Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
November 8, 2010
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

'68 Shelby GT500KR Imagine, if you can, being 16 years old in 1968 and owning a Shelby GT500KR. Steve Fowler doesn't have to imagine it; he lived it. And now he's living it again after getting the car back, once again as a birthday gift, in 2006.

The son of Raleigh businessman Maylon H. Fowler, Steve was a couple of months shy of his 16th birthday in July 1968. With a learner's permit in his wallet, he drove his mother to Sanders Motor Company in Raleigh for warranty work on her Ford. While wandering through the showroom, Steve got his first look at the brand-new GT500KR.

"I didn't know what a Shelby was," Steve tells us. "The general manager, Mr. Rice, was one of my father's friends, so I found him and asked him about the car. He told me it was a special edition and how fast it was. And he said, 'That's the car you need for your 16th birthday. I'll work on your father for you.'"

Not only did Mr. Rice "work on" Steve's father, he drove the car to the Fowler home and left it. "We got it in July and kept it right into August," Steve recalls. "I would drive it to play summer baseball; my mother would ride with me because I only had a learner's permit. I was real concerned about somebody hitting the car with a foul ball."

But as Steve's September birthday neared, his father had second thoughts about putting a Cobra Jet-powered Shelby into the hands of a 16-year-old. "He was afraid I would kill myself," Steve says. "So he told me he wasn't going to let me keep the car and made me drive it back to the dealership. But Mr. Rice told me, 'I want you to have this car. Let me work on your dad a little more.'"

Just days after turning 16, Steve borrowed his father's '63 Thunderbird for his first real date. When he got to the girl's house, she told him he needed to call his mother. Steve remembers, "She told me, 'You need to come back home, your dad wants his Thunderbird back. He's going to give you something else to drive.' Steve thought it would be his father's old pickup truck. Instead, the GT500KR was waiting on him.

For the next four years, through high school and into college, Steve drove his red GT500KR. He remembers that most people didn't know about Shelbys, especially the GT500KR. He kept Shelby literature in the console glovebox so inquirers could read for themselves about the "King of the Road." He drove the Shelby to school, dropping off his brothers at their schools on the way, and on weekend evenings he would cruise Shoney's and Hardees in downtown Raleigh, dodging both the police and stoplight challengers.

"I had to be particular because the law really watched that red Shelby," Steve remembers. "And people tried to race me all the time. I was tempted but my dad had told me that if I ever got caught racing, the car was gone." Steve has some great stories-yes, he did get into a few races-about driving a GT500KR as a teenager (see "Tales of the KR").

In 1972, Steve sold the Shelby, with 46,000 miles so he could buy a Lincoln Mark IV. He got married and went to work with his father before starting his own successful contracting businesses. By then, the KR was little more than a fond memory.

In 2006, Steve's brother called to tell him that his old Shelby was on TV. "It was a re-run of an RM auction in Monterey, California," Steve says. "When the car came across the auction block, the announcer said, 'This car was originally owned by Maylon H. Fowler Trucking Company in Raleigh, North Carolina.'"