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Dennis's 1968 GT 350 Shelby Cobra pix

1968 Shelby Cobra GT 350
Owned by Dennis Begley
last updated Monday, September 05, 2011+

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1968 Shelby Mustang Home

I found this Shelby Mustang in January just outside Defiance, Ohio, frozen to its axle in ice.  I had been looking for a fastback Mustang to restore for some time. I'd looked at a lot of Mustangs but just couldn't find the right one. Most them  were rusted junk. My friend, Biff Hitzeman,  and I found this one in a trailer park.  The year was 1982. It was a one owner in not great shape. The floors were rusted out, the fenders and quarter panels had rust holes. The roof was caved in because the owner's kids had been playing on it. It had enough trash and old tires in it to fill a pickup truck.  But it was a real Shelby Mustang. And even though it looked pretty rough, it wasn't that bad. 

The owner had been trying to sell the car for sometime. I later was told by several different people that he was asking a lot for it. And he wanted cash, no trades. Several people I knew had even tried to buy it from him. A buyer from Toledo told him if he didn't sell it at the price he wanted, that he would give him $3,000 and bring a trailer for it. I got the tip on the car the Wednesday before the dealer was to pick it up. One of Biff's Chrysler buddies, Bud Yoder, told him he'd seen a red Mustang fastback in a trailer park near Defiance, Ohio. Biff and I took off to look for it. After driving all over Defiance for hours with no success, we headed home when Biff said he thought there was a trailer park just north of where we were. Sure enough, there was the park, and a red  fastback sitting in front of one of the trailers.  But this wasn't just a fastback, it was a SHELBY GT 350. No one was home. I went next door and asked for the owner's name. I called him that night. He told me the car was sold. The trailer was coming in a couple of days, on Saturday, to pick it up. No matter how many times I asked if he would consider another offer, he told me he was a man of his word and the car was sold. I hung up feeling really disappointed.  I called Biff to tell him the news. He said the car isn't sold "till the other guy picks it up.  Get your money in $100 bills. Call him and ask him if you can at least look at the car before it gets picked up." I made the call, he told me the car was sold but if I could look at it late Friday afternoon. 

We arrived on time. He told us he and his wife had purchased the car new. His wife's father lived in Florida and most of the miles were fast trips to visit. He was a construction sub-contractor and money was tight. He couldn't afford to make the repairs the car needed. And he reminded me the car was sold. We talked with him and looked over the car for a good hour. Opened the doors, looked at the engine, asked every question we could think of, looking for an opportunity. His wife finally came out of the trailer and asked what we were doing and reminded her husband that she had to leave soon to go bowling. Biff jumped in and said we liked the Shelby and were interested in buying it and that we would pay more than the other guy. She asked how much more. Biff gave me the nod. I whipped out the $100 bills and started counting. I said "how about $500 more. I'll give you $3,500 cash right now." She said "sold, the title is in my name. I'll be right back with it." The car was mine. 


Now we had to get it home. When we got it started and tried to move it, I pulled one of the tires, frozen into the ground, off the rim.  It had been there for sometime. The clutch was also pretty shot. One header was rusted almost off. Four different size tires. But it did start. We had driven my '83 Datsun Turbo-Z and didn't have any tools.  I borrowed a gas can went for some fresh gas and to fix the tire as Biff got it ready to move. When I returned Biff told me the battery was cracked and wouldn't work. Time for plan two.

We decided to run back home for tools and exchange my (83 Datsun 280 turbo) Z car for my trusty '66 Mustang coupe. We got the battery from Biff's Mustang and a box of tools. Then we headed 25 miles back to Defiance.  It was getting dark by this time. And it was getting cold.  New battery installed. A non-working alternator. Four inflated tires. Fresh gas. It was time to go. We didn't think to pull a good plate from Biff's Mustang. The plates on the Shelby were long since expired. So we decided to take the back roads to avoid any attention on the main highway. Biff would lead the way in my '66. I would drive the Shelby without lights or heater to conserve the battery. "Stay close," he said. At the last minute he opened the passenger door to put something inside. When he went to close it, it wouldn't latch. His bright idea was to use the seat belt to hold it closed. He unrolled the seat belt and wrapped it around the door handle. Off we went. Fortunately the back roads in Ohio are mostly straight. I stayed real close to the '66's tail lights, I didn't have any headlights. About  half way home, he made a left turn. As I turned, the passenger door flew open. The seatbelt unrolled during the turn and the door narrowly missing a mailbox. I flashed my lights and stopped the car. That door still wouldn't latch. (Turned out it just needed some WD40 to free the latch up.) I held it closed the rest of the way home. One hand on the steering wheel, the other holding the arm rest on the passenger door. The 30 minute drive seemed like hours but we made it to my place. 

I pulled in my driveway and hit the horn. My wife came out to see what I'd spent our money on. Even though it was dark,  you could see this car needed some serious help. She couldn't believe I paid that much for this car. But I knew better. 

My GT 350 has been with me ever since. Red with black interior. Built-in padded roll bar. 4 Speed. The 302 was rebuilt as a HiPo with headers. (Click here to read more about the engine rebuild.) Except for the engine work and the NOS aluminum wheels, I tried to keep it as close to stock as I could. I wanted to paint it black but my Mustang friends convinced me to keep it the stock color, Candy Apple Red.  After it was painted I replaced the steel wheels and hubcaps with NOS aluminum wheels and some Goodyear ST radials White lettered tires. Over the years I keep adding to it. In the summer of 1999, I replaced the carpet, door panels and recovered the seats. (Click here to read about the interior replacement.)

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Biff's wrote a story about our adventure for the club newsletter,  the Old Fort Mustangers' , PonyTalk, in 1982,  click here to read his account.  Its a good story and funny.

Want to see pictures after the car was finished, click here. Or click here to see a picture of the engine and the interior. Also on this page you can read about the stock GT 350 engine & interior and what I have done to this motor and the interior.

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The car has won a lot of trophies.  It still sees its share of shows and club events, though, I rarely have it judged anymore. Biff and I showed it for years at Old Fort Mustanger events in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area, where the car and I are from. I accepted a job and my wife and I moved to St. Louis, MO., after it was restored. Biff kept it at his place. He took it to a lot of shows and won lots of trophies with it. When I was transferred to Lexington, Kentucky, I brought it with me. Click here to read a sort a funny story about it there.

By the way, the picture on the top of this page was taken on a cold, sunny day in my home town of Hicksville, Ohio. The parking lot at the high school, a block from my house at the time, was clear with a large pile of snow in one corner. I saw the snow pile and wondered what kind of background it would make for a picture of the car. No, I do not drive this car in the snow. The streets were dry at the time of the picture. It's been stored inside during the winter over the years, most years in heated garages.

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In the summer of 1997, an older fellow in a van, parked next to it, cut the wheel too much when he backed up, and hit the driver's side. His bumper caught the door and  pulled the scoop off the car. I saw it after it happened. Made my day. (Try to match red paint that is 15 years old. I found an artisan who rebuilt the old fiberglass scoop and actually did a great job of matching the paint. You have to look real closely to notice a shade difference.) In trying to replace the scoop I discovered this car carries 1967 side scoops. The car and I belong to the Upper Midwestern Region of SAAC. (I also build and maintain the club's web pages.)

I had some running problems with it during the summer of 1998. After replacing all the electrical, I realized it was the power valve in the Holley. The point of mentioning that is two things; one, I now use fuel stabilizer in the gas tank. Gasoline is only good for about a month, I hear, and does "not good things" to carbs when it starts to turn from a liquid to a solid; two, I replaced the dual points in the distributor with pointless ignition. If you've ever tuned up a Ford you know what a challenge it is to get the dwell set, especially in a dual point. A friend suggested this upgrade. Took me about 30 minutes and I had to modify a couple of things and shorten some wires. Its been in there for six months. Starts every time and purrs like a kitten. No more points to replace!

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If you want to read about the restoration tips and how I fixed the car , click here
If you want to read more about  the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT 350 click here. You can read several articles about the Shelby cars from there. If you'd like to read about how my friend, Biff, and I bought the car and got it to my place in the dead of winter choose this page.
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Story of My 1968 GT 350

There are a couple of versions of how I managed to find my 1968 GT 350.  I was unable to locate my original version.  However, I did find a copy of my friend, Biff Hitzeman's, recount of the adventure. Click here to read it. If you hit that page you might want to read that one or some of the other articles from Biff's Rap posted there.

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Lexington Kentucky

I joined Indiana SAAC while living in Kentucky. Their annual show was held in a state park south west of Indianapolis, a couple hundred miles from Lexington. We were also members of the Kentucky Mustang club. The local club was going to the Indiana SAAC event so my wife and I decided to go, too. I had been having some problems with the power steering prior so I ordered new hoses and a new power steering pump. I tried to put the hoses on myself but couldn't get the old ones off. I took it to the local Ford dealer and asked them to install the pump and new hoses. One of the hoses, the main pressure on, was long, maybe five feet. I picked the car up the week before the show. Happy with new power steering parts installed. Off we went. 

We headed down KY 64 towards Louisville to meet some other club members. That road is great to drive on. It's a straight shot once you get beyond Frankfort. Beautiful rolling hills, few places for police to hide. We were cruising along, just above the speed limit in an area I knew I could open it up. So I did. The engine roared to life. We shot up to well over a 100 mph. We flew past a fellow and his family in a new Cadillac. 

In my rear view mirror I could see him catching up to me. I maintained my 100+ speed. As he got closer I saw that he was going to pass me, so I pushed the accelerator down, the huge four barrel kicked in. All of a sudden a large cloud of white smoke left the rear of my car. The Cadillac drove in to the cloud. I started to slow down, not knowing what had happened. I still had oil pressure and constant water temperature. 

Fortunately a rest stop came up quickly. I pulled in and stopped the car to check for damage. My new, long power steering hose had blown apart. On further investigation, I could see that it had been spliced and a piece of tubing with hose clamps put on it. Apparently the extra pressure from the speed and stepping on it had blown the splice apart. My power steering pump was fried. I took the power steering belt off. That Cadillac had driven through a cloud of power steering fluid. I bet he got a surprise when he checked the front of his car. 

We continued on to Louisville, met the other club members and drove to the SAAC event. Had a great week end. When I got back to Lexington I took the car back to the Ford dealer and asked about the splice. Of course, they denied cutting the hose. It took some talking but they replaced the pump under warranty and gave me new hoses. Last time I did business with that dealer. 

2005 addition: My later experiences with Ford dealers have been equally disappointing. I have all service work and repairs done by local mechanics and avoid the dealers.

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More pictures of my car    Pictures and info about engine and interior

Copyright 1996, 1997,  1998,  1999, 2000, 2001, 2005 Donabee Web Productions
This page was created by Dennis Begley, one of the Wizards at DonaBee Web Productions, using WebEdit, Saturday, November 30, 1996. Most recent revision Monday, September 05, 2011. It is always under construction. I've switched to Microsoft FrontPage, a much faster Pentium computer and stronger coffee in a bigger cup.