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n 1971, I was able to purchase a

1966 Shelby GT350H, 6S1431. At

that time it was just a five year-

old used car. A rather unique one

which had seen rental service its first

year of life, but still a used car. The

story of its history, my purchase and

its subsequent journey from that used

car to a rusty piece of junk and then

back to being restored to better than it

was when I bought it is a story full of

ups and downs, highs and lows, ex-

treme pride and extreme frustration.

Through it all, the car always re-

mained a constant; something that

was always there, that I have always

treasured, and mostly tried to honor.

In high school I used to see it driv-

ing by. I knew the owner’s name – it

belonged to Jimmy Willson and his

wife drove it to work every day. That’s

right, it was a daily driver for a

woman who commuted about ten

miles back and forth to work every

day. I had a friend who loved Corvettes

and I always loved the Cobra. Seeing

a Cobra was an extremely rare sight-

ing, even in the late 60s. The one that

stands out in my mind was owned by

a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Acad-

emy. It was dark green with an auto-

matic transmission. It was the only

Cobra I have ever seen that wasn’t a

four-speed, and it must have been ex-

tremely rare even back then. Owning

a Cobra was a dream I was never able

to realize, even though I came close

once. I would see this Hertz car every

day and, like all high school students

at that time, we would discuss how

fast a particular car was, how much

horsepower it had, and how it had

never lost a race. All of this, of course,

was just high school talk.

My friend Dave Brown and I have

been screwing around with cars since

before we could drive. He had a 1968

Mustang with a 302 engine that we

had modified, and then modified some

more. Then it became a D/Modified

Production drag race car. The owner of

the Shelby, Jimmy Willson, was also

had a drag racer; he had a 406 Ford-

powered 1965 Mustang fastback with

a one-piece, fiberglass flip-open front

end. It ran in B/Gas. We would help

Jimmy with the car and he would help

us with ours. Eventually I began to

help Jimmy more and more. He had a

school bus as a race car transporter,

with ramps in the back to pull the race

car inside. His wife would drive the

Shelby to the track to watch him run

and it was occasionally used as a tow

vehicle. Jimmy started to let me drive

the Shelby to tow the car back to the

pits after each run and I really was in

heaven. Driving that Shelby was more

than a young teenage motor-head

could ever want.

At one track in Delaware, Jimmy

told me to get behind him in the Hertz

car and leave as soon as he did. At this

track your tow vehicle followed your

race car down the track. I helped him

get the race car started, helped him do

the burnout and stage, and then

jumped into the Shelby to follow him.

I pulled up right behind him and as

soon as he left, so did I. I think he had

psyched the guy in the lane next to

him, who was driving a Camaro.

Jimmy had really jumped him off the

line and then I took off and I think

that frazzled him even more; when he

looked to the left he saw the flash of

the black and gold Shelby. He must


Summer 2016 70

When you’ve owned a car almost forever you accumulate

a trunkful of experiences and stories. 6S1431 has more than it’s share.

– Steve McDonald