Last April, Shane Fowler drove three hours north of his home in Layfayette, Louisiana, to pick up the shell of a '65 Mustang fastback. His plan was to build a '65 GT350 R-model clone for vintage racing. He didn't know that his adventure would net him a real Shelby Mustang that had been in storage since 1979.
"I told the guy I liked Shelbys," Shane told us. "He said he knew about one sitting in a warehouse one town over. He thought the guy would sell it."
Shane could hardly believe what he was hearing. Most "rare find" Shelbys are long gone, plus '68 Shelby GT350 convertibles are extremely rare-just 404 built. The nearby town was a dot on the map called Chatham. The man gave Shane a name-Jerry Gentry-and phone number.
Too often Mustangs with stripes turn out to be just that-Mustangs with stripes. By phone, Gentry said his car was a real '68 GT350 convertible, Highland Green with black interior, white top, white stripes, and four-speed with air conditioning. The price wasn't cheap, but still sounded like a good deal. Shane rounded up the cash and headed to Chatham to see if he could make a deal.
Gentry led Shane to an old warehouse where the '68 GT350 convertible sat in parts and pieces. The owner was a contractor, which explained the wood scattered around the old Shelby.
Shelby 03027 hid out for around 30 years in a warehouse in Chatham, Louisiana. The wheels
Gentry was the third owner of 8T03J205203-03027. Luckily, the Shelby VIN plate was intact. The first 11 characters make up the Ford VIN. The last five digits are the Shelby consecutive unit number. Shane could have easily looked up this car in the Shelby World Registry, where he would have learned that the convertible originally sold through Speede Ford in Minden, Louisiana, about 65 miles west of where the car sat.
The body had a little rust in each of the rear quarter-panels, on the driver-side floorpan, and at the front of each door. Otherwise, the vintage metal was solid.
Apparently, in the early 1970s someone had pulled the original J-code 302 and four-speed to install a 302 with C4 automatic. The engine bay was now empty and the transmission gone, too. However, a trio of complete engines-a pair of 289s and a real '70 Boss 302-went with the car.
The Shelby wore rare 14-inch Spyder wheels from Motor Wheel Company. It originally came with full wheel covers, and they were included in the deal.
Shane was sure of the car's heritage, but what killed the deal was the lack of a title. He decided to return home and do more research before forking over a stack of hundred dollar bills for a car with no title.
"Not many people knew where the car was and it wasn't advertised, so I walked away," Shane explained. "But I stayed in contact."
The J-code 302 four-barrel engine, in Cobra form, was long gone.
Shane talked to the owner about once a month as he researched titles. With help from the DMV, Shane found the registration and laid out "seven bucks" for a re-issued title. In August, he purchased the car at a reduced price and trucked the GT350 home in boxes. Selling the Boss 302 engine will recoup part of the purchase price.
Shane admits, "I wasn't as interested in buying the car as much as finding a Shelby, especially sitting there like that."
Shane already had a '68 Shelby GT350 convertible. Now he owns two.
Addendum: As a collector and enthusiast, Shane would like to see the Boss 302 engine returned to its original chassis. The VIN stamped on the block is 0 (F or T) 148443. Shane says the assembly plant code is either F or T, he can't tell for sure. Whoever has a '70 Boss 302 with consecutive unit number 148443, your original engine is waiting. Just contact us at email@example.com. We'll get you in touch with Shane.