Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
Luck—and a Lot of Love—Helped Him Realize His Dream of a 1968 Shelby G.T. 350
Finding one's dream car takes more than just money. You need to have plenty of luck, too, as circumstances and timing have to be just right to link the seeker and the sought-after. Ask anyone who's gone through it: Luck can be a fickle thing.
Sometimes it takes even more than a healthy bank account and good fortune to obtain a desired ride. For some it also takes love, the love of a good woman, or great friends. For Kerry Kelly all those elements needed to fall into place for him to score the muscle car of his dreams.
That car was a 1968 Ford Mustang G.T. 350. His desire for one started back in his teens and continued for the next three decades. The thought never left his mind for long. Life's twists and turns seemed to keep him from owning one of these dream machines, but he never gave up hope that one day one of Carrol Shelby's Mustang creations would be sitting in his driveway.
On his 45th birthday, Kerry's wife, Karlyn, sat him down to open his presents. Once done, she mentioned another gift that she had been working on for some time. "We've been together quite a while now," she said, "and since the day we met you've spoken of your dream to one day own a Shelby Mustang. Without you knowing it, I've been saving a little money on the side. It's not much, just a few thousand dollars, but I want you to take it, go to the bank for a supplemental loan, and then go find your dream car before you get too old to enjoy it."
Kerry was blown away. They had just bought a new home off the Jersey coast, and he thought there was no way they could possibly pull it off. But where there's a will there's a way. They both agreed that $20,000 would be their limit, a very low sum even 15 years ago when Shelby prices were on the rise. But they agreed to stick to their guns about the price and look for a car within their budget.
Kerry hit the ground running. He started with a search in the Jersey area but soon realized that this would be no easy task. Preliminary results showed that these rare cars were mostly out of his price range.
Discouraged at first, Kerry didn't give up hope. He continued his search onto the Internet, where he found more of the same. But then there was a call from some good friends, and things started to turn for the better.
Dennis and Becki Caresio are Southern California residents and into the local car scene. Kerry told them about his search for a Shelby, and they were intrigued. To Dennis, Kerry's timing was perfect, as they were about to head north to Reno and the week of Hot August Nights. "Why don't you guys come out and join us, and we can find you a Shelby Mustang?" asked Dennis. Even when Kerry explained that his budget was only $20,000, Dennis told him not to worry. They would do their best to get him the car of his dreams.
Reno or Bust
Kerry and Karlyn went to Reno and joined the Caresios and some of their friends. All were eager to help with the search. Once arriving at the event, the pack spread out, covering the car auction, swap meets, and the show-car areas.
Things did not start well. At the auction three possible contenders all went well above the $20,000 check Kerry had stashed in his pocket. Other searches on the show grounds came up empty. There was to be no purchase in Reno, but it did give Kerry perspective on how hard it might be to procure one of these particular Mustangs. He thanked everyone for their help and support, and the Kellys got ready to return to Jersey.
A pair of their new friends, Bob and Carin Ferrero, had to leave early to get back to San Francisco. When he got home, Bob hit the Internet and spotted a 1968 Shelby in an eBay auction. The Mustang looked like it was in amazing shape. He quickly alerted Kerry about the auction, which was still bidding below his self-imposed price limit.
Now this was around 2000, and eBay wasn't a household name for everyone. But Kerry found his way onto the site and spied the beautiful Sunlit Gold Shelby. He wasn't sure how the site worked, but noticed the car was bid to only $7,000. Dennis explained it was only the first day of the auction, and that the majority of bids happen in the last hours. He then suggested they make contact with the owner to see if he would take a best-offer bid and close the auction early.
Kerry sat down on the computer and drafted a note to the seller. "I explained that I was neither a collector nor a dealer, but just Joe-Q average guy who always dreamed of owning a Shelby Mustang," says Kerry. "I asked about what work might be needed on the car and, if he was willing, how much he would take in order to remove the vehicle from auction." He hit the send button, then took a break from all the excitement and went out to dinner with his friends.
When they returned they found that the seller had written back, saying he would be interested in expediting the sale of the car. His reserve was $24,000, but to get the car out the door he was willing to part with it for $20,000. The room erupted with cheers as Kerry realized he was one step closer to finally snagging a G.T. 350 of his very own!
Kerry made immediate arrangements to pick up the car in San Francisco. The exchange went flawlessly, and from there the car went to the Ferrero's house just north of the City, then to the Caresio's house in Southern California, and then finally on to New Jersey via enclosed carrier. Within a few weeks of purchase the car arrived, no worse for the 3,000 miles of travel.
What Kerry got was one of 4,450 Shelbys built for 1968, of which only 57 were Sunlit Gold G.T. 350s. The car had been meticulously restored by the last owner, and it still has the original 302ci four-barrel engine and Top Loader four-speed transmission. It sports a 4.11 rear axle and has creature comforts like power steering and brakes (front disc), tilt-away steering, and an integral rollbar.
The previous owner stated that the car had a front-end collision back in the day, after which both front aprons were replaced. During its restoration the engine and the front suspension were rebuilt. Dennis Caresio gave the car a once-over, fixing some electrical issues before it was shipped out of California to the Kelly household. Once Kerry got it, he had Finelines in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, do a little touchup on the paint.
Today the Shelby stands as a testament to what love and good friends can and will do for someone. Kerry realizes that if it wasn't for his wife Karlyn and the support of a network of friends, his Shelby dream would never have come true. Yes, people, miracles do happen, and sometimes they appear in a ray of Sunlit Gold.
At a Glance
1968 Shelby G.T. 350 Fastback
Owned by: Kerry Kelly, Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Restored by: Previous owner
Engine: 302ci/250hp V-8
Transmission: Top Loader 4-speed manual
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with 4.11 gears
Interior: Black vinyl Deluxe bucket seat
Wheels: 15x6 steel with original hubcaps
Tires: P225/60R15 BFGoodrich T/A Radials
Special Parts: Power steering, power brakes, shoulder harness, AM radio, extra cooling, fold-down rear seat
The 1968 model year marked a number of changes for the G.T. 350 (and G.T. 500). Production shifted from Shelby's Los Angeles facility to Ionia, Michigan, and a convertible was offered for the first time. Styling was revised, too, as the rearend now sported Thunderbird sequential taillights, not the Cougar lights used on 1967 models.
Ford stopped making the Hi-Po 289 V-8 that had powered previous G.T. 350s, so the 1968 cars got 250hp 302s. The engine in Kerry Kelly's Shelby is its born-with motor, rebuilt during the previous owner's restoration.
By 1968 the Shelby Mustang's character had changed. The G.T. 350 was more grand tourer than road racer, and the now-plush interior reflected this shift. The cockpit of this Shelby has stayed basically stock over the years. Kerry only needed to tend to a small rip in the driver's seat.
The aluminum 10-spoke wheels were an option in 1968, but Kerry likes the look of the standard hubcaps and has no intention of changing them. Radial tires aid in drivability.
Sunlit Gold was a rare color for 1968 Shelbys. According to Greg Kolasa's The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide, one reason was because it was difficult to match the color of the fiberglass Shelby pieces with the steel Mustang bodies coming out of Ford's Metuchen, New Jersey, assembly plant.
Front-end styling changed for 1968, too. The hoodscoops were longer and wider, and the leading edge of the hood no longer extended all the way to the grille opening. Kerry's Shelby has the later Lucas driving lights.
Kerry's wife, Karlyn, was the prime motivator in getting him to follow his dream and purchase this stunning Shelby.