Power Profile: Ron and Cheryl McWilliams ’66 GT350H Has Seen It All

When Shelby American teamed with the Hertz corporation offering members of Hertz sports car club the opportunity to rent one of Shelby’s now famous 1966 GT350H “rent-a-racer,” few could have imagined the impact this agreement would have on a burgeoning muscle car market.

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With just over 1,000 Hertz Shelby’s produced for the program equipped with a Cobra 289 High-Performance V8 engine producing 306 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque, the GT350H attracted plenty of attention.

Imagine simply plunking down $17 per day and .17 cents per mile to find yourself behind the wheel of what would become one of America’s most iconic and recognized sports cars, a Shelby Mustang.

With a powerful small-bock Ford and menacing looks, it didn’t take long for the lore and legend of these GT350H’s to grow. Many a story of renters using these cars for weekend racing and returned to Hertz have been told over the past half-decade with many suffering a “rental mentality” fate of high revving action.

Promoted by the Hertz company itself,  “These cars are available to business travelers who want a change of pace in motoring, by sports car owners away from home and by vacationers who consider driving an enjoyable sport.”

A vacation it was not.

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As the first and only original private owners of this 1966 GT350H, Ron and Cheryl McWilliams make no apologies for driving the car across town or across country.

At the conclusion of the program, most of the Hertz Shelby’s that managed to survive were unceremoniously allocated to used car lots across the country. Enter Ron and wife of 31 years, Cheryl McWilliams.

Ron begins, “I  saw a Shelby in 1967 in Del Rio, Texas and knew immediately I wanted one. I spent several months during 1967 shopping for a Shelby,” even stopping on his way to Colorado for a summer vacation in Albuquerque, NM to test drive a ’66 GT350.

“It was an automatic with red and white stripes,” says Ron.  Not quite to his liking, Ron passed on the car opting instead to continue his search. Soon after the Colorado vacation, Ron drove from Del Rio to San Antonio to continue his Shelby quest.

As is often the case, fate shone upon McWilliams when he stopped by a used Corvette dealership in San Antonio and the salesman knew about the Shelby Hertz cars being sold as used cars. Ron had the name and phone number of a gentleman in Dallas who was in charge of selling the Shelby’s in Dallas. He told Ron he had shipped two to Hale Center, Texas; one automatic and one 4-speed, and if the dealer had either one of them left he could buy it for $2,450.

Ron quickly contacted the dealership in Hale Center and after some negotiation, purchased the GT350H and took delivery the following Saturday.

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Just as he did over half a decade ago, Ron doesn’t shy away from regularly putting his Shelby GT350H through its paces.

Perhaps Ron was destined to be the first, and still only, private owner of this GT350H. A car, ‘eh-hem…designed for vacationers and family trips. “We have driven the United States from East to West and North to South across the country many times. But the one trip that meant the most to us was taking our friends from Florida to Yellowstone National Park, Custer’s Battle Field, the Bear Tooth Highway, and the Grand Teton’s says Ron.

“There is magnificent scenery everywhere and it’s such a great time with our family and friends,” says this father of three, grandfather of six and now great grandfather. “We love to travel, attend car shows, gardening and spending time with our children. Did we mention we drive the Shelby everywhere?”

It’s a Driver

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Chances are if you saw a car like this in your local grocery store parking lot you’d assume it wasn’t a real Shelby. For Ron and Cheryl, driving often is the best part of ownership. 

Almost apologetically, the McWilliams point out that their Shelby GT350H is “just a driver.”

“We love living in Colorado, spending time on our patio gazing at the beautiful Rocky Mountains, visiting our children,  grandchildren and great granddaughter,” Ron beams.

“We drive the Shelby everywhere, enjoy ’50s and ’60s rock and really enjoy helping friends, working with charities including St. Jude and veterans groups and are forefront with support of our troops and first responders.”

Powered by Ford's potent small-block, Shelby American squeezed 306 hp under the hood of this Hertz Rent A Racer making the view from the inside very exciting.

In a hobby where too many collectible cars reside in sterile environments rarely stretching their legs on an open road as they were intended, the McWilliams’ Shelby GT350H is a rare glimpse at a raw, gritty sports car which has experienced a life few of its kind will ever see again.

Ron says, “Our dream is to get it to Hot August Nights in Vegas one year and cruise down Virginia Ave. Every night.”

For a car like the Shelby GT350H that was designed to take you places for $17 per day, few would argue that Ron and Cheryl got their money’s worth with this one.

 

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About the author

JP Emerson

My affliction with vintage iron is matched only by my knowledge of classic Rock ’N Roll. Although a heavy lean to all things Ford blue, I have a sharp appreciation for all makes and models, especially those that gulp gas and drop oil to mark their territory. Having provided work for multiple magazines, manufacturers, SEMA, and a top secret list of celebrity and auto insiders, I understand the bond between cars and owners.
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