As the owner of a red '68 Shelby G.T. 500KR, Michael Hudock heard stories about a green KR convertible in a field in East Liverpool. Ohio. Michael didn't have a name or an exact location, but he just lived 25 miles away in Canfield. So the Shelby enthusiast "did a lot of searching, traveling streets, and knocking on doors." Years passed and still the car eluded him. Yet Michael continued to hear about the KR. Perhaps the Shelby was folklore or had been in a nearby field at one time but was now gone. Then Michael got a call from someone who was looking at a KR convertible in East Liverpool and wanted to know Michael's opinion of value. Could this be the elusive KR?The caller, who Michael calls "Frank," was looking to turn a profit, not restore, so he was not about to divulge the address or the owner's name. Michael told Frank what he thought the car was worth and what he would be willing to pay. The two could not come to an agreement due to the finder's fee. However, Michael did get one piece of useful information--the VIN. Using it, he found the original owner's name in the Shelby American Automobile Club's World Registry. The original owner was a Ronhausen from East Liverpool, Ohio.
When the local phone directory didn't reveal a Ronhausen, Michael searched Google, still with no luck, then finally used old school tactics. He phoned a friend who checked with classmates from East Liverpool and came up with a name and address. Bruce Ronhausen still lived in town. Michael drove by his house and there sat the Lime Gold '68 G.T. 500KR convertible, barely visible through wooden latticework laced with green vines. Michael admitted that he had driven up the street "100 times," but Ronhausen's house was located off the highway and mostly hidden by vines.
Michael knocked on the door. "I introduced myself," Michael says. "I explained how I had found his address and told him I also had a KR convertible. "The conversation was friendly."He told me the car's story," Michael continues. "It was his brother's high school graduation gift in 1968. He spun it out and hit a row of mailboxes, so he had to fix the driver's side rear quarter."
Later, his brother moved to Florida, took the car with him, and drag raced it down there. Bruce inherited the KR when his brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Bruce drove the KR for a number of years and had plans to restore it, but never had the means or the ambition. So the car sat in a field for over 25 years. He built the lean-to over the car in the early 1990s. "He told me what he wanted for it and I didn't quibble," Michael says. "I paid him right there." Extricating the KR took three days. Michael described "extra fencing on the ground, an old MG, and other stuff" they had to move out of the way. The original four-speed was still in the car, but the original 428 Cobra Jet had been replaced with a 390 block and heads. However, the original CJ block and heads lay on the ground next to the car.
Michael loaded the Shelby on his trailer and was about to pull away when Ronhausen surprised him by saying, "You're forgetting your parts." Already, Michael was thrilled to get the original bill of sale and title but Ronhausen apparently kept everything for the car. At that point, he learned that the brother had removed the smog equipment when the car was new. Bruce still had the parts, along with the original hubcaps that his brother had wrapped in newspaper and stored in boxes. The one missing part turned out to be the Holley four-barrel carburetor. The body was in surprisingly good condition for Ohio. The floor pan was mostly solid, but the trunk floor needed replacement. Michael ended up replacing both rear quarters--one due to rust, the other due to the encounter years ago with the mailboxes.
In June 2011, I saw the car restored and on display at the Carlisle Ford Nationals. I have to think the original owner would be pleased to know his KR was back to pristine condition, having won a Silver award in SAAC judging.