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Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeHistoric67 Shelby Mustang GT350 Restoration

67 Shelby Mustang GT350 Restoration

Source: Ford Performance

Shane Fowler knew Al Smith for 10 years, but during all that time he never received an invitation to see Al’s 1967 Shelby GT350 — even though the two lived just a couple miles apart in Lafayette, Louisiana. Shane was interested in seeing it from the moment he’d heard about it. “A local body shop was painting a ’71 Mustang convertible for me, and one of the technicians knew someone who owned a Shelby,” Shane said. “Then my father-in-law, Robert Merrill, met Al at the gym.” Al told Robert about his Shelby GT350, and Robert suggested he contact Shane.

“Al and I finally met at my garage, but he would never let me see the car,” Shane said. “My father and I think he was embarrassed, because it had been disassembled and sitting for many years.”

Al had purchased the Shelby in 1979, referring to it as “Sweet Thing,” according to its listing in the Shelby Registry. It left the San Jose assembly plant painted Lime Gold, but a previous owner had repainted it Candy apple Red with white stripes. Per the Shelby Registry, prior to 2007, Al began the process of disassembling the Shelby for a restoration, but never finished it. In May 2016, a stroke ended Al’s plan for restoring the GT350. Bedridden and in an assisted-living facility, his wife of more than 50 years, Rosemary, made what she described as the most difficult decision of her life.

“I knew that I would eventually have to do something about the cars (including a Mustang II),” she said.

Shane and his father, Ken, finally saw the Shelby (VIN #2213) when Rosemary invited them over to ask for advice about selling the car. They found the body on jack stands surrounded by parts on the garage shelves and tucked into corners. After inspecting the body and deeming it solid and restorable, Shane offered to buy the Shelby to add to his collection, which includes three GT350s (1966, 1968 and 1969 examples), plus two ’70 Mustang convertibles, a ’71 Mustang convertible and a CSX 8000-series Cobra. Rosemary was pleased to sell the GT350 to one of her husband’s friends instead of a stranger on eBay.

As a collector, Shane was intrigued by the Shelby’s documentation as one of 35 1967 GT350s originally ordered to be built with the optional Paxton supercharger. However, the blower was never installed by Shelby American, reportedly because it was switched to a dealer-order car. Shelby American paperwork included two invoices: voided invoice #3297 dated May 12, 1967, showing the $479 Paxton option, and replacement invoice #3368, dated May 12, showing a list of GT350 VINs scheduled for Paxton installation, including #2213. However, the VIN is crossed out adjacent to a handwritten note stating, “never received it.”

Shane and several friends retrieved the Shelby from its longtime hiding place in the Smith garage using a purpose-made dolly to carry the body onto Shane’s trailer. But finding the parts was like an Easter egg hunt.

“The car was in a million pieces,” Shane said. “Unfortunately, Al wasn’t capable of telling us where to find the Shelby parts. We spent hours looking for parts.” Thankfully, the date-coded 289 Cobra engine was in plain sight on a stand, and the four-speed transmission was found under a pile of boxes. Gradually, most of the factory components were discovered, including the ultra-important Shelby VIN plate. Weeks later, Rosemary found the original steering wheel wrapped in an old T-shirt stowed in a closet for safe keeping.

With the treasure-trove back at the shop, Shane laid out the parts for inventory. Other than a few items, he had everything needed to restore the GT350. His original plan was to send the car to Jason Billups and the team at Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma, for body work and paint, then reassemble the car as a family project with his father, Ken, and 12-year-old son, Glen. However, during the trio’s annual visit to the Mid-America Shelby meet, Shane had a change of heart.

“Shane asked if he could observe the Shelby GT350 judging process,” Jason Billups explained. “Afterwards, he asked me to restore the Shelby for top concours classes: Trailered Concours for MCA, and Division 2 for SAAC and Mid-America.” Billups recognized the challenge ahead when Shane’s trailer arrived at his shop.

“Shane asked if he could observe the Shelby GT350 judging process,” Jason Billups explained. “Afterwards, he asked me to restore the Shelby for top concours classes: Trailered Concours for MCA, and Division 2 for SAAC and Mid-America.” Billups recognized the challenge ahead when Shane’s trailer arrived at his shop.

The body work was turned over to Scott Billups, co-owner of Billups Classic Cars. With the help of technicians Jack Guyll and Jerry Boone, the GT350 sheet metal structure was totally reconstructed to give it structural integrity while maintaining the factory-correct look. Jason Billups, Jerry Boone and Tom Guyll prepared the body for paint, then handed it off to lead painter Skeeter White for the Lime Gold BASF paint application. Technician Casey Kelly handled the suspension installation, and Gerald Billups rebuilt the 289-cid V-8. This concerted team effort produced an award-winning ’67 GT350. The performance and overall appearance — including fit and finish — is world class.

Jason Billups and his team at Billups Classic Cars viewed the restoration as a fun challenge “because we had never restored a GT350 to such a high level, having previously restored award-winning GT500s.” For Billups, the effort required research to determine how the small-block cars were delivered from Shelby American. Although Al Smith had initiated the bodywork many years earlier, there was still plenty of work needed to get the sheet metal and fiberglass to concours-level standards of fit and finish. The Billups Classic Cars team refurbished original components whenever possible, including most of the interior, wiring and gauges. NOS parts were acquired to replace parts deemed substandard.

After eight months of restoration, the Billups Classic Cars Team completed the GT350 in October 2020, just in time for its entry in the Indiana Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) concours in French Lick, one of the only shows held in pandemic-plagued 2020. The freshly built Shelby scored a Gold Award in the Heritage Class.

With fingers crossed for a safe and uninterrupted 2021 show season, Shane hoped to score Gold in the “Triple Crown” of Shelby concours achievements: the Mustang Club of America Grand National, SAAC, and the Mid-American Shelby & Ford Nationals. Billups noted that Shelby judges will need to be aware of this GT350’s inboard high-beam headlamps, typically found on earlier-produced ’67 Shelbys. However, all but one of the 35 supercharged GT350s was also equipped with inboards, presumably for unrestricted air flow to the Paxton’s air inlet in the front driver-side engine compartment. This GT350 received the inboards, but not the supercharger.

However, that could change in the future. Among the parts in Al Smith’s garage was a new Paxton supercharger, indicating he planned to install the blower, as originally intended in 1967. After all the shows, events, awards and accolades, Shane said he’ll install the supercharger and drive the car as Shelby American had originally intended when it built the car back in 1967.

Perhaps the most heartwarming part about the Fowlers ownership of this Shelby is that it’s a family affair. Shane Fowler inherited his passion for cars from his father, Ken. And now he’s passing the family tradition along to his 12-year-old son, Glen. The three of them are nearly inseparable when it comes to participating in the Mustang and Shelby hobby, whether it’s attending shows, hanging out at Shane’s shop with other car-inflicted friends or driving their freshly restored 1967 Shelby GT350 for the first time during the photo shoot.

“Dad started it for me with a 1970 Mustang convertible,” Shane recalled. “We’d buy something, fix it up, then sell it so we could buy something better.” Now the elder Fowler rides along with his son and grandson to shows around the country, including their favorite, the annual Mid-American Ford & Shelby Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Glen has been going to Tulsa with us since he was four,” Shane said.

Restorer Jason Billups couldn’t help but notice the trio’s family fellowship: “Every time Shane came up to bring parts or check on the Shelby’s restoration progress, his father and son were with him,” he said. With the GT350 finished, the Fowler men began sharing a new goal beginning in 2021 and beyond — driving together to trailer the Shelby to shows in their quest for the “Triple Crown” of Shelby Concours achievement. For them, the journey will be the biggest reward.


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