We always marvel at how casual conversation and off-the-cuff comments between car enthusiasts can sometimes lead to the most profound discoveries and acquisitions. It's the old "Well, now that you mention it, I know someone who knows someone who has..." phenomenon. A case in point involves Frank and Cheryl Chamberlain of Maryville, Tennessee.
"I called Dallas Mustang Parts on June 30, 1994, to order a rear window louver for a '69 Mach 1 that we were almost done restoring," Cheryl said. "The gentleman taking my order asked what kind of car it was for. I told him it was just a Mach 1--not a Shelby [like my husband really wanted]. He then told me he knew of one that was for sale. Dick, the owner, had a '69 Shelby. He was not advertising the car, but he was looking to sell the car to someone who would restore it."
Cheryl admitted that she didn't jump at the opportunity at first.
"I debated for three days whether to tell my husband about the car," she confessed. "Obviously, I did tell him. [Frank] had me call back and get more details about the car. Dick gave us the VIN and all the matching numbers on the engine, among other things. He also sent us a videotape of the car so we could see what kind of shape it was in. As soon as I saw the video, I knew we were going to Texas. Two weeks later, we left out of Knoxville for Dallas."
As it turned out, the Shelby--a GT350--was 1 of the 150 Shelby models purchased by Hertz in 1969 as part of its rental fleet. As such, the car came with a red topcoat and gold stripes, as well as an FMX automatic transmission and air conditioning. In addition, this particular model sports a limited-slip 3.25 rear gear, power steering, power disc brakes, a fold-down rear seat, and a Tilt-Away steering wheel in the white interior. There had been only two previous owners before the Chamberlains put their name on the title, and the Shelby had never been outside of the Dallas area.
"The restoration was done primarily by my husband and me," Cheryl said, "with the exception of the machine work and paint. We spent the fall of '94 and winter of '95 stripping the body and interior of the car. By April 1995 we had the body primered and put the car on a rotisserie to strip and primer the undercarriage. Once that was complete, the body was sent to be painted." While a fresh coat of the original Candyapple Red hue was being applied to the body, Frank and Cheryl set to work sandblasting and stripping what was left behind. Having owned and restored numerous vintage Mustangs in the past, the enterprising couple had the routine down pat.
"As each piece of the car was cleaned, painted, and polished, they were taken into the house so they would be ready to put back on the body. We had polished window stainless, fold-down chrome, seatbelts, and rechromed dash pieces in layers between blankets on the dining room table. We had the dash assembled and sitting on the dining room floor, and the complete rearend, rotors, and all sorts of suspension pieces sitting on, under, and around our pool table in the family room. The tires and wheels leaned against the wall in the master bedroom where my husband could look at them every morning. My youngest son's bedroom was full of boxes with seat covers, the dashpad, a new bumper, new hood moldings, new rubber weatherstripping and seals, and scores of other parts."
In addition to retaining as much of the original parts as they could from the Shelby, Frank and Cheryl replaced items with new old stock parts when available. The Autolite hoses they had at first secured for the Mach 1 were instead assigned duty on the Shelby. By the middle of January 1996 the couple had the engine back in the car (sans the hood and the fenders), and took it for a quick trip around the block. Two weeks later, the remaining body parts and interior came, and soon the Shelby was returned to its former self.
Since its completion, the Shelby has been a regular at local and regional shows, always placing in the top end of its class. And to think it all started with an unplanned casual comment to a parts salesman.