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1968 Shelby GT500KR Convertible - Trial By Fire
Perhaps The Motto For Arild Thu's '68 GT500KR Convertible Should Be "That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger"
Without a doubt, Arild Thu's '68 Shelby convertible has a story to tell, yet we admit to not knowing all of it. Such is often par for the course when it comes to 40-year-old collector cars, but we're inclined to believe that we know the best part of the tale, which begins when Arild stumbled upon the car on eBay on New Year's Eve in 2001. Is it necessary to explain that, at the time, the car hardly resembled the glorious red "King of the Road" spread across these pages? Yep-it looked like the proverbial heap, yet Arild was wise enough to see a diamond in the rough.
As it turns out, it was Arild's then-15-year-old son who first noticed the burned '68 GT500KR convertible advertised for sale at the renowned Internet auction site. The listing showed a sad image of a once-proud restoration, now sporting a charred frontend and cockpit. Encouraged by his son and wife, Arild called the seller to learn more. He found out that the current owner had purchased the car only two weeks earlier from an insurance company, where it sat for several years. A quick buck was clearly in the works.
Over a period of three days, a deal was struck, though this would be no sight-unseen transaction. The agreement was that Arild would immediately fly to Florida from his British Columbia, Canada, home. If the car was as described, the agreed price would be paid and the hulk hauled away. Fortunately, the deal went as planned, and for those who've wisely resisted the unnerving sight-unseen deal, such a method seems a good compromise.
Upon arriving at Arild's well-equipped garage, little time was wasted getting started on the damage. We should mention that Arild is a talented hobbyist with several other restorations under his belt. Still, it took guts to take on such a project, and while Arild admits he may have paid slightly more than market value at the time, hindsight shows the investment to be fantastic.
As the car was disassembled, Arild found the damage was more or less as he had initially evaluated-meaning, it wasn't as bad as it appeared. The goal was a concours restoration, which meant finding a few parts that were missing even prior to the fire, including smog equipment, the air cleaner snorkel, the S-tube, and the starter delay. Items lost to the fire included the engine block (a nonmatching 428 that was replaced with a proper date-coded piece), the radiator, the distributor, the valve covers, the fiberglass hood and nose, the console, the upholstery, and the wiring. These parts were all eventually found, including a couple of package deals-one from a fellow parting out a '68 Shelby and another from a guy who'd removed a bunch of rare underhood components some 25 years earlier.
With Arild working on the car nearly seven evenings a week after work, this KR emerged a completely different animal only 18 months after the purchase. Despite a vast personal time commitment, Arild is quick to credit others who were instrumental in the labor: his son Tom, painter Mark Riches, and his friend Rob Charlton. We're amazed that a car could see such damage, and yet at its core, survive so well.
Perhaps the most stunning reclamation is the 140-mph/8,000-rpm instrument cluster, an item Arild figured as a total loss. Amazingly, Gary "the Tachman" at H&H Auto worked magic with the rare combo, and when teamed with an N.O.S. bezel, it looks like new.
That "like new" moniker drips from Arild's now-stunning Shelby, proved by scoring MCA Gold at its debut showing during the '04 Mustang Roundup in Bellevue, Washington. Based on its presentation, judges were shocked to hear that Arild had driven nearly three hours from British Columbia, Canada, but when we went there for our photo shoot, that's exactly what we did-drive! We enjoyed several top-down hours in this Shelby as we scouted for an appropriate site for our images, and we're not kidding when we say this is one of the best running "stock" Cobra Jets we've ever ridden in.
Just this side of a near-death experience, the KR has come through better than ever, with a demeanor that's incredibly smooth and powerful at the same time.
All '68 Shelbys, All The Time!
Arild Thu was plenty savvy to online research and parts gathering when he launched his '68 GT500KR restoration, but when he stumbled onto Pete Disher's Web site at www.thecoralsnake.com, it was like finding the most important piece to the puzzle.
Pete's site is specifically oriented to '68 Shelbys and their restoration, with a specialty focus on the special-paint cars (159 total units, of which 144 were yellow). Data and history are the strong suits of this site.
Arild says that during his restoration, Pete was on overseas deployment supporting the Afghanistan/Iraq conflicts. Despite such duties, Pete was willing to communicate almost daily, making suggestions and advising Arild on the various minutia of the restoration.