Jim Smart
August 1, 2002
Photos By: Bill Erdman

It doesn't take Einstein to figure out the trend today is modifying, driving, and hotrodding classic Mustangs. Fuel injection, 17-inch wheels and tires, "boom-boom" sound systems, lowered ride heights, aftermarket bucket seats, and more. It's enough to send purists running for antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy. Purists want Mustangs as they were some 35 years ago. And no wonder-we live in a day and age that makes most of us long for a simpler time when airport security was a locked door; drive-bys were something you did at the bank and fast food restaurants; obscene television was Deputy Barney Fife yelling, "Now dad gum it, Andy!"; and suburban congestion was nothing more than having a bad head cold.

Meet George Batejan of New Jersey. When you study his Candyapple Red '68 Shelby GT350 fastback, it takes only a second to realize there's nothing modified about this car. It is a puritan example of what Shelby Automotive was producing in Ionia, Michigan, more than three decades ago. Right off the assembly line, Shelby produced a factory-modified Mustang that really didn't need aftermarket mods. Sharp? You bet, with 10-spoke aluminum wheels and Goodyear Speedway 350 raised-white-letter bias-belted tires, fog lamps, a mouthy grille, Marty Feldman headlamps, a scoop hood, duck's tail decklid, six-lamp taillights, pop-open gas cap, GT350 stripes, and a rich interior with plenty of instrumentation and a custom console. This was the new car that didn't need a speed shop. Underhood: a 302ci four-barrel V-8 married to a C4 Select-Shift automatic. By the time 1968 rolled around, Shelby engine modifications included the very visual Cobra dress-up kit and nothing more. Gone was the solid-lifter, 289 High Performance V-8 available a year earlier. Underneath was a nice handling package with power front disc brakes that made the car a joy to drive.

Eddie Gaczek of Eddie's Auto Restoration in Morris Plains, New Jersey, gets much of the credit for the extraordinary quality of this concours restoration. The Candyapple Red finish makes the car look like it was dipped in paint. Not one detail has been missed. Inside, SelectAire air con-ditioning, AM/FM stereo, tilt-wheel, console-all wrapped inside the distinctive Interior Dcor Group for 1968 in rich woodgrain and black vinyl.

George snapped up his GT350 back in 1986 when he was living in Hong Kong, China. He followed a lifelong desire to have a '68 GT350 while he was in New Jersey on business and snapped up this beautiful example. After he purchased the car, it went into storage where it stayed until he returned to the states to live four years later. George tells us his Shelby was delivered new to Hertz Rent-A-Car. Today, it survives as a shining example of the fun you could have with a credit card and driver's license a lifetime ago.