Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
May 1, 2008

Sometimes timing is everything. During our trip to Shelby Parts and Restoration last fall to photograph Carroll Shelby's '69 GT500 convertible before it crossed the block at Barrett-Jackson, we wandered into Jim Cowles' restoration domain just as a customer's '68 Shelby GT500KR was being completed. In fact, it was still on the lift, providing the perfect opportunity to document the details of a fresh rotisserie, concours restoration.

"It's restored as close as possible to a new GT500KR," Jim says. "We didn't try to make it perfect, just authentic."

Jim says the KR arrived at his shop as a nice 80,000-mile example. It was tired but still had its original fiberglass and drivetrain. "That's the stuff I like to see," Jim says.

On the lift, the KR exposes its undercarriage as a work of art. PPG red-oxide primer, tinted by Jim Cowles for the perfect factory hue, covers the framerails and floorpans. Notice the round bare spots at the front of the framerails. That's where the chassis was originally mounted to the assembly line jig.

He does admit to a few concessions in his quest for authentic perfection. Many of the parts needed for the restoration were impossible to find, or simply too expensive. "We try to keep hard-to-find items on hand, but in this case we didn't have the correct tie rods without the grease fittings. We couldn't find any, so we used the more common replacement tie rods with fittings."

In addition to the original fiberglass, the KR was still equipped with much of its factory equipment, including the air cleaner assembly, dashpad, carburetor, and transmission. Those components, along with the car's original Shelby elements, were refurbished for the restoration. Jim says all '68 Shelbys were delivered with hubcaps, but this KR, like many other '68 Shelbys, had the popular 10-spoke wheels, added either by a previous owner or by the selling dealer as an upgrade. Reproductions of the E70x15 Polyglas tires aren't available, so Jim used two N.O.S. originals from his parts stockpile and located two others through his contacts in the vintage Shelby parts underground.

Shortly after completing the restoration, Jim accompanied the KR to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. The car sold for $160,000, which was less than Jim and the owner expected. "Green probably isn't the best color for Barrett-Jackson," Jim says, an observation backed up by the fact that yellow and red GT500KR fastbacks sold for $15,000 and $40,000 more, respectively, during the '08 auction.

The new owner obviously got a deal on one of the most authentically perfect GT500KRs in existence.

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