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have momentarily let off the gas and

then realized I was the tow vehicle. He

missed second and then third gear,

and finally flew past me at the end of

the quarter-mile. The announcer de-

scribed it as the world’s fastest tow ve-

hicle and told the crowd that in all his

years of announcing, this was the first

time he saw a tow vehicle almost win

a race.

That sealed the deal for me. I

couldn’t have a Cobra but I had to

have this Shelby. By the time the rac-

ing season ended I had become great

friends with Jimmy and his family,

and as the winter approached, his wife

was nine months pregnant. She told

him she needed a more comfortable

car, something with a few more crea-

ture comforts like power steering and

air conditioning. Something other

than the Shelby.

My friend Dave told me I should

buy it. I was just starting out, working

at a Lincoln/Mercury dealership. I was

only making $110 a week as a trainee

technician and didn’t have any money,

but this was a chance I couldn’t pass

up. We met with Jimmy at his house

and he told me he was going to trade

the Shelby in for a Mercury station

wagon. I asked Dave what I should

offer and the he whispered, “


I said to Jimmy, “

How about


” He said, “


.” Now all I had

to do was find the money. This was

around Christmas of 1970 and I went

to a local bank where the president

was a customer at the dealership I

worked at. I told him I needed to bor-

row a $1,000 and take a year to pay it

back. This was the first bank loan I

had ever had; I had a savings account

but didn’t even have a checking ac-

count. So the president invited me into

his office where he went over the loan

application process, the terms of the

payment and all of the other legalities

involved in a loan. He then told me

that I had no credit, but he believed I

was good credit risk and he would per-

sonally see that I got the money. Imag-

ine that happening in today’s business

climate. Jimmy traded the car in on a

Monday and I would have the money

on Friday. The dealer agreed to hold

the car until Saturday and the $1,000

offer would be honored until then. I

had since learned that they had of-

fered Jimmy $850 as a trade-in al-

lowance, so this was a big win for the

dealer. That is, until the used car man-

ager got involved. If you’ve seen the

movie “Used Cars,” this guy could

have been a principal player because

he knew every trick in the book. The

Shelby was parked on the used car lot

for that week and it drew a lot of at-

tention. Maybe too much because the

salesman keep pressuring the owner

of the dealership to let him sell it.

I think the best offer he got was

around $1500 and he wanted to sell it

very badly, but the dealer said he had

made a promise and if I didn’t have

the loan by Friday he could sell it on

the open market. The week seemed to

both crawl by and speed by at the

same time. It was a week of agony.

Plan B was to beg my parents for the

money, but $1,000 was a large sum for

them to come up with at that time, so

I didn’t think that would be much of

an option. I got a call on Thursday, at

about 5:00 o’clock, from the bank pres-

ident telling me to come by after lunch

tomorrow and pick up the check.

The car was practically mine. I

went there the next day and signed

the loan papers ($98.97 a month for 12

months). Then I was off to the used car

lot to pick up my new GT350H Shelby

Mustang. At least, that was the plan.

Sam, the used car manager, had an al-

ternant plan. He said I owned him for

storage and I had to pay it before he

would let the car go: he wanted $10 a

day. I threatened to call the dealership

owner and after a few minutes of ar-

guing, he finally relented and told me

to get the car off the lot and out of his


I finally had it! The car of legends.

A 42,000-mile, 5 year-old Hertz car.

Could it be a happier day? The car was

an ex-rental and a used car, so it

wasn’t exactly a show winner; just a

somewhat banged-up used car with

lots of little problems. The carburetor

and the tach had been stolen in the

late 60s in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

The doors and sides were covered with

door dings and dents and the front

valance and bumper were bent and

twisted from a slight fender bender

the month before. Dave worked in

parts and ordered what we thought

were the correct tach and carburetor.

When the carburetor arrived it was an

S2MS 715 Holley and the tach turned

out to be a Rally tach for a Falcon

Sprint or Mercury Comet. They both

worked and I was just happy to be

driving the car. I straightened out the

bent tach bracket (it’s still in the car

today), slapped on the carb and away

I went.

I spent the weekend cleaning it up

and ordered a new front valance and

bumper. I think the bumper was under

$20.00 and the valance was even less.

One of the guys in the body shop

painted the valance black and I bolted

it on the car. It was my only trans-

portation and I drove it everywhere

that summer. I started making plans

to drive it across the country to the

Bonneville Speed trails in Utah. I left

on a Friday after work and drove

across the great expanse of the United

States between Maryland and the

western Utah. I arrived at Bonneville

only to discover I had gotten the dates

wrong – it was the next week. Since I

only had a week’s vacation I had to go

back and plan again for the following

year. The speed limits at this time

were much higher than they currently

are. Wyoming had no daytime speed

limit and Nevada had the best: the

sign on the border said, “Welcome to

Nevada,” and underneath was the

most important one, “All speed limits


It was great. Gas was under 35¢ a

gallon and you could drive as fast as

your nerve – and your car – could han-

dle. As I headed back to Maryland I

started planning for the next year’s

trip. I drove the GT350 all winter, driv-

ing through snow and slush on salt-

covered roads. The car had no traction

control and the E70 Firestone Wide

Ovals were a handful. I learned to

steer with the throttle, anticipate my

stops in advance and was careful not

to slide off the road. That spring and

summer I drove the car and racked up

the miles. I watched it break 50,000,

then 60,000, then 70,000, and then



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