Jim Smart
October 1, 2005

Alaska tends to feel like a whole other country. It's rural and it's surely real. Chat with the locals, and it seems more like the Alaskan Territory than the State of Alaska. There's a fellowship there you won't find in the lower 48 because, despite its population (especially in the summertime), Alaska remains isolated from the continental United States.

This leads us to Dennis Hackenberger and his Wimbledon White '66 Shelby GT350. As you can probably tell from these photos, Dennis' GT350 gets driven. Dirty and rusty in places, it's definitely a seasoned driver, not a trailered show car. When Dennis fires up its original 289 High Performance Cobra V-8, it sounds just like Carroll Shelby intended.

The majority of classic Mustangs that survive today in Alaska aren't native to the area. Most were purchased in the lower 48 and shipped or driven from Washington, Oregon, and California. Most '65-'73 Mustangs that were sold new in Alaska have succumbed to its harsh winters.

Dennis' Shelby is a native Alaskan survivor, sold new at John Stepp's Friendly Ford of Anchorage to a local television news personality 40 years ago. In 1970, she traded in the GT350 on a new Thunderbird. As most old-car stories go, the Shelby changed hands many times in the years that followed. Among its hard-luck stories is a rollover in the snow during the early '70s, probably caused by the driver dodging a moose. From there, the story finds plenty of chuckholes, with the Shelby eventually winding up in the hands of Craig Hennemen, who paid $750 for it.

Then it sat for a decade until Ken Johnson bought and restored it in 1988. Later, Dennis purchased it from Ken to drive, not to show, and he has a ball with it. But you won't see Dennis driving SFM6S322 during the Alaskan winter. It's a respect thing.

An interesting footnote is that the original 289 High Performance engine was replaced many years ago. However, during the car's restoration, Ken found it being used as a display engine. It's certainly remarkable that a Shelby so abused could still be intact with its original parts. In the tunnel is the original Ford Top Loader four-speed transmission. The telltale clicking when Dennis turns a corner tells us it's equipped with a Detroit Locker cogged differential with 4.30:1 gears.

Dennis appreciates his Alaskan treasure. It's a rolling chat room that inspires conversation wherever it ventures into the wild and wonderful wilderness.