Hidden treasures pop up in the most unlikely places at the most unlikely times. For example, a reader emailed with news of a Shelby in a storage facility. The rent had not been paid for years. When the proprietor opened the doors, out popped a Shelby in primer, minus fenders and hood. The car sold at an auction for $1.00 because nobody knew what it was.
Another time, nature called and a man sought solitude in the weeds behind a race car shop. He took no reading material with him, but created a good story when he found a V-8 engine visible under the dirt. Attached was the chassis and burned body of an original Ford GT-40.
Readers continually apprise me of "Rare Finds" through my columns in our sister publications, Modified Mustangs & Fords and Muscle Car Review. I get hundreds of leads every year (send your emails to email@example.com). Some pan out. Others are dead ends. All are interesting. I've compiled some of the fun ones for our Mustang readers.
Boss 429 in the Hills
Are there still Boss 429s in "Them Thar Hills"? If so, maybe there's also a great frontier left to hunt wild animals.
Western Kentucky's Tim Taylor snapped the above photo of his '69 Boss 429 after he took delivery from South Carolina. That's where the car had been hidden for years.
"I'm a normal Ford nut," said Tim, who buys, sells, and trades parts. One of his deals was a Boss 429 block that he attempted to sell on eBay. A prospect emailed for particulars. Tim fired back, asking why the man in South Carolina was piecing together a Boss 429 engine. Sometimes being nosy pays off.
Tim recalls the answer: "I know a guy who has a Boss 429 body up in the hills. It's been sitting there for years."
At first, it sounded like a wild goose chase. Could a real Boss 429 have been left in the weeds for years? And could it be bought? Tim took the bait, asking, "Are you interested in making some money on it?"
The response was favorable: "I'm always in for a dollar or two."
Although the KK number was gone because the original door was missing, every Boss 429 can be sourced by its VIN. After he was positive the fastback was indeed a factory Boss 429s, Tim made his deal.
The man in South Carolina agreed to turn the car over to Tim for $6,000. He made his "dollar or two," although we don't know how much. And Tim didn't care. All he knew was that he was elated with the purchase. The floorboards are rusted out and need replacement, the interior is all there, and the original Boss 429 engine is long gone. But Tim already has that Boss 429 block as a starting point for a restoration. Tim's find proves that rare performance Mustangs are still out there in the weeds.
The Shelby That Almost Got Away
Pennsylvania's Ed Shanley got a sinking feeling when his friend, Jack Stroller, stopped by one day. "He asked if I remembered that Shelby convertible from many years ago in Passaic, New Jersey. He had just seen it in somebody's back yard. He said, 'They're torch-welding floors in it.'"
Of course, Ed remembered the GT350 convertible. Many of us know about a rare find tucked away and not for sale. Maybe we tried to buy the car and the owner wouldn't let it go. Then, one day, the car disappeared and we realized that we had missed our chance.
But was there still a chance to buy this Shelby? Jack wouldn't reveal the whereabouts because he was trying to buy the car. "If I get it, I'll tell you," he said to Ed.
Six months later, Jack finally told Ed that the car belonged to George Martinez and Izzy Pellot." Ed paid the two a visit. The conversation went like this:
"No, but we got a Shelby."
Ed figured he had a chance when Izzy said, "I don't like the rollbar across the top."
Ed felt the owners "thought nothing of the car." When he finally made a deal and went to pick up the Shelby, he said, "There were chickens living in the car and guys eating lunch on the hood."
The story of how George and Izzy bought the car is even more bizarre. Ed said, "Izzy told me a lady bought a house in Passaic and there was this old car in the garage that she wanted to get rid of. At the time, the car was original, including the paint, even though it looked terrible. It had sat in the garage and the floors rotted out from a leak in the roof. A policeman went to look at it and turned it down at $1,200. He told Izzy about it, so he talked to the lady. She didn't have the title--it took four months to get the paperwork and Izzy bought the car for $2,000." This deal took place five to seven years ago. It's amazing to think a real Shelby convertible, in restorable condition, sold for so little.
Ed sent the car to Garden State Mustang for new floors and to strip the body to metal. The Shelby was originally Raven Black with automatic transmission, factory air, power top, and power disc brakes. Ed plans to keep the '68 until he "decides to sell or restore."
Fastback in the Weeds
I had heard about a 406 Mercury in an Oklahoma shed. On my annual sojourn to the Mid America Performance Ford and Team Shelby Nationals, I took the side roads to find the Mercury. It was there, but I also investigated other cars. What was that Mustang sticking out of the weeds? I recognized the vents of what was surely a '65-'66 fastback.
My host explained, "Oh that? About eight or nine years ago, a guy brought this car from Texas for a restoration. I haven't heard from him since."
Isn't this a likely story? The body looked great, but I did not wade through the tall weeds lest a snake bite me. The head-scratching owner described the fastback as having a two-barrel 289 backed by a three-speed manual. I noticed what appeared to be part of a roll bar. On second look, it was actually a driveshaft in the rear seat area. I wondered why my friend did not record the owner's name and number.
"He called and said he was coming up from Texas to bring the car," he explained. "He came up on a Sunday and said he'd get back to me." How could he not call back with details?
"The only thing I'm thinking is maybe he got involved in a car wreck and got hurt. Maybe he got a divorce."
So I asked what he planned to do with the fastback.
"I'm going to file a mechanic's storage lean again him and get it running and fixed up."
Storage fees over eight to nine years can consume the value of an old car. At a reasonable $5 per day, the yearly storage fee is $1,825. Multiply that by nine years and you get $16,425, exceeding the worth of this '65 that has been neglected for so many years.
Kar Kraft Records
Rare finds in this case are not cars, but actually historic records from Kar Kraft, Ford's job shop that produced Boss 429 Mustangs in Brighton, Michigan, in 1969-1970. Other interesting performance Fords were tied to Kar Kraft in one way or the other, including the Trans-Am Boss 302s, the ill-fated Quarter Horse Mustang, and the '70 Shelby conversions. Collectors could use the archives for information about their valuable cars.
Randy Hernandez told me, "My Dad has always been a pack rat. When he retired from Ford in 1994, the lion's share of the paperwork ended up in various places around his house."
Randy's father is Fran Hernandez, who was Ford's Manufacturing Liaison Manager at Kar Kraft. When he sold his house and went to assisted living, another son, who was helping with the move, placed the old Kar Kraft records on the curb for garbage pickup. Luckily, Randy and his sister retrieved "everything our brother tossed out." They deeded the files to Bob Perkins, the Boss Mustang collector in Juneau, Wisconsin. Bob credits Dan Naugel, who lived in Randy's neighborhood near Detroit, with the connection to the treasure.
The files came with images...
The files came with images of the Quarter Horse. Just two were built.
Dan parked his classic Fords in his driveway from time to time. Perkins explained, "Randy stopped and gave Dan some shop manuals. And they became friends."
Dan eventually found out about the archival Kar Kraft material. He told Randy that Perkins should get the files. Bob drove his truck from Wisconsin to Michigan and, after ironing out details, returned home with the mountain of data.
Randy agreed that too often museums become "black holes" where information enters but never resurfaces, or it's not easily disseminated. Randy felt Perkins would be a good custodian of the information, safeguarding it and preserving the history along with his father's legacy. Perkins says it would take months to go through all the material, which weighs 500-600 pounds. What kind of records are they?
Perkins said, "All the Boss 429 stuff, like the specifications of the cars, parts suppliers to Kar Kraft, and different engineering changes."
Bob Perkins (right) shakes...
Bob Perkins (right) shakes hands with Randy Hernandez after the two put the historic Kar Kraft files in the back of Bob's SUV.
A cursory check of the files reveals that, as time went on, the Dearborn Assembly Plant was given responsibility for more and more of the Boss 429 assembly. For example, Kar Kraft did the work on the suspensions for the first cars. However, by mid-February 1969, it appears Dearborn Assembly installed all the unique pieces.
Each Boss 429 KK number is listed with details, such as when each car was delivered to Kar Kraft and in what stage of assembly and with what options and accessories.
Bob got an entire book with paperwork about the Quarter Horse Mustangs, which were originally designed as Boss 429s with Shelby-style front fiberglass. Just two prototypes were built. According to the records, both were originally fitted with 429 Super Cobra Jets. Neither had a Boss 429 under the hood from Kar Kraft.
Randy's ultimate wish is acknowledgement on the source of the information, which he calls "compliments of my Dad."
Are late-model Mustangs on their way to the Hidden Treasures scrap heap? By reader's emails, they are. Except, late-model doesn't mean what it used to. I recall stories of $300 Shelby's decades ago. Now '85 models are 25 years old.
SVO Club of America member Chris Chalk told me his story about an '84 SVO for $300. During one of the club's Sunday evening Internet chat sessions, a T-top SVO in the Fresno, California, area popped up on Craigslist. Advertised as an '83, the Mustang was in very rough shape and had a Mercury Capri front end, so the model year was difficult to verify by the photo. Then there was the question about the T-top; at the time, it was believed that SVOs did not come from the factory with T-tops.
Chris told us, "On a whim, I emailed the owner asking for more details. His reply basically said, '$300, come and get if before I take it to the crusher.'"
Chris drove from Portland, Oregon, to see the car. On arrival, Chris found a real T-code '84 SVO Mustang. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine was resting in a barn, while the accessories and some interior pieces were in the trunk. The transmission was gone but the SVO hood was still there. The complete suspension, which is specific to the SVO, was missing.
Most people would have seen this '84 as a parts car. Chris saw his SVO glass half full. "Apart from the front nose and lights, all the other SVO specific parts were in place and the body was mostly dent and rust free."
Three hundred bucks was a deal. With a friend heading from LA to Portland in a truck, Chris rented a trailer and his friend towed the car home the following week.
The engine came with a rare Ford Motorsports valve cover. Chris says, "The joke around the SVOCA was that I bought a valve cover and got a free car."
As to the T-top heritage, Chris is still doing his research. He says the SVOCA figures there are 25-30 T-top SVOs known to exist. His top appears to be made by Cars & Concepts, the same as used in factory T-top Mustangs. Chris plans to restore the SVO to stock.
The Immaculate Mustang
Todd Whalen responded to a humble ad: "For sale, 1970 Mustang." He didn't expect to find a 32,000-mile fastback "never driven in the rain" and stored in a "climate-controlled garaged its entire life."
Father Kenneth Fisk had passed away and the car went into an estate sale. Whalen called first and got the prize. He emailed pictures to me, including digital images of the details, like the flawless surface of the trunk beneath the original mat. One photo showed the passenger-side door jamb, also immaculate.
Aside from the seemingly mint condition of the vehicle, the '70 Mustang was also highly unusual in its makeup. Whalen's tone of disbelief was tinted with amusement as he explained, "It's got all the Mach 1 stuff, but it's not a Mach 1. It was ordered with the Mach 1 honeycomb rear end with flip-open gas cap. And even Bob Perkins can't believe it came with '69 emblems on the C-pillar. It's got a fold-down rear seat, radio delete, tilt steering, and dual sport mirrors." Father Fisk also ordered the electric clock, Rim-Blow steering wheel, fold-down rear seat, console, and power front disc brakes and steering. The engine is the F-code 302 two-barrel backed by a C-4 Select Shift Cruise-O-Matic.
Perhaps Father Fisk didn't want a flashy Mustang. Foregoing the Mach 1 package cut down on the pretentiousness. Todd got some information when he bought the car:
"I was told that the church bought the car and they didn't want it to be too flashy because the parish was paying for it. So they figured he ordered it just short of putting all the Mach 1 stuff on it."
Despite the unusual build, the major significance of this find is its originality. Whalen is adamant, "I've got two Boss 302s, one with 29,900 miles, and it doesn't come close to this thing. It's a time capsule."
Early Production Find
Unlike our other treasure hunters, Todd Adams knew he had an early '64 1/2 hardtop tucked away in a friend's barn. He just didn't know the significance of 5F07U100211 until recently.
While checking out online auction results for last January's Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, Todd saw reference to a Mustang that was built on March 9, 1964, the first day of regular Mustang production. It occurred to him that his car had a lower VIN, so he posted his info on the Vintage Mustang Forum (www.vintage-mustang.com). He was surprised to learn that, to date, his Mustang has the lowest VIN of any Mustang built on March 9.
As Senior Editor Jim Smart pointed out in April's article about Bruce Beeghly's '64 1/2 convertible, 5F08F100140, Ford built approximately 150-180 pre-production Mustangs, all with an "05C" (March 5) date code, although many were built prior to that date. Mustang 100001, now at the Henry Ford Museum, and units 100003-100114, which were sent to Ford's Magic Skyway exhibit at the New York World's Fair, came from the pre-production run. Regular Mustang production began on March 9, although there is nothing to document the VIN numbers, including which car came off the line first. In fact, we do not know the whereabouts of approximately 38 VINs between 100173, the last known pre-production car, and Todd's 100211, now the earliest known regular production car.
Todd purchased his six-cylinder hardtop in 1986 with the intention of restoring it. "I knew it was a 'first day' car when I bought it," Todd says, "but I never considered that 211 was a low enough number to have much significance. After getting the car home, it became clear that the project was out of my league financially and technically." He drove the car daily for a while before parking it in a barn at a friend's farm in North Carolina about 10 years ago.
After learning about the car's significance from VMF members, Todd enlisted Mustang Club of America head judge Charles Turner to verify the car, then moved it to a safer location as he makes plans for the car's future. Until 210 or earlier turns up, Todd's '64 1/2 remains the earliest known VIN built on the first day of regular production.
To learn more about the car and to view more photos, visit Todd's website at www.mustang211.com.
Donny Carrol has collected Fords since 1966. You'll find remnants of his enthusiasm at his rural residence on the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas. When the first gas crunch hit in 1973, he started collecting big-block muscle cars. "I knew they were going to be worth something one day," he says.
He was right. While others panicked and sold their iron, Donny bought every big-block he could find, including Corvettes, even though he was a "Ford man." In 1974, he picked up a Cobra Jet '69 Mach 1 for $650. He showed me the car in his packed storage shed. As we spoke, his son drove up in a '68 Shelby GT500 fastback, a car that Donny bought in 1988 during a friend's divorce.
Donny retired in 1988 and sold several of his cars. What he has left are mere remnants, but good stuff. They are not advertised for sale, but Donny is like a lot of other collectors--he'll sell a car or two here and there to somebody who really wants to restore it.
Over the years, Donny has...
Over the years, Donny has stacked upholstery and stuff over the '69 Cobra Jet Mach 1. However, he did protect the surface with a car cover.
This '68 coupe came with the...
This '68 coupe came with the rare X-code 390, a two-barrel big-block.
Donny drove to Kentucky in...
Donny drove to Kentucky in 1988 to purchase this Boss 302 for $1,500. A grass fire has accelerated the rust problems, but Donny plans to use parts from another '70 fastback to make this car whole.
Mark Young and a buddy were hunting old cars and parts in junkyards. They got off the beaten path in the boondocks and fell down the rabbit hole into an "Alice in Car Wonderland" of vintage Mustangs, Shelbys, and assorted high-performance Fords.
The location remains a secret for now, but the pictures speak for themselves. To see a red '67 Shelby GT500 sinking into the ground, covered with leaves and debris beneath a canopy of trees outside a rural farmhouse far from the main road and virtually inaccessible to the public, is the kind of pure serendipity every car collector dreams about.
Next to the GT500 is a '67 390 GT fastback. Near the side of a garage Mark eyed a Grabber Orange '69 Shelby GT500. Mark knocked on the door and was given permission to look at the cars. However, the cars did not belong to the elderly couple there. Their son owned the vehicles and he lived about five miles down the road.
With directions, Mark and his buddy drove to his house to find more cars, including a 427 GT-E Cougar under a lean-to. The man was cordial and explained he had parked the cars at his parents' farm. He enjoyed owning them, but not necessarily driving them. Over the years, he bought and simply parked these amazing performance Mustangs and Fords.
The '67 GT500 was running...
The '67 GT500 was running when parked, circa 1977.
This '69 Shelby GT500 is factory...
This '69 Shelby GT500 is factory Grabber Orange with white interior. Leaves covered a major portion of the 428 Cobra Jet under the hood.