Mostly, the Shelby sat with 6,452 miles. In 2003, Mendes accepted an invitation to attend the Nor Cal Mini Nats, pulling the car out of more than three decades of storage. When I arrived last March, the G.T. 350 rested on jackstands. As Musslewhite said, Mendes did an incredible job of preservation and saved most of the original parts.
The main reason Mendes sold his cherished G.T. 350 race car is because Musslewhite wanted to keep the G.T. 350 as raced. Some people told Mendes that the G.T. 350 should be restored. But Mendes thought restoring the car to showroom condition would obliterate his drag racing history. In other words, the car as he knew it for almost 50 years would "disappear."
After all, on day one of ownership, the Shelby went to Performance Associates and was modified into a drag car. Performance Associates even stamped a pad on the back of the engine block with JM—for Jerry Mendes. Lewayne Musslewhite plans to preserve that history and wow collectors at Mustang and Shelby shows by keeping the car the way it is.
California Special, Arizona Surprise
The view of a big-block California Special was quite a sight for Alan Kulchecki to behold.
With over 50 Fords in his collection, about half of them Mustangs, Alan Kulchecki might not be typical. Coming out of a NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway, he happened to be looking in the backyard of a house, "way off the road," and recognized what appeared to be the taillights of a ’68 California Special sitting on top of a storage container.
Undaunted, Kulchecki strolled up to the door and knocked. As is so often the case, the owner did not want to sell. But Kulchecki did make significant progress towards a purchase. He got to know the owner and learned more about the car. Turns out, the owner bought the Mustang new. More than a GT/CS, the red-on-red hardtop had a 390 with four-speed.
"He said he had it up north and used water in the cooling system instead of coolant," Kulchecki explained. "The water froze and cracked the block. He towed it home and it has been parked ever since. I think that was 1972 or 1973."
Spider webs dominated the GT/CS interior, still basically intact, but the engine was gone,
Every month or two, Kulchecki called to check on the possibility of buying the ’68. The answer was always "no." However, after about a year, the owner said he would trade the car "straight up" for a crane truck. However, he had no luck locating a truck with a crane. Instead, he kept calling.
Finally after several years, the owner called Kulchecki. The car was for sale for $5,000.
Kulchecki was elated. He brought his camera to take pictures of his find, which was no longer on top of the storage building. The cracked 390 block was gone, the four-speed transmission rested in the back seat, and the intake manifold was in the trunk. The right-side head was in the trunk with the exhaust manifolds but the left head was missing. Other parts were "scattered" around the shop. The scoops and deck lid, specific to the California Special, were still on the car.
The owner used a crane to load the GT/CS onto Kulchecki’s trailer, who added the ’68 to his collection. He is currently gathering parts for a restoration.
SCJ Mach 1
In 1985, Kent Miller noticed the shape of a Mustang through a garage window two houses down from his new home. Recently married, Miller had just moved into the neighborhood in Sparta, Wisconsin. As a Mustang fanatic, he wondered exactly what was inside the dilapidated old garage. He found out when the owner, Larry Strom, rolled the Mustang outside.
Miller recalls, "I went over to look and I go, 'Oh my gosh, it’s an SCJ!’"
SCJ, of course, refers to a Super Cobra Jet 428. The ’69 was also a Mach 1 with Candyapple Red paint. Immediately, Miller wanted to purchase the Mach 1 but Strom did not want to sell. Keeping the Mach 1’s location to himself, every year or two he’d "go knocking on Strom’s door." And every time the answer was the same—the car was not for sale. Strom intended to restore it.