I've done it, you've done it, we've all done it. You know, sneaking a peek into garages in hopes of spotting some rare Mustang, like a Hi-Po convertible or a Boss 302, and finding out it's a well-preserved, low-mileage example with an owner who has no idea of the car's value. In our daydream, we make an offer-Well, it's probably not worth $1,500, but... and drive off in our lucky find.
Frank Cyril owns such a car, with one exception: He definitely has an idea of his '69 Shelby GT350's value. For the past 34 years, since buying the four-speed Shelby brand new in May 1970, Frank moved the GT350, along with his family, from city to city until he finally retired in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With just 24,000 miles, the GT350 remains 99 percent original, right down to the paint that has lightly faded into two different shades-sheetmetal or fiberglass-of Grabber Orange.
In 1970, Frank was living in Niagara Falls, New York, where he knew two of the mechanics at a local Ford dealership. When the dealership suddenly filed for bankruptcy, one of the mechanics told him that five Shelbys were on the lot, and they were being offered at a cut-rate deal. "There were four GT500s and one GT350," Frank recalls. "My mechanic friend recommended that I get the 350 since he knew I would be using it as everyday transportation."
The price was right too. Frank remembers that the sticker was over $5,000; he got it for $3,600. Part of the deal was Ziebart rust-proofing-which explains the small plastic plugs along the rockers-and replacing the original rear-mounted antenna with a Ford electric version. "My mechanic said the original was too cheap for a car like this," Frank said.
For the next three or four years, Frank drove the Shelby to work and back, despite the hassles of having people stop to look at it and ask questions. His brother worked at Motor Wheels, so to preserve the original wheels and tires, Frank acquired a second set to use during the New York winters.
By 1975, Frank was able to stash the Shelby in the garage. "I pretty much quit driving it then," he told us. Over the years, work took Frank and his family from New York to Ohio, to Memphis, to St. Louis, to North Carolina, and finally to Spartanburg. "We loaded the Shelby on the moving van to keep the mileage down. I've probably put less than 1,000 miles on it during the past 30 years."
Looking more like a 10-year-old instead of a 34-year-old, the Shelby retains the majority of its original equipment. The exhaust system, other than the aluminum rear outlet, has been replaced a couple of times, and maintenance items, such as the battery, belts, hoses, and brake cylinders, have all been replaced. To keep everything in working order, Frank drives the Shelby around the neighborhood "to get it hot and move the fluids around" every couple of months. At one point, Frank's sons, Frank Jr. and John, bought him a set of Shelby wheels with radial tires, so the original wheels and white-letter Polyglas Goodyears remain in storage.
While we're all accustomed to seeing beautifully restored Shelbys at the shows, it's always fun to check out an original, low-mileage, one-owner example like Frank's '69 GT350, even with the faded paint, undetailed engine, and a few nicks and scratches here and there. For Frank, it's more of a conversation piece these days. "I don't have to drive it to enjoy it," he explains. "I just like knowing that I still own it."