Jerry Heasley
September 18, 2012

Maybe Rich Barnes should play the lottery. He has to be feeling lucky after a man found his business card on the floor of a California auto parts store and gave him a call. It seems Tony Bell had a Shelby he needed to sell and Barnes seemed like a likely buyer. The business card was for Rich's "Mustang Ranch," a one-man Shelby and Mustang business in Golden, Colorado.

Tony called to inquire about Rich's interest in purchasing a 36,000-mile, original paint '69 G.T. 350 that had been parked for years near his horse pens in northern California. Oh, and he also had a '72 Pantera he also wanted to sell. "This would have been right around the end of February or the first part of March of this year," Rich says. "How my business card got out there, I have no idea." More than a businessman, Rich has been collecting Mustangs for more than 30 years. His current collection includes 17 vintage Shelbys and over 50 fastbacks. He was definitely interested in the Shelby and Pantera.

However, the cars were 1,000 miles away in Norco, California. Pictures would be a good starting point but Bell was not computer savvy. When neighbors were unable to email digital images, Rich asked questions by phone, then decided to fly out to California, encouraged by the fact that Tony had owned the cars for nearly 20 years. Norco, Rich discovered, was "a horse town in the desert" and "flipping hot, I can tell you that." He found both cars parked next to horse pens. They had not been driven in six or seven years.

The desert climate kept the cars rust-free. The Shelby's Candyapple Red paint was original but faded from the desert sun, with a primer spot on the driver's door. Under the hood was a numbers-matching 351. Rich was amazed that the engine looked bone-stock with what appeared to be original belts, hoses, clamps, and possibly an original FoMoCo battery. He also spotted a number of interesting decals on the windows--one for Bob Bondurant's driving school, a California state inspection, and some early Shelby club decals.

Tony aired the tires before Rich arrived. Despite the dry rotted rubber with obvious cracks, they held air. What's really amazing is the tires appear to be the original bias ply Goodyears with raised white letters. They are either original or replacement tires from long ago. Tony pitched Rich $17,500 for the Pantera and $27,500 for the Shelby. Barnes countered and got a better deal. He called a transport company to ship the cars back to Colorado. After this improbable Rare Find, Rich is thinking he should call up auto parts stores around the country, send them a stack of business cards, and tell them to drop them on the floor.