Ask anyone who's been involved with classic Mustang restorations for a long time and they'll tell you quality projects take a long time to complete...sometimes a long, long time. Factor in the restoration level (Street-Driven versus Concours-Trailered) and the process can take even longer.
Thus, with amazement, we examined Dick Berry's '69 Shelby GT350 on the show field. Dick's car, a resplendent Candyapple Red SportsRoof, represented a top-notch restoration project by any standards. That it was transformed from a heap of parts to its current condition in a scant seven months was downright remarkable.
OK, so Dick's retired and he had a bit more time to spend on his car than most of us could ever dream of. But still.
A resident of St. Joseph, Missouri, Dick had been restoring '65-'66 Mustangs for a long time before he decided to try his hand on a Shelby. For years, he says, he scoured the country looking for just the right car, then in 1996 he practically tripped over this GT350 a mere 50 miles from his home.
One day I was at Mustang Plus in Kansas City, Missouri," says Dick. "Joe, the owner, said he had a '69 Shelby GT350 he might sell. A couple of months later, I bought it.
"It was in pieces. Some parts were in the car, some were on the roof, a lot were in boxes, and other parts were in the storeroom. My wife, Jean, thought I was crazy, but I thought it had great potential and would be quite a challenge."
Given the goodies that originally came with the Shelby, it's easy to understand Dick's enthusiasm and optimistic outlook. The 351W came with the assistance of Ram Air and was backed by an FMX tranny, followed by an open 3.00:1 rearend. Additional option content included power steering, air conditioning, a Tilt-Away wheel, and power disc brakes. Inside the black Deluxe interior was an AM/FM radio, a fold-down rear seat, a rollbar, and a shoulder harness.
"It took two loads in a 20-foot enclosed trailer to get it home," says Dick. "Then I started going through all the boxes of parts to see what I'd paid all that money for. Two major things were missing: the trunk lid and the driveshaft. The trunk lid was found in a body shop in Kansas City, but we never did find the driveshaft.
"A guy in Peoria, Illinois, started tearing down the car in the mid- to late-'80s, then Joe bought it in 1991. Both guys had collected new old stock (N.O.S.) parts for the car.
"It took several weeks to go through the boxes, clean and sort the parts, determine what I wanted to use and replace, and what parts were missing. The UPS guy and I became friends.
"My wife thought it was going to take a couple of years to get it finished," says Dick. "She couldn't understand how I spent every morning to late at night for months [working on the car] and 'it still looks like a piece of junk.' When I showed her pictures of the '69 Shelby in books, she said, 'No way all of those boxes of parts will ever look like that.'"
Ultimately, Jean's comments were proven wrong. With lightning speed, Dick transformed the boxed hulk into a sterling example of vintage Shelby power by working diligently between October 1996 and May 1997. Since then, Dick's Concours-Trailered Shelby has been blazing through the winner's circle at events throughout the central U.S., earning First Place, Gold, and Best of Show awards at numerous MCA, AACA, ISCA, regional, and special-interest venues.
If there was an award for the "quickest restoration to win the most top trophies," we have no doubt Dick's '69 GT350 would take top honors in that category as well.