My search for a 1966 GT350 began sometime around the
spring of 1987. Initially I had wanted a 4-speed 1967 GT500. A man in Cave
Spring, Georgia (who I bought my 1970 Boss 302 from) had one for sale at
this time. I made the trek over to Cave Spring, about 100 miles, to check
out the car. An initial drawback to this car was its color -- Lime Green.
This seems to be the color of about 50% of all 1967 Shelbys. This car was a
four-speed with the correct dual-quads, Kelsey-Hayes MagStars and under-dash
gauges. My brother, Jeff and friend, Mark Key, accompanied me on this trip.
On the test drive, my accomplices took the back seat while the owner and I
had the front.
The first portion of the drive was uneventful (if you can
call driving a 4-speed Shelby uneventful). On our return, the smell of hot
wires was noticed and soon the whole passenger compartment was filled with
smoke. It even appeared to be coming out of the roll bar casing! Our eyes
were watering and we were coughing from the smell -- reminiscent of a
plastic spoon melting in the dishwasher. The problem was a short in the
underdash gauges. They had gotten so hot that the lenses on them had started
to melt. Needless to say I passed on this car. But while we were there we
looked at some of the other cars this guy had; some 7 Shelbys, 2 Bosses and
numerous other "plain" Mustangs. One of these was a 1966 GT350H that had
been completely restored (including the undercarriage). It was the nicest
car I had ever seen. The price was outrageous at the time - $21,000. The car
was eventually bought by a friend and won Best of Show and People's Choice
at our Rocket City Mustang Club 1988 Annual Show. The guy also had a driver
1966 GT350H with dual Carter 4-barrels on it
. I barely
gave it a second glance. The price was $11,500 and I figured I could find a
better one if I looked around.
On to Nashville that afternoon to see the Shelby. The car
had been "restored" by a restoration shop up north and was the cover car for
their brochure. It looked good initially but the rear end had been replaced
by one from some other car and was too wide. Air shocks had to be put on the
car to raise the rear so the tires would not rub. Fittings for the air lines
had been put into the rear valence. The interior had been dyed black; the
dash pad and kick panels appeared to have originally been blue (as seen in
the places where the black was peeling off). There were some rust bubbles
coming up underneath the stripes at the lower corners of the doors. When I
pointed these out I was assured that they must be "some dirt that got
trapped in there." Upon driving the car, I noticed excessive front end wheel
play which, I was assured, was "caused by the radial tires." I decided to
pass on this car without even making an offer. A week later the guy called
me at work and asked if I'd give him $11,500 for the car. It seemed he was
getting a divorce and needed the money. Again I passed. I figured I could
find a better one if I looked around.
At this time I decided to become more knowledgeable about
the cars, so I ordered lots of literature, including the Shelby Buyer's
Guide, Shelby American Guide, Shelby American World Registry and several
other books. From this point on serial numbers would become more significant
I decided to go to SAAC-12 at Charlotte, hoping there
would be many cars there to choose from. There were. To see all those cars
in the three-level parking garage at the headquarters hotel was
unbelievable. You could not fully describe this to someone who has never
seen it in person. On the show day I had noticed a very nice, red 1966 GT350
with a "For Sale" sign on it. This car had been runner-up in the popular
vote car show at SAAC-11 in Dearborn. When I finally tracked down the owner
I learned that the car had just been sold.
Good Grief! Out
in the parking lot I spied another "For Sale" sign on a white '66 without
LeMans stripes. The owner was passing out a ten-page list showing each and
every piece that was used in restoring the car -- some $30,000 worth. But
the car had 351-W heads and an aftermarket distributor, and I passed. I
figured I could find a better one if I just looked around.
Following SAAC-12 I began to go back through old issues
of Hemmings and circle ads that seemed attractive. Three of the cars
that I found would later figure in my frustration. Each was still for sale
(at $14,500, $14,000 and $19,000, respectively) and each had some niggling
imperfections that had caused me to write them off at the time. Except one.
This car sounded good, though a little expensive. The owner seemed to know
very little abeut the car or didn't want to tell me much about it.
Supposedly it only had 37,000 miles on it and had been restored. But my
inability to communicate with the owner caused me to continue looking at
My closest encounter came to pass in November of 1987. An
ad in Hemmings for a very early 1966 GT350 appeared.
The car had been
completely stripped and repainted, the undercarriage detailed, and it had
Ray Brown belts, a real '65 Shelby wood steering wheel, five Cragar/Shelby
wheels, a '65 rear shelf, R-Model gauges, a roll bar and an R-Model rear
window. The owner had completely documented his restoration on video-tape
and with 35mm photographs. He sent me two videos (taken in the cold New York
State winter). I was really impressed with the car. When he said that
someone in Europe was interested in it I sent a $200 deposit to hold it for
a couple of weeks. I showed several local club members (who shall remain
unnamed) the videos of the car and was talked out of buying it -- because of
all the '65 and R-Model stuff on it. Peer pressure got to me. The price of
$19,500 (steep but not outrageous) seemed to them to be too high for a car
which wasn't completely stock. Of course, I could have still bought it
anyway. This was one bit of advice that I will regret having followed for
the rest of my life. Some two years later I showed these videos at one of
our Rocket City Mustang Club meet-ings. People could not believe that I
didn't buy the car. I still feel sick every time I think of it.
Coincidentally, after viewing the video, one of our new members, Marc
Snyder, who had recently moved to Huntsville from Germany, turned out to be
the European party who had been interested in the car!
The next car was just as nice and I came very close to
buying it as well. From another Hemmings ad I learned of a white '66
with blue LeMans stripes that was for sale in Virginia. This car had a real
wood '66 steering wheel, five 10-spoke wheels, detailed engine compartment,
trunk, etc.. It had been pictured on the front cover of The Marque
(Vol. 4 No. 1). My girl-friend had some friends living in the D.C. area so
we decided to make the trip up there, buy the car, and then drive both cars
back home. We were to leave on Friday morning. On Thursday evening I had a
message that some dealer from Arizona was flying out to look at the car on
Friday and that I should wait and call back after that to check on its
decided since we had already made plans that we would go ahead and leave
Friday morning anyway. After a 730-mile trip we reached D.C. and I
immediately called the seller. I got his wife. He was showing the car at the
time. About 30 minutes later I got word that the car was sold. So I spent
the next two days dejectedly touring Washington D.C. Hindsight said I should
have put a deposit on this car as well.
It was about this time that the prices of Shelbys really
started rising, along with the advent of the price gouging dealers and
speculators who were cropping up left and right. A blue and white 4-speed
'66 was another one of the cars I mistakenly passed on. When I inquired
about the car the price was $15,000. Word spread a few months later that a
dealer had sold the same car for $32,000. As news like this came out, the
price of every '66 in the country began to jump. The days of the $15,000 '66
GT350 vanished practically overnight. So, it seemed, did the supply of
privately owned cars for sale. The hobby was quickly being ruined -- all in
the name of profit. Now people who had no knowledge or true interest in the
cars were buying them up with seemingly unlimited funds. It was at this
point that panic set in. Was I to be faced with the prospect of buying a
less than ideal car now because that was all I could afford? I was still not
totally convinced of this and was destined to hesitateand to make still more
mistakes because of it.
It was in May, 1988 that a fellow club member found a
1965 Shelby right here in Huntsville. Although not advertised, the owner
agreed to sell it to him for $13,500! Although it had the wrong engine and
was a little rough, it was otherwise mostly complete with R-Model wheels,
correct steering wheel, gauge pod, rear shelf, etc. It ran and drove as
well. About a month later in the process of getting a divorce, the owner
offered the car to me for $16,000. Again, being the fool that I am, I passed
thinking that I could find a real nice '66 for just a few thousand more. The
car was eventually sold to a dealer in Virginia for $18,500. There is no
telling how much he made off the car.
A couple of months later I saw an ad in Hemmings
(I was now getting it First Class for $52 a year) for a '66 GT350, a white
4-speed car with an Alabama phone number. Not wanting this seemingly great
opportunity to pass by, I immediately called the number in the ad. I reached
a doctor's office. The receptionist told me the doctor would not be in again
until Monday. Not wanting to wait that long, I went to the library to look
up his home phone number in the Birmingham phone book. I found him at home
and asked if I could come and look at the car. I was the first caller on it.
I was informed that he would be out of town until Monday, at which time I
was to call back and make arrangements to see the car. The original asking
price was $23,000. When I called back on Monday he told me that his
answering machine tape had filled up over the weekend with calls about the
car. He was afraid he had under-priced it and had decided to take it off the
market, but he would call me first when he decided to reenter it. About a
week later he called and said he had decided to raise the price to $28,000.
I told him thanks, but no thanks. I wasn't going to be held hostage.
Additionally, I learned that the car had originally been red and was now
At this time I decided to take a chance and go back again
to some of the old ads I had previously passed on. The owner of a car in
Virginia still had it but had decided not to sell it at this time. I was
assured that I would be the first one called should he change his mind. I
had originally passed on a green car in Iowa because it had been repainted
Emberglow. This car was still for sale but the price was now $20,000. I
asked for some photos and was assured the car was all correct and rust free.
During thecold month of January, 1989 I bought a $600 plane ticket to Iowa.
It was extremely cold and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. The
car was inside an old Ford dealership along with about 50 other old cars). I
only looked at the Shelby for about 15 minutes. Every panel on the car
except the roof and trunk lid had rust on it. The carpet was hanging through
the floorboard and there was a hole in the left inner quarter panel big
enough to put a fist through (which was what I felt like doing about that
point). Doors, rockers, lower fenders and quarters were all rusty. The
interior was out of a 1965 Mustang. I hastily said thanks and left,
wondering if this guy realized that his misrepresentation had just cost me
$600. About three months later I saw this car again advertised as rust free.
Discretion prevented me from calling this joker up and giving him a piece of
My next re-check was on a car in Michigan. The owner
still had the car and would sell it. The price was now $28,000. I asked for
some pictures and he sent two. I called back and expressed my interest, but
said that I would like more pictures before flying up to see it. A month
went by and still no photos. I tried to call on several occasions but got a
recording saying the number had been disconnected. The recorded voice
sounded strangely like the crackly voice of the owner. (Can you say
"eccentric"?) I finally got an envelope from him with a short note telling
me the car had been sold. Logistics had cost me this opportunity.
Nothing much happened between then (April, 1989) and
SAAC-14 at Pocono. At the convention the only 1966 cars I saw for sale were
three belonging to the same person. One was the last car I called on, in
Michigan ($28,000). It now carried a price tag of $40,000. I was crushed by
the thought that someone had bought a car out from under me just to turn a
quick buck. This car really was restored and only had 37,000 miles on it.
Right after SAAC-14, I found a 1970 Boss 302 for a
reasonable price in Indiana.
Two local club
members had mentioned, on several occasions, of their interest in such a
car. Not wanting to let it get away I bought it, thinking that one of them
would like to have it (for the same price I paid for it). After I got it
home both seemed to lose interest -- so there I was with the car. As Murphy
would have it, this was the very time a '66 GT350 appeared for sale in
Hemmings. This was one of the cars I had been promised the right of
first refusal on. Now I needed to unload the Boss in order to have the
necessary funds. This took me until the end of October, by which time -- of
course -- the Shelby had been sold. For $28,000. It reappeared a month later
in Hemmings, now for sale by a dealer, for $39,000. By this time you
should begin to see the pattern.
In December of 1989 I located three other '66 cars within
70 miles of my home. Each's owner said he was not interested in selling.
Another car, in Birmingham, was advertised in the Snakebite Bulletin.
Its owner refused to even return my calls. I guess he changed his mind.
At this time I had nearly resigned myself to go back to
the less expensive, but more plentiful, '67 cars (not that I don't like
them, mind you). But first, I decided to swallow my pride and call on one of
the '66s I had seen at SAAC-14 (originally $19,000 after SAAC-12, then
$28,000, then $40,000). Maybe a sob story would get me a good price on the
car if it was still for sale. It didn't. But the owner had another blue
four-speed car available. It needed paint and was supposedly rust free. I
thought, "What the heck - go for it." I purchased a plane ticket to
Michigan. When I arrived there was snow on the ground and the temperature
was near zero. The seller picked me up at the airport and casually mentioned
the car had cracked a piston that morning when the accelerator hung open (it
was the first time it had been started in over two years). It needed paint,
was missing the seat belts, wheels, and yes -- it had some rust. I just
couldn't bring myself to pay $31,000 for a car that I couldn't even start
up. I thanked him and went back to the airport, only to find that my flight
had been cancelled. I decided to sleep in the airport terminal. At about 11
p.m. a security guard asked me what I was doing and informed me that the
terminal closed at midnight. I had to run back to the Northwest ticket
counter. They graciously put me up for the night in a nearby motel.
For the next couple of weeks I pondered beginning anew a
search for a '67 Shelby or a Pantera. I even called on a few but no real hot
prospects presented themselves. During the second week of January, 1990 I
ran an ad in the Atlanta Constitution, offering $500 for information
leading to my purchase of a '66 GT350. I was hoping that maybe I could pull
one out of the woodwork that no one else knew about. I received five
responses. One guy referred me to the owner of the first car I had looked at
-- the '67 GT500 with the smoking gauges. Another proceeded to read me ads
from the DuPont Registry (which I already had) and one guy tried to
sell me a white GT350 Hertz car, which was owned by someone else, inOklahoma.
I had spoken to that car's owner the day before this guy called and had been
quoted a price $6,000 less that what this guy said. Apparently my $500
wasn't enough for him.
At the end of January I got the latest issue of the
Snakebite Bulletin. I quickly spied an ad for a '66 GT350 in Georgia. I
called immediately and talked to the car's owner, Gene Boone. It was a black
and gold Hertz car, currently powered by an out-of-the-crate '70 Trans-Am
Boss 302 engine. He had a 289 Hi-Po to go with the car. He had driven the
car to SAAC-14 (a 1,600 mile round trip) and at the Walter Mitty Challenge
at Road Atlanta. His asking price was kind of high, but he let me know that
he realized it was optimistic and that he would be willing to talk. !
arranged to drive to Atlanta on Thursday, January 26th.
Thursday was a bleak, dreary, rainy day but I was
determined to go anyway (200 miles, one way). After fighting 1-285 traffic,
I found Gene's house at about 10:30 a.m.. The first time I saw the car I
knew "this was it." Although it was driven regularly, the owner was very
particular about its condition. A man after my own heart. He had anticipated
my question and had removed one pop-rivet from the Shelby serial number
plate so that I could check the car's Ford vehicle identification number. It
was O.K.. After a few hours of talking cars and parts (he also owned a
Griffith, a Tiger, a Shelby race car and a '67 GT500) I made him an offer.
He accepted it only after I was able to convince him that I was not some
dealer trying to turn a quick buck. He was also concerned about the car
having been in Georgia and Alabama its whole life. I assured him it would
stay in Alabama with me. After my assurances, a deposit was given and the
deal settled. I was to pick up the car a week later. That night I got a call
from Gene and he had actually arranged to buy some additional parts for the
car and include them with it - at no additional cost! How often do you find
Saturday, February 3rd was even more rainy (at our 3 a.m.
departure time) than the day I had first looked at the car. Club member Ray
Bryan and his son, Matthew, agreed to help me pick up the car in their brand
new enclosed trailer. We were so keyed up that we actually arrived two hours
early. Mr. Boone proceeded to give Ray some Boss 302 parts while we were
there and even had the Shelby's gas tank full. He later called to make sure
we got back home okay that evening. Then he read me a letter his daughter
had written to him after I had taken the car. It seemed the money from the
car was to be used to send her to college. She really felt bad about causing
him to have to sell his car and promised she would really work hard in
I guess the moral of the story is that those who
persevere will win out in the end, although their pocketbooks may be a