Q: Hi Greg and I just read your column about lost opportunities and cars that got away. Well, I have a story for you.
Back in the 1970s I was active in buying and selling 50s and 60s muscle cars. At the time it wasn’t uncommon to come upon a ‘66 Chevelle 396, a ‘65 Mustang Fastback or a ‘60 Ford Starliner 390 for sale. There were others, too, that today I would give my eye teeth to have back.
Back when Illinois license plates were yellow and black, one of our small town “Pennysaver” newspapers had a classified ad for a 1968 Mustang Convertible for sale for $650. So, I called and talked to the person and he said it was his brother’s car and it had a fiberglass hood and a tail fin on the trunk that said “HELBY!”
I got his address, dropped the phone and ran to the bank as I was off to see this “HELBY!”
Now for $650.00, I wasn’t expecting much. But as I drove up I saw a Highland Green with white convertible top 1968 Shelby GT 500 that needed a left front fender, bumper, grill nose surround and a good paint job. (Not because it was hit, it just had not been taken care of). It also needed the letter “S” to complete the “HELBY.”
I asked if it ran, and he gave me the keys and said take it for a ride. It started right up and I rode around the block. I was now driving a true 1968 Shelby Mustang GT 500 convertible. It had the 428 V8, 335 horses, C6 Automatic and even factory air. It was a very rare vehicle and I bought it on the spot. I brought her home and remember it was one of the quickest muscle cars I had ever owned. It was all mine.
After enjoying the summer with my car I decided to put it back into shape. There was a little Ford Dealer called Copper Show Ford nearby and I ordered every part I needed for the sum of $1,200. In the next couple of weekends I installed and aligned and shimmed as needed all but the paint. I then put it away for the fall.
But around Halloween time, my buddy and his band were playing so I decided to go and see him in my Shelby. It was nice and dry out and just a little brisk. Needless to say I stayed a little too long at the concert and took the back roads home with the windows down. With the cool breeze, I passed out and rolled my precious Shelby through a 6-foot ditch impacting everything from the left front to the right rear. Yes, the Shelby roll bar worked and saved my life, but my Shelby GT500 was totaled.
When I got my totaled car home and before winter, McCormick Place (convention center near Chicago) was having an auto show and I found a guy who had a Shelby. I asked if he would like to buy a wrecked one for parts and we agreed on a price.
He then came and took her away.
Now some 40 years later I still would give my eye teeth to have my precious Shelby back in some way or another.
Shelby gone but not forgotten! Yours truly, Tom Waszak, Martinton, IL
A: Tom, what a story and I’m glad you survived the crash that totaled your priceless 1968 Shelby GT500 convertible...with air conditioning no less!
Indeed you did have one very rare Shelby.
Although I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, that 1968 Shelby GT500 Convertible is now listed in the NADA Classic Care guides for a high retail of $203,000. The fastback is about $30K less at $173,000, but convertible or not, those 1968 Shelby GT500’s are one of the most popular cars in the collector world.
A friend of mine back in 1970 had a Shelby GT500 Fastback and it was really a great vehicle as you note. He and I took many rides in that Shelby and I remembered just riding in it almost as fondly as you remember owning your beauty.
Too bad that accident happened, but rest assured we all have stories like this where cars that we loved were either crashed or let go for pennies on the dollar when the gas crisis hit. Those 1965 to 1972 muscle cars were sold by dealers for whatever they could get for them back then, so even they had no clue what was coming in the future. (Well, most of them anyway).
Your GT500 delivered nine to 11 mpg at best.
Sadly, it does sound like you probably would have kept your Shelby, so there’s little that can be done to ease your pain…even though it’s been 40 long years ago.
Good luck and thanks for reading my columns and especially for writing your letter.