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Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT500 - Intercontinental Shelby
Gary Boehnlein's '70 GT350 Has Crossed The Atlantic. Twice.
The '70 Shelbys-or leftover '69s, if you prefer-marked the end of an illustrious six-year chapter in the Mustang's then relatively brief but meteoric history. Even though our favorite charismatic and garrulous Texan had long since cut manufacturing ties with the car that bore his name, the end-of-the-line Shelby GT350 and GT500 continued to offer exclusivity and panache that far exceeded the sum of their metal and fiberglass parts. To North American Mustang enthusiasts, the preceding sentences probably fall under the category of "Duh, no kidding." But it's sometimes easy to forget that these quintessentially American ponycars also enjoyed an enthusiastic following around the world, to the point where some enterprising individuals made a business out of importing these and other fast Fords into Europe and other far reaches of the globe.
One Claude DuBois of Belgium was among them. [Editor's note: See "The European Connection" in the May '04 issue.] According to present owner Gary Boehnlein, this striking red GT350 convertible-0F03M482351, for those who keep track-was one of about 120-125 Shelby Mustangs and Cobras that DuBois imported from America between 1967 and 1970. The story is, he ordered this one in May 1969, specifically including extra heavy-duty suspension with Boss 302 spindles and rear springs, along with F60x15 rubber. Drivetrain options downstream of the 290hp 351W included a six-code, close-ratio four-speed manual and an R-code 3.25:1 Traction-Lok axle.
Compared to today's bureaucracy-addled legal environment, preparing a car for shipping across the pond was relatively straightforward in 1970, yet certain changes were required, the most obvious being a 240-kph speedometer in place of the Shelby's usual 140-mph unit. On the bright side, the Europeans were (and still are) far more progressive in their vehicle lighting laws, so the changes also included substitution of Marchal halogen headlights, using H4 bulbs with 50-watt low beams and 100-watt high beams. These are on the car to this day.
After modification, the globe-hopping GT350 was shipped to Brussels and sold to a lucky Belgian gentleman on September 30, 1970, complete with the importer's data plate mounted upside down on the driver-side inner fender. It must have been something to own this kind of muscular American iron in Belgium in the '70s, but perhaps it was the Shelby's penchant for gobbling ever-more-expensive Euro petrol that ultimately ended the love affair. France was the next country it conquered, with a second owner who eventually decided to sell the Shelby at the French Grand Prix in 1985, where a broker found the well-preserved ragtop and had it shipped back home to the United States. The following month, Detroit's Gary Boehnlein acquired the car from the broker, making him its first registered American owner, and third overall.Ironically, Gary bought the classic Ford on the same day he began work as a die-maker at General Motors. Despite this off-brand employment, he has a dedicated Blue Oval history, having owned a Drag Pack-equipped '70 GT500, a Boss 302, a Boss 429, and "many" R-code Mach 1s, all since acquiring the GT350. Yet, "They all came and went," says Gary, "because this one was by far the most enjoyable to drive."
Its previous European owners obviously agreed, as 94,000 kilometers showed on the odometer when acquired, and Gary has added another 11,000 km in the intervening 20 years. Back then it was painted an incorrect maroon hue, yet still had its untouched factory drivetrain. As Gary drove the world-traveling ragtop, he also made ongoing piecemeal restoration efforts before finally deciding in 1996 to do it right. It went on a rotisserie in his garage, and didn't emerge again for another seven years.
Gary performed most of the restoration labor himself, save for the exterior body and PPG Urethane refinishing, for which Charlie's Custom Creations and Paint in Novi, Michigan, gets the credit. The considerable effort was rewarded the first time it was judged, at the MCA Stampede to Dearborn 2003, where the intercontinental convertible earned a Gold Award (685 points out of 700) in the Concours Driven Class.
Trophies notwithstanding, it's just nice to see this rare and desirable road warrior back in the States after serving an extended tour of duty overseas.