Some people are lucky. Others happen to be in the right place at the right time. Bob Gaines was both when, in 1987, he spotted a classified ad for the first production '67 Shelby in Hemmings Motor News.
"The car was listed as fully restored to show quality," recalls Bob, who has been admiring and restoring Shelbys since before they became high-dollar collector cars. "The asking price was $50,000, which was expensive considering that restored G.T. 350s were priced between $20,000 and $25,000 at the time."
Bob assumed his luck had run out and shelved thoughts about owning '67 Shelby 0001. His lucky charm returned while talking with a friend who knew the car and its seller. Turns out, the Shelby was not restored at all and the seller was an Albuquerque lawyer who accepted the car as payment for legal services. With the for-sale ad, he was merely fishing for big dollars before committing to a restoration. In fact, the car was completely disassembled. Armed with the new information, Bob contacted the seller and negotiated a fairer price.
"My friend Jeff Yergovich and I jumped in his truck with an open trailer and off we went to Albuquerque," Gaines recalls. "We drove straight through the night because I was afraid the difficult lawyer-type was going to change the deal. In the morning, we found the Shelby at a dirt-floor body shop where the employees were ‘sculpting' their collision jobs out of Bondo. Jeff and I were relieved that we were saving the first '67 G.T. 350 from a botched-up restoration."
Finding the VIN-stamped engine and four-speed transmission nearby, Gaines and Yergovich slid the all-important original drivetrain components into the interior, then lodged a piece of plywood in the bottom of the engine compartment so they could load it with "everything that remotely appeared to belong with the car."
After the mad-dash drive from Kansas City to New Mexico and back, the ordeal wasn't over. When the "Beverly Hillbillies" trailer loaded with a primered and parts-filled fastback body rolled into Gaines driveway, his wife came out to see her husband's expensive and coveted acquisition. Gaines remembers her reaction: "She looked at the car, then looked at me and said, ‘Bob Gaines, you have got to be kidding!' She turned around and walked back in the house."
According to the Shelby American Automobile Club's '65-'67 Shelby Registry, 67200F5-0001 was completed on November 4, 1966, and shipped to Richardson Ford Sales in Albuquerque. Nothing is known about the car's early history prior to the late 1970s, when it was purchased by John Peterson and Marc Lucero, who bought the Shelby just so they could snag its aluminum oil pan for Peterson's Cobra. The disassembled G.T. 350 traded owners a number of times before being saved by Gaines.
For two years, Gaines collected NOS parts to complete the restoration of his Shelby roller at Yergovich's nearby R&A Motorsports. Already well-versed in early '67 Shelbys as the owner of 0037, Gaines set out to restore the car as it left the assembly line in late 1966, which included the C-pillar stop/turn signal lights that were used on the first 160 or so cars. Then, after spending so much effort (and cash) obtaining hand-to-find NOS parts like the original tires, battery, air-filter element, and early S2M5 Cobra intake manifold, Gaines decided he and Yergovich would restore the car strictly for concours. In its first SAAC competition in 1992, the Shelby won a First Place. The following year at SAAC-18, Gaines' first production Shelby scored the highest concours points total in SAAC history. Only one other car has scored higher over the last 20 years.
After the SAAC accomplishment, Gaines retired the Shelby from active concours. As one of SAAC and MCA's top Shelby judges, he continues to "update" the car as his knowledge evolves. These days, the G.T. 350 is displayed on special occasions, like last summer's Mid America Ford and Shelby Nationals in Tulsa.
"I have other cars to drive for fun and even some for vintage competition," Gaines says. "This car gives me the pleasure of knowing it represents a time capsule from a time long ago."