By August 1967, Shelby American was shutting down its facility at LAX in preparation to move '68 Shelby Mustang production to A.O. Smith in Ionia, Michigan. With 0139's purpose as a prototype and promotional car completed, Shelby paperwork indicates that the convertible was scheduled for "disposal." While the "Little Red" hardtop, with its twin-supercharged engine, was destroyed, 0139 was shipped to Michigan along with other Shelby vehicles. As a styling prototype with no mechanical modifications, it was deemed saleable to the general public. So in early 1968, the convertible was updated with production '68 Shelby trim and safety items, then sold, possibly through Ford's resale lot in Dearborn.
The convertible disappeared for the next 10 years, resurfacing as an Acapulco Blue '68 G.T. 500 convertible in 1977 when it was purchased by Jamie Ventrella in Illinois. Ventrella's excitement soon turned to alarm when he discovered that his '68 Shelby was actually a '67 that had been painted several different colors. Looking for answers, he brought the car to SAAC-5 in 1980. In those days before Marti Reports and SAAC's discovery of Shelby American paperwork, no one knew anything about a '67 Shelby convertible. Some thought it was a fake.
Discouraged, Ventrella eventually sold the convertible to a friend, who lost the car in a divorce. In 2001, the former wife sold 0139 to the Volo Auto Museum, where it was displayed in '67 Shelby trim (see "Rare Ragtop" in the March 2005 Mustang Monthly). In 2009, Volo ran the Shelby convertible through a Mecum auto auction, where it caught the attention of Samantha and Brian Styles, who maintain a south Florida collection of rare 1960s musclecars.
"I was attracted to the rarity,' Brian explains. "And Samantha liked the Hollywood mystique surrounding the car's supposed theft, so we couldn't pass it up."
For the Styles, whose collection consists mostly of Mopars, it was time to emerge themselves into Shelbys. "I didn't even know the differences between a '67 and a '68," Brian admits. That changed quickly.
With appreciation for the prototype's history, photo documentation, and one-of-one status, the Styles decided to restore the convertible. The question was, how should it be restored? As it came off the production line? As a red '68 Shelby convertible? Or in its later reincarnation as a white '68 Shelby convertible?
"We decided that our goal was to restore the car to its earliest known state as a Shelby," Brian says. "That meant an early '67 Shelby with prototype '68 fiberglass, stripes, badges, and interior."
In other words, the restoration would bring the car back to its condition as the red '68 Shelby convertible in the well-known beach photos taken in April 1967.
But first, the Styles needed to find a restoration shop that specialized in Shelbys. As Brian's research led him to discussions with "everyone in the Shelby community," the name Jeff Yergovich kept popping up. By early 2010, the convertible was disassembled in Yergovich's R&A Motorsports' facility in Lee's Summit, Missouri.
If you think restoring a regular production Mustang is challenging, consider the restoration of a Shelby that was equipped with prototype pieces. Making the task even tougher was the fact that, although many photographs existed, most had been retouched with production emblems, stripes, and other equipment that had not been finalized at the time of the photography.
That's when Styles put together what he calls a "dream team" of Shelby technical experts: Yergovich, Bob Gaines, Peter Disher, Jeff Speegle, Ed Meyer, Dave Mathews, Phil Murphy, Austin Craig, Lowell Otter, Kevin Marti, and Chris Simon. Through a private website forum, the group was able to discuss the various issues to help Styles and Yergovich determine the correct equipment, right down to the console stitching.
A Shelby postcard included...
A Shelby postcard included the prototype '68 Shelby convertible and fastback. Note that the convertible has hub caps in this shot.
This is perhaps the most well-known...
This is perhaps the most well-known photo of the prototype convertible, as seen on the cover of the '68 Shelby dealer brochure. It was equipped with 10-spoke wheels for the series of beach photos.
Because the convertible started...
Because the convertible started life as a '67 model, it has a many '67 nuances, including a snap-on boot, unlike '68 convertibles that switched to a plastic channel to secure the boot.