Sometimes I don’t always plan as far ahead as I should. Some may call it procrastinating, but I’m not ready to cop to that. Rather, I see planning for things at the 11th hour as a sign of extreme flexibility and a way to make every day a new adventure. My wife, however, vehemently disagrees.
However, for this year’s Shelby American Automobile Club’s National Convention, known as SAAC-42 to the faithful, I was pretty damn proud of my advance planning. The convention was June 8–10, held this year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. By March, a solid two-plus months prior, I had reserved our hotel rooms and shared these plans with my family. It was a real honest-to-goodness, officially scheduled trip.
And it being a National Convention, I knew exactly what cars I was going to take. Our 1968 GT500 KR convertible that we finished restoring last fall would be entered in the Division II Concours in an attempt to take home a Gold award. And our trusty old 1966 GT350, with its four seats, would be our transport to and from the track as well as what I’d use to take my kids around the Speedway in the touring sessions. Both cars were ready to go, no last-minute thrashing needed, no stress. For once.
Or so I thought. On May 16 I was checking out SAAC’s website for convention details when I saw that SAAC-42 was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Shelby Mustangs, and they had a call out to try to get as many there as possible.
The good news is I have two 1967 Shelbys: a green GT350 and a blue GT500. The bad news is that the day before, I pulled the blue GT500 into the body shop and asked Mark, my ace painter, to start stripping off its paint job because I decided to finally lose the incorrect Le Mans stripes that were put on by a previous owner. By the time I rushed back to the body shop to tell Mark not to paint it, he already had the fenders off and was taking a razor blade to the old paint.
Change of plans
The conversation that followed was very short. It consisted of me telling Mark that I made a mistake and that “I guess we just won’t take this one to SAAC,” but delivered with a tone that Mark knew meant “I guess we have a lot of work to do before SAAC.”
We had 15 working days to get it done, but 20 days total, as I was more than happy to point out. Oh, and in that time, Mark had planned time off, so he wouldn’t be here for the full pull. But thankfully, our little three-person crew is well versed in “it has to be done” jobs.
The days that followed were a blur. The car was quickly in bare metal, and luckily, as a great Arizona car, it needed no rust repair. In fact, there were only a few small door dings to fix, so we got lucky there, too. Of course not so lucky was the fact that as a 1967 Shelby, it has a lot of fiberglass panels that are hard to strip and even harder to get to fit right — not to mention properly prep for paint.
We just went after the project methodically — one guy unbolting parts, another prepping, sanding, and detailing small items and hardware, and wizard Mark on bodywork and paint, who worked a lot at night and on weekends as well. I had basically handed them an impossible task, but I had faith.
What’s another Shelby?
But lest you think that when all of this madness was going on I was focused on just getting the blue car in paint, oh no; that would be too easy.
About 10 days before SAAC-42, another 1967 GT500 came up for sale in Minnesota. It was a white 4-speed car that I had actually tried to buy in the late 1990s when it was last for sale. It was now being offered from the estate of the fellow who bought it then. He had purchased the car but, unfortunately, passed away a few years later. Since that time, it had just been sitting in his garage. For 16 years.
I flew to Minnesota to check it out. It ran, but barely. No brakes. Old tires. Stale gas. Dusty. It looked the part of a car that had just been parked 16 years prior. But I knew what kind of car was under the dirt, so I bought it on the spot, quickly arranging to have it shipped to Milwaukee the same day by a landscaper who did so in an enclosed trailer behind his dump truck. Long story. Anyway, I was determined to have this be the third 1967 we’d drag to SAAC-42.
As soon as the white car arrived, it was under the knife. Brakes, fuel system, carbs, a correct set of steel wheels, tires and hubcaps quickly sourced and restored, suspension sorted and aligned, and a whole lot of tinkering, cleaning and detailing. Another seemingly impossible task we all jumped on and made happen.
Fourteen days later, the one GT500 was in a fresh coat of its original Brittany Blue, being wet-sanded and buffed, assembled, detailed and cleaned. It was beautiful — another successful Shelby stripectomy and completed against all odds in time to make the show. About the same time, the white GT500 was ready as well. And the green 1967 GT350? Well, it took the place of the 1966 we originally planned to bring. I even entered it into Survivor Concours judging for fun.
Somehow, everything made it on the truck. Once at the Speedway, the two ’67 GT500s were busy doing track tours, being our transport to and from the hotel some 20 miles away, and hanging out in the 1967 Shelby display. Everybody seemed to love seeing them as much as we enjoyed driving them around. Plus, they helped make for a grand total of 34 1967 Shelby Mustangs in attendance for the 50th Anniversary.
Come Concours day, the 1968 GT500 KR and 1967 GT350 were shined up and ready for a few hours of close scrutiny from the judges. The result? A Division II Gold award for the KR and a Survivor Gold award for the unrestored GT350 — icing on the cake for what was a fantastic convention.
See? I told you planning ahead was overrated!