Jim Smart
April 1, 2001
Photos By: Bill Erdman

It really is a small world, and I'll tell you why. At the '91 Mustang Club of America Grand National Show in Kingsport, Tennessee, I befriended the couple who own this Raven Black '68 Shelby GT500KR convertible. Karl and Diane Eisleben are natives of greater St. Louis, Missouri. When Karl and I shook hands a decade ago, we hit it off and became great friends.

Karl and I have watched each other go through a lot of experiences since 1991. He and Diane left the comfort of St. Louis to chase professional ambitions in Naperville, Illinois (outside of Chicago), while I headed for Tennessee and ultimately Los Angeles. We stayed in touch. A short time later, Karl and Diane returned to St. Louis and bought a new home in Chesterfield. It was a sweet homecoming to the area they knew so well. Their house was the stellar structure you'd expect in west St. Louis County. It had a three-car garage, a nice view, and was located in a quiet neighborhood. Great for Karl. Awesome for car projects. Close by was year-round horseback riding for Diane and the kids.

Karl has been a Mustang enthusiast for a lifetime. His father bought a new '66 Mustang convertible that remains in the family today. That original Mustang experience inspired Karl to buy a '66 K-code GT convertible that he restored from the ground up. And when his father's Mustang deteriorated from years of use, he restored it to concours condition, netting his share of awards and honors.

Through the years, Karl always dreamed of owning a big-block Shelby Mustang. He spent years searching for the Mustang before happening upon this striking steed all dressed in black. Admittedly, it was very rough, with severe rustout and the need for extensive (and expensive!) sheetmetal work. He turned to metalsmith Bill Skinner of Mid-America Mustang in St. Charles, Missouri. Bill transformed the rust into a solid steel foundation that could be worked to perfection. It was a long, involved restoration project that took the better part of two years. The 335hp 428 Cobra Jet engine specific to the GT500KR was completely rebuilt with a 0.040-inch overbore, TRW forged pistons, and other Federal Mogul parts. The C6 Cruise-O-Matic and 3.50:1 conventional 9-inch pumpkin followed with professional rebuilds.

In the quiet comfort of his suburban St. Louis garage, Karl assembled the Mustang with care. The numerous hours he spent under the florescent lights taught him something about craftsmanship: Karl took what he learned from two first-generation Mustangs and applied it to the Shelby with exquisite results, which speak for themselves. The Shelby gets the looks and Karl carries home the ivory.

It's a small world, but you probably couldn't convince Karl and Diane of this. For them, it has certainly been vast with a move to northern New Jersey since the Shelby was completed. Despite the rigors of a move, Karl and Diane have become acquainted with a new crop of friends and enthusiasts, including those in the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). For the Eislebens, it has been a rewarding experience that has taken them from the heartland to the coast.

And Karl and I? We remain terrific friends who are hell-bent on staying in touch and who are still awed by this vast place we still call a small world.