Jerry Heasley
December 17, 2013

Gary Pechmann was understandably anxious after hearing about a Mustang, possibly a Shelby, sitting in a barn just 25 miles north of his home in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin.

"I called Mark every hour and said, 'When can we go? When can we go? Did you get in touch with him?’"

Pechmann’s friend Mark owns an auto body shop, but Pechmann is the Mustang expert. Mark hadn’t seen the barn find, although he did reveal the Mustang’s VIN—8T02S143406-01533. The last five digits represent the Shelby sequential number. The S-code designated the Shelby’s 360-horsepower 428 Police Interceptor in the G.T. 500.

Pechmann says, "I immediately told him that it’s probably a Shelby. And from the engine code, it’s also a big-block."

Finally, two days later, on a Monday, Mark called Pechmann with word that they could go see the Mustang on Tuesday night. Pechmann remained unflappable despite the cold, rainy, miserable night that developed. "The property owner pointed his headlights into the barn so we’d have some light," Gary told us. "We pulled off this tattered old car cover that fell apart in our hands, and sure as heck, there was an Acapulco Blue ’68 G.T. 500 fastback."

I asked Pechmann what he was thinking when he saw this Shelby treasure. "I thought, 'No way!’ You only read about these things and don’t ever get to experience them. Here, just 25 miles north of me, the presence of a real Shelby, covered in dust, seemed so unreal."

Obviously, the car had some issues, such as rust, including a hole the size of a baseball in the front fender and a similar one in the rear quarter. A previous owner had also patched the passenger side rear floorpan. Under the hood, Pechmann noticed that the oval air cleaner was missing, ditto for the export brace. But the engine was original to the car.

Inside, mice had built two nests, one above each sun visor, where holes led to more infestation inside the headliner. However, Pechmann described the upholstery, pedals, and door handles as "showing no wear." Pechmann wondered how and why the inside could be so nice. A clue came with the odometer reading of 1,978. Could this mileage be real?

Pechmann adds, "The next day, I got a phone call from Mark telling me that if I wanted the car, it was mine." Pechmann didn’t hesitate. He bought the G.T.500 on Saturday morning and immediately towed the fastback to his shop. He then contacted the Shelby American Automobile Club to ask who he could talk to about ’68 Shelbys. Turns out, SAAC’s leading expert is Pete Disher, who lives a mere seven miles away from Pechmann in Deerfield, Michigan. Disher drove out to see the barn find, telling Pechmann that the ’68 G.T. 500 was one of six that rolled off the Ford assembly line in sequence. Five had been located; now they knew that the sixth one had also survived.

Pechmann is still gathering history. The seller told him he acquired the car as a gambling debt payment from a college student in 1976, corresponding to the last date the car was titled. Pechmann also heard that the college student drag raced the G.T. 500. Drag racers tend to put miles on a car a quarter-mile at a time, so the actual mileage could be very low. However, the speedometer had been disconnected, so Pechmann has no way to document the mileage.