Mark Lopez was seven years old when his mom and dad took a '66 Shelby G.T. 350 for a test drive in August of 1967.
"My dad raced so he got Competition Press & Autoweek in the mail" Mark says. "One day, he saw a G.T. 350 for sale in the classifieds."
A family photo shows Mark (left) and his brother Rick with one of the original Cragar whee
The G.T. 350 in the ad was SFM6S290, owned by William Finefrock, editor of Competition Press & Autoweek. Unfortunately, Mark's parents called too late. The Shelby had already been sold. Whereupon Finefrock got an idea: He turned to the magazine's publisher, Russ Goebel, and asked if he would sell his G.T. 350. Like Finefrock, Goebel had also ordered a new '66 G.T. 350. The two Mustangs came straight from Shelby, arriving by truck on November 5, 1965. They were numbered consecutively, Goebel's as SFM6S289 and Finefrock's as SFM6S290.
Goebel agreed to sell his Shelby for the same price, $2,600. Excited, the Lopez family drove to the magazine offices in Lafayette, California, for a test drive. Mark vividly remembers the trip. He sat on the hump in the back seat, flanked by his 8-year old brother, Rick, and his mother, Sharon. His father, Jack, was at the wheel with Goebel in the passenger seat.
The test drive was not hair-raising. Highway 24 was still being built and Mark remembers traversing "back roads." But they didn't buy the white Shelby right away. They waited two days. Mark and Rick waited with anticipation at their grandmother's house that August night 45 years ago.
"My parents told us they were coming home with either the Shelby or something else," Mark recalls. "It was 10:00 o'clock when we heard the car pull up." By the sound of the exhaust, the boys knew the car had to be the Shelby.
The G.T. 350 became a daily driver for the Lopez family. Mark's father drove the G.T. 350 to work every day. Incredibly, when Sears Point Raceway opened in December 1968, he participated in an exhibition race in the "family" car. Mark's mom also drove the G.T. 350 into grocery store parking lots to the envious adoration of adolescent bag-boys.
The family even took vacations in their Shelby. Mark recalls five trips to southern California, including their first visit to Disneyland, a distance of 400 miles one way from the family home in San Carlos. On another vacation, they picked up their grandmother at the Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles. The five of them, with luggage, drove to the San Diego Zoo.
Sharon held onto the Shelby after she and Jack divorced in 1971. Instead of trading for a newer model, she stored the G.T. 350 in the family garage, vowing to someday "fix it up." Meanwhile, decades passed. When Mark attended SAAC 30 in July 2005, watching the Shelbys on the track inspired him to get SFM6S289 running again.
This ad from the July 29, 1967, Competition Press & Autoweek started it all for Mark L
"I went to my Mom and said, ‘You know, 28 years in a garage is long enough; we need to get this car running.' So she signed it over to me. And within a month we started the restoration."
The restoration turned up history. The Blaupunkt radio, for example, is original. As publisher of Competition Press & Autoweek, Goebel knew Carroll Shelby, so he had arranged to have the Blaupunkt AM/FM and electric antenna installed. Lopez also discovered a Ford Top Loader four-speed instead of the stock Borg-Warner T-10. When Lopez asked Goebel about the Top Loader, he said that must have been what Carroll was talking about 40 years ago when he said that he had installed a "special shifter" in the car.
Lopez has perused the provenance of every '66 G.T. 350 in the Shelby American Registry and surmised that only five '66 Shelby Mustangs were not delivered through Ford dealers (other than 10 cars that went to Shelby employees or associates). Two of the five went to the Competition Press & Autoweek offices.
Carroll knew Goebel well, as was apparent when Lopez and Goebel attended an event honoring Shelby at the Petersen Museum in 2007. Russ and Carroll were talking like old friends.
When Lopez finished the restoration in 2007, he took the car to Hot August Nights in Reno, Nevada, and stayed with his dad in Carson City. "I pulled in front of my dad's house and he saw the car for the first time in 35 or 36 years," Lopez says. "He just said, ‘Wow!' MM
According to original owner Russ Goebel, when SFM6S289 was delivered, it included a few unique items installed by Shelby American:
Blaupunkt Marine/AM/FM radio
Blaupunkt marine band radio under the dash
Ford Top Loader transmission in place of the Borg-Warner T-10.