Rich Barnes began his story: "About two months ago, a friend passed away and I went to his funeral here in Golden, Colorado."
As the owner of The Mustang Ranch, a private collection of Shelbys and Mustangs, Barnes has been tracking down, restoring, and selling Mustangs for 30 years. At the end of the funeral service, Barnes noticed cemetery workers in the distance. When they walked closer, Barnes noticed that one of the men was wearing a Shelby Cobra cap.
Barnes wondered if there could be a connection to a Shelby. Sure enough, Mick Samuels still owned the 1968 G.T. 500KR that he had inherited from his father about 12 years earlier. Unfortunately, the Lime Gold, four-speed KR fastback wasn't in good enough shape to drive on the street so Samuels stored the Shelby because he didn't have the cash to tackle a restoration.
Barnes continued, "He said his dad had worked as a caretaker at the same cemetery. He said his dad was buried there and pointed over in the distance."
Barnes was surprised he had never seen this Shelby because Samuels' father drove the car to the cemetery for years. On a number of occasions, Mr. Samuels used the Shelby to transport flowers from the chapel to gravesites.
Barnes was happy to hear that Samuels wanted to sell the KR. The next day, Barnes met Samuels at the cemetery to inspect the Shelby and negotiate a price. Samuels led Barnes to a storage area on the grounds with tractors, trailers, and other equipment. Samuels pulled back the edges of a tattered car cover to reveal a 1968 Shelby G.T. 500KR, on the rough side with some rust and body partly in primer, but apparently all there.
As Barnes told his story, I thought about how part of the ashes of our friend Carroll Shelby had the previous year been buried in a cemetery in his birthplace of Leesburg, Texas. I also thought about how many times Carroll talked about "going horizontal" and how brave he was facing death. I checked the distance from Golden, Colorado, to the Shelby American museum in Boulder—just 20 miles in a straight line.
To Barnes' delight, the Shelby fired up after he added gasoline, primed the carburetor, and installed a battery.
As I was composing this story on May 23, 2013, I remembered that Barnes told me how he bought the car about two weeks earlier. I phoned him back to check the actual purchase date. About "two weeks ago" would have been May 10, exactly one year to the day that Carroll died. Barnes checked his records and documented the actual sale date of April 5. But he had already sold the KR to a buyer in Europe—on May 10.
Only then did I remind Barnes that Carroll Shelby died on May 10, 2012. I told him how finding this KR dead in a cemetery and sold one year later was like a message from Carroll: "I was in the cemetery, but I've been found. I'm free again, I'm racing, I'm King of the Road!"