RARE FIND:

1967 SHELBY G.T. 350

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only heard of the car. Fowler, an en­dodon­tist, Mus­tang col­lec­tor, and am­a­teur re­storer be­came well ac­quainted with the owner, LTC

Alvin Smith, U.S. Army re­tired and for­mer he­li­copter pi­lot in Viet­nam, say­ing, “He told me he was a night stalker, which I think it was spe­cial ops [Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment]. He would come here to the garage. He al­ways said he didn’t want us to see his Shelby un­til it was fin­ished.”

Fowler’s hobby garage is a Mus­tang fo­cal point in and around the small com­mu­nity of Lafayette, Louisiana. Clubs and en­thu­si­asts gather here for car shows and just to hang out, and he hosts the re­gional group of SAAC (Shelby Amer­i­can Au­to­mo­bile Club) ev­ery year in May.

Fowler in­vited us to go along and take pic­tures and video for the un­earthing of the G.T. 350. Smith had taken the clas­sic Shelby com­pletely apart, and then in May of 2016 fell se­ri­ously ill be­fore he could fin­ish his dream build of his G.T. 350. His wife of more than 50 years, Rose­mary, was up against what she called “the hard­est de­ci­sion I’ve ever made in my life.

Al’s in a nurs­ing home. He’s bedrid­den. I had known that even­tu­ally I would have to do some­thing about the cars. They can’t sit there for­ever. It’s a waste. It’s just wrong,” she told us through tear-filled eyes.

The real­ity of the sit­u­a­tion came to a head in May of 2018 when Shane called Rose­mary about the SAAC re­gional show, hop­ing Al could at­tend and of­fer­ing to put him in a wheel­chair to make it eas­ier. How­ever, due to his con­di­tion, a visit was out of the ques­tion. In­stead, Rose­mary in­vited Shane and his fa­ther, Ken, who had be­come good friends with Al, to come and look at the G.T. 350.

“I talked with Ken sev­eral times, and he told me when I got ready to sell

the cars [in­clud­ing a 1978 Mus­tang

II] to give him a call and he and Shane would come and talk with me about how to go about sell­ing,” Rose­mary said. She knew the ’67 G.T. 350 was a spe­cial car and one that she did not want to just throw on eBay.

Fowler looked over the Shelby. He could see it was a good car, and he wanted to be the buyer. So, he and Rose­mary made an agree­ment, which in­cluded the Mus­tang II. Buy­ing a car in pieces is a job for an ex­pe­ri­enced col­lec­tor, and Shane knows his Mus­tangs and Shel­bys. He’s been a Mus­tang en­thu­si­ast since he was 12, when his fa­ther brought home an old 1970 Mus­tang con­vert­ible they re­stored for his high school days.

“It’s the rea­son I’m alive,” Shane said, re­fer­ring to the ’70s stock 250 six-cylin­der. “If it had been a V-8, I prob­a­bly would have died be­cause I drove it hard, even then.” He still has the con­vert­ible, parked on jack­stands in his hobby build­ing. As we waited in that shop his fa­ther, Ken, showed up, fol­lowed by Mike Hill, Ken’s neigh­bor who is a re­tired sea cap­tain and helps out when needed. “Ev­ery box we open is go­ing to be a new prize,” Hill said. He had been along for the ini­tial view­ing with Shane and Ken.

Shane pulled an en­closed trailer with his Ford F-250 pickup to Rose­mary’s house, which was just a few miles away. Upon our ar­rival, she was

stand­ing in her drive­way to greet us, and then drifted back to 1979 when they got the Shelby. “He and his best friend, Jon Gre­gory, who lives in Aberdeen, Mary­land, love Shel­bys. And Jon bought him­self one. And, of course, Al wanted one too.”

Al was not hav­ing any luck find­ing a car. He didn’t know Rose­mary and

Jon were about to sur­prise him. “One day in 1979 the door­bell rang and there stood Gre­gory, say­ing, ‘Smith my boy, here’s your keys,’ and Al said, ‘huh?’ It was 3 o’clock in the morn­ing,” Rose­mary re­called for us. Gre­gory had flown to Ken­tucky and drove the Shelby home. The G.T. 350 cost $4,000. “Of course, we paid him for it,” Rose­mary said.

As we talked, Shane, Ken, Mike, and four more friends ar­rived—Den­nis Nor­man, Con­rad Fry, his son Con­rad IV, and his son’s girl­friend, El­iz­a­beth Comeaux— and moved parts and de­bris from around the Shelby, which was com­pletely covered. “He took it apart be­tween 2003 and 2005, so it’s been sit­ting here for at least that long. You know how it is when they sit long enough. They be­come a ta­ble or a shelf,” Shane said.

We walked around the car and into the ad­ja­cent room where the 289 Hi-Po was on an en­gine stand along with a ton of parts on shelves, in­clud­ing front and rear seats. Ken pointed to the rear axle on the floor. Den­nis pulled off the mech­a­nism for the fold-down rear seat off the garage wall; on an­other wall hung the Shelby’s deck­lid. Con­rad car­ried it to the trailer.

When Ken yelled, “Shane!” we knew he had found some­thing big. “Is this the orig­i­nal trans­mis­sion?” Ken asked. Shane moved away de­bris to get a closer look. He rubbed the pad on the side of the hous­ing to dis­cover the last six dig­its were a match to the Ford VIN. Yes, this was the orig­i­nal four-speed. A key miss­ing part is the alu­minum and wood steer­ing wheel. Rose­mary fears this piece might have been stolen.

As they rolled back the cov­ers on the ’67 Shelby body, Rose­mary said this was the first time she had seen the Shelby in five years. She pointed out traces of the orig­i­nal Lime Gold paint on the body. Shane and his friends jacked up the body and at­tached Shane’s home­made body dolly on cast­ers for easy trans­port to the en­closed trailer. With the body out of the main garage, we could re­move the parts from the ad­ja­cent room, which in­cluded the orig­i­nal 289 High Per­for­mance en­gine on a stand.

The day was bit­ter­sweet for both Shane and Rose­mary. She re­al­ized it was time to sell, which was sad, but the right de­ci­sion. Shane agreed, but said, “It wasn’t how I wanted the car. I’d rather him be 90-some­thing and not driv­ing any­more, and then sell it. But, we’ll fix up the car and have it back soon.” Rose­mary is ex­cited at the prospect of the car be­ing re­stored, which is the op­er­a­tive word here. “It’s go­ing to be put back to the orig­i­nal specs, and I think that’s ter­rific ’cause I’m a purist at heart my­self. I’m glad to see it go back to the orig­i­nal color and all that.” Of course, Shane will take her for a ride in the car when he fin­ishes the restora­tion in a year or so.

That first day, in 1979, the car had its pic­ture taken with an old Po­laroid film cam­era. The orig­i­nal Lime Gold had al­ready been re­painted red.

Shane Fowler stands in front of five of his cars in the show­room of his hobby build­ing. From left to right are a 1966 G.T. 350, a 1968 G.T. 350 con­vert­ible, a Shelby Amer­i­can–built CSX 8000-se­ries 289 Co­bra, a 1969 Shelby G.T. 350 con­vert­ible, and a 1971 Mus­tang con­vert­ible (maroon with Gin­ger in­te­rior).

The ’67 G.T. 350 took up the fam­ily garage, which Alvin Smith turned into a restora­tion shop.

Shane found the orig­i­nal Shelby VIN plate with the ex­ten­sive pa­per­work.

Doc­u­ments from SAAC re­veal this ’67 G.T. 350 was sched­uled to have a su­per­charger. How­ever, that or­der was later marked VOID and can­celed.

The in­side was gut­ted, but held a few parts in boxes.

The orig­i­nal 289 Hi-Po en­gine was in the cor­ner of the room ad­ja­cent to the garage.

The en­gine bay was also gut­ted, which re­vealed rust-free metal.

Ken Fowler found the orig­i­nal rear axle on the garage floor.

As soon as we rolled the 289 Hi-Po out of the stor­age room and onto the drive­way, Shane was check­ing the date code, which fit the win­dow of pro­duc­tion. The block was too dirty to check for a stamp­ing right now, but it ap­peared to be the num­bers-match­ing 289.

The body rolled eas­ily on and off the en­closed trailer.

Alvin Smith did not in­tend to re­store his G.T. 350 to stock. He had gath­ered parts, such as a five-speed trans­mis­sion, To­tal Con­trol Prod­ucts sus­pen­sion, and brakes to up­grade per­for­mance.

To re­move the ’67 Shelby body, the crew in­stalled Shane’s home­made dolly, front and rear.

Rose­mary ran across this pre­sen­ta­tion from April 15, 2012, that Dan Baker gave to Al Smith, a he­li­copter pi­lot, for sav­ing his life “more than once” in Viet­nam.

Den­nis picked the Shelby tail­light sur­round off the wall of the garage.

Rose­mary Smith said Al used the ’67 Shelby as a daily driver for work for years. He worked at the Avi­a­tion Test Board at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He was a cap­tain in the Army. “He and Jon would drive [their 1967 Shelby G.T. 350s] up to the park­ing lot and drive them side by side. We used to make jokes about breed­ing them and mak­ing baby Ponies.”

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