In February 1965, someone desperately wanted one of the new Shelby G.T. 350s for Ford's new-car display at the Chicago Auto Show. According to the Shelby American Automobile Club's '65-'67 Registry, one of the first '65 G.T. 350s, 5S017, was completed on February 8, 1965, and immediately air-freighted to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Local Ford dealer Jack Loftus picked up the brand-new Shelby and drove it to McCormick Place for the major international auto show. Loftus remembers that the fastback was displayed on a pedestal and locked to prevent theft.
For the next four decades, that piece of Shelby history was lost until Michael Chludzinski acquired 5S017 in 2007. When SAAC registrar Howard Pardee sent copies of the car's paperwork, Chludzinski noticed an air-freight bill from TWA. Intrigued, he tracked down Loftus, also listed in the paperwork as the selling dealer, who related the story about driving the Shelby to the Chicago Auto Show.
Tracking down people seems to be a Chludzinski talent. Ever since he spotted a '65 Shelby at Whites Department Store on Long Island when he was seven years-old, Chludzinski has been smitten by the white Mustang fastbacks with blue G.T. 350 side stripes. When the time and finances were right, he initiated a search to purchase one of the rare (only 562 built) '65 Shelbys.
"I grabbed a copy of the Shelby Registry and started with car 001," Chludzinski told us. "I ran down the listings and made note of early production G.T. 350s without up-to-date owner information."
Car 017 was one of three dozen cars on Chludzinski's final list. He started making calls.
"The Registry listed Dave Schetter from New Holstein, Wisconsin, as the owner of 017," Chludzinski says. "There are a lot of Schetters in Wisconsin and Dave had moved to Fond Du Lac, so he was hard to track down. When I finally reached him, he admitted that he had owned 017 since 1968 and it had been sitting for the past 20 years."
As so often happens, Schetter wasn't willing to sell, fearing that Chludzinski, like many others who had tried to buy the Shelby, was only looking to flip it for a profit. Chludzinski stayed in touch for two years—until he got a "number has been disconnected" message. That's when he rolled the dice.
"I told my wife, ‘Let's go to Chicago for a long weekend. We can drive up to Fond Du Lac to see if we can find the Shelby. If Schetter turns me down, I'll give up on 017.'"
Chludzinski located Schetter's home but no one answered the knocks at the door. Just as he was walking away, Schetter opened the door and said, "You must be Mike."
Schetter led Chludzinski to a ramshackle garage where the Shelby was sitting on four flat tires with its original but faded Wimbledon White paint. According to Chludzinski, the G.T. 350 had been "ridden hard and put away wet," but he was happy to see that the rare Shelby parts were still intact, including the original early-version Holley carburetor and the tachometer in the pod on the instrument panel. Chludzinski put down a deposit and promised to return within a month to pick up the Shelby.
The Wisconsin location turned out to be convenient; for the restoration, Chludzinski had chosen Jim Cowles at Shelby Parts and Restoration, located just an hour from Schetter in Green Bay. Cowles met Chludzinski at the airport with his trailer and the pair drove to Fond Du Lac to pick up the Shelby for the trip to Cowles' shop.
"Jim really knows what he's doing," said Chludzinski when explaining his choice of restorers. That was confirmed when the restored Shelby took a gold award at last year's SAAC-37 national convention in Watkins Glen, New York.
Through more detective work, Chludzinski learned about a newspaper clipping with a photo of 017 at the 1965 Chicago Auto Show. The black and white was credited to photographer Sue Kemper, so Chludzinski put on his detective's cap once again. "It took a while to find her because she actually spells her name ‘Su,'" Chludzinski said. "But she still had the negatives."
Chludzinski now has a couple of historic photos of his G.T. 350 hanging on his wall, plus Shelby historian Pete Disher later supplied additional images, including an overall view of Ford's 1965 Chicago Auto Show display with the G.T. 350 across from a Ford GT-40.
By discovering the Chicago Auto Show history and photos, Chludzinski has added a little more lore to the Shelby story.