Mustang look like a race car. Brock told the Ford executives, “We’ll we can do these new aerodynamic body parts for ‘x’ amount [of money] or we can do these stripes”. He says Ford choose not to do the new parts because of cost, and they were initially skeptical about the stripes because they thought “No one would want to drive around in a car that looked like a skunk”. Ford eventually agreed, so the white Mustangs were painted with blue stripes.

Jim Marietta (left) inspects OVC 5R002, upon its delivery to his customer at Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort during the 2021 Shelby Bash.

The racing Shelby Mustangs went on to become famous, winning the B-Production Championship in both 1965 and 1966, and the Competition Model or GT350R became cemented in automotive history.

Decades later, many of the old gang got back together for a reunion, and the idea of building another car emerged. They chose to source a 1965 K-code Mustang and they constructed it on the shop floor of Peter Brock’s Brock Racing Engineering’s (BRE) facility in Henderson, Nevada.

The car that they made, led to the creation of a new business, OVC, that manufactures and sells 36 continuation 1965 GT350 Competition Models. These 36 cars are also officially licensed Ford and Shelby products.

This is the history that all second-generation Ford Mustang Shelby GT350Rs stand on top of, and it is what the 2020 Heritage Edition emulates. 

AN ICONIC DESIGNER

Marietta told Rees that a Henderson, Nevada, shop called VIP Collision (VIP) painted their continuation models. But, Rees’ car was still missing something. A phone call to his father brought the legendary automotive designer into the project adding history to the repainting of his Heritage Edition. With Brock orchestrating the paint job, it gave him a 21st-century remake of one of his most iconic designs as his new canvas. After 56 years, Brock would be designing a new Shelby Mustang.

“My dad knew him from Corvettes…,” says Rees, who recalls Brock looking at the car before commenting that, “The color was wrong”. However, what seemed to bother the designer more was not the shade of blue, but the thickness of the stripes. “[He said] what is even more wrong is the dimensions of it,” said Rees. Brock made a deal with him that “[if he agreed], he will come out and layout the stripes as if he was given the car from Ford.”

Peter Brock stands in VIP Collision’s paint booth, overseeing the side stripe layout on Rees’ 2020 Heritage Edition.

Speaking to Brock, he said of Rees: “I do find it important, however, to take advantage of opportunities created by others who love their cars and understand there is more to their appearance than what was offered by the factory. What most impressed me about Troy was his realization that there was some real history behind these heritage editions that had never been publicized.”

“I realized that he knew nothing about Shelby history, SAAC, etc. Somehow, he’d learned about the original GT350s and found his way to Jim Marietta’s place and saw the difference between a cheap taped onset of stripes and what a well-finished car could be and he wanted that….in spite of the inordinate cost of completely redoing his brand new car for which he’d already paid an incredible premium.”

Peter Brock’s hand-drawn and measured sketch of the “GT350” side logo, that was used in the painting of the 2020 GT350R Heritage Edition.

“It was his desire to have something done right that impressed me… When I explained how much it would cost to completely redo his car he didn’t hesitate. That provided the opportunity for me to see the car’s livery done as it should have been. I agreed to do the redesign for nothing if he was willing to cover the cost of doing it the way I believed it should have been done.”  

“The proportions of the car demanded a far bolder look than what was given to the dealers. I knew the moment I first looked at one of these cars (long before I met Troy) that its livery was wrong as it didn’t take advantage of the car’s lines.”

Peter Brock’s Special, has wide painted stripes and side stripes that give a bold and impressive appearance.

“I see much in the world that is badly designed, but I can’t change the world, so I just live with it and concentrate on what I can do. Troy provided the opportunity […], as he trusted me based on the design of the originals back in ’65.”

“After all, my redesign of the stock livery would hardly be noticed by anyone seeing Troy’s car alongside a stock version. So… who cares?  Only guys like Troy who have that innate sense of quality that something isn’t as good as it should have been and are willing to change it just for the pure sense that it could be better.”

In a bit of irony, Rees’ son’s name is Kenneth Miles Rees, so the license plate has two meanings, honoring the Shelby great and representing his son, who will one day inherit the car.

“That’s why I decided to help him so WE could make a statement….no matter how insignificant because we both cared to see something done right. Then there was the problem of making sure it was done right.”

“Steve at VIP, here in Henderson, was a guy I could trust to take the time to do things right. There aren’t too many shops willing to take the time to work with a designer to develop what can only be created by eye. It took far more time than I expected because it had to be mocked up in tape and then be reviewed and refined outside on the street until it looked ‘right’. It was very important to look at any new design in the environment in which it will exist! The design studios of large manufacturers can afford the time and effort to do things like this, but most privateers just take what is offered. That’s why there’s so much junk in the world.”

“Any new design of mine, I design for the world in which it’s intended to live… . [R]ace livery is different than street livery as it’s only seen at a distance and then only for seconds. No point in doing something intricately beautiful if it can’t be seen. The GT350R’s livery is essentially a “race livery” but far more finished because it’s a modern representation of a past era[…]. Meant to be studied in detail by those interested in history.  The clear coat over the stripes, for example, makes for a flush, seamless surface that can only be really appreciated by touch.”  

“The satisfying thing about doing Troy’s car was that others with the same sensitivity immediately saw the difference! So, we’ve now done three cars. Jim Moon’s in Tucson and Paul ‘Steve’ Stephens here in Vegas.”

Despite Brock believing that the vehicles that he designed would be mistaken for a normal Heritage Edition, I think the pictures illustrate just how far from the truth that truly is—they stand out with their bold painted over-the-top stripes that are accented by the dramatic side stripes with “GT350R” written proudly on the lower door panel. The new livery harkens back to the historic nature of the original 1965 Shelby GT350R. These Brock-designed vehicles should be called by a new name, something that ties it directly to its creator: These three cars should be called “The Peter Brock Specials”. They may, one day, rise to become one of Brock’s most famous contemporary works.

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: these three cars stand out from the rest of the GT350R fleet and they serve as a bookend to a famous designer’s legacy with one of America’s most famous cars.

Peter Brock and Troy Rees stand next to the car that reunited Brock with the Shelby GT350R, 56-years after he designed the original in 1965.