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1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 - Karen & John Ringstaff's '69 GT500
Being There Makes All the Difference
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I wondered what I should say as I snapped the shots at the Grand National in Houston, Texas, two years ago. Being familiar with the vehicle wasn't really an issue; I knew the facts about the GT500 would be available in the Shelby World Registry. Cold, hard facts on production and where, why, and how many are available--all gleaned from said book. You can even get the original selling dealers info on the Shelby from this fine tome, but like so many cars, there's more. Sure, the Shelby was sold at J.D. Ball Ford in February 1970, and it rolled off the line dressed out pretty much as you see it here. The paint was Grabber Orange, and at the time, the Shelby was still a '69--the federal restamping for a '70 VIN would come later. The 428 Cobra Jet and C6 were all there, as was the 3.00 open rear gear--mandated by the York compressed air conditioning. Safety and convenience features included the mandatory option power disc brakes and power steering. Inside, the car probably gleamed with its white interior, tilt wheel, Sport-deck rear seat, and AM/FM radio. But those are only, as we said before, the cold, hard facts.
Being familiar with the family stems from longtime knowledge of their lives, likes, and desires. Actually, familiar isn't quite the word--friends is really more to the point. I've been close to Karen and John Ringstaff for almost 10 years. Even so, I have to admit to some reluctance in even shooting the GT500 at first; I didn't want folks in Houston to think that there was any favoritism at work here. But as I sat looking at the Shelby in the blistering Texas sun, I really didn't think that would be the case because the car is a top-flight restoration--just ask Karen, who kept track of the bills for it. Besides, John wasn't letting me beg off. I ran out of good excuses and he knew it; let me tell you that John Ringstaff can be as tenacious as a pit bull when he thinks he's right. And in this case, we both knew he was. I finally looked him in the eyes and said, "Yes."
These folks knew me and liked me before I became, as John once said, "a big shot editor." I was there in 1994 as the Shelby neared completion at Advantage Auto Works restoration shop in Dallas, and both Karen and John bit their nails in anxious anticipation. I was there as John was confronted with some of the teething problems any restoration goes through. All through this, we were involved quite heavily with the Mustang Club of Houston. Karen was president at the time, and John (First Husband) and I were editing the club newsletter.
At one of the Shelby's first local outings, John was too busy working the show to even clean the car--something I'm not sure I'd be able to do. As he ably cared for the participants at our annual mall parking lot show, I spent the better part of the morning on that fine summer day in 1995 cleaning the interior and trunk for the Ringstaffs. It was a joy for me. They'd been very supportive of my efforts as our news-letter editor and had even presented me with a Boss 351 street sign to show their appreciation. They were (and are)--among others--folks I really missed when I drove off to come here and run this magazine. So this one is for you two--love ya and miss ya.