Ryan Brutt
September 19, 2018

Every year I head to Detroit for the annual Roadkill Nights event, and stay the week until Woodward Dream Cruise. While there, I put the word out that I’m looking to fill my time with some barn finding shenanigans and things always come out of the woodwork. The 2018 trip was no exception; a friend from the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) show informed me that he had a friend nearby that had a car that had not been on the road basically since 1973. This peaked my interest, and it peaked even higher when he said it was an original owner 1968 Shelby G.T. 500!

If you were a young kid near Detroit, you had a literal smorgasbord of high performance cars to choose from. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the lineup of what is now known as Muscle Cars and Pony Cars was as diverse and unique as it ever had been. A young kid named John, being a Ford guy, went down to Stark Hickey Ford in Royal Oak, Michigan and special ordered something rather unique, a 1968 Shelby G.T. 500 Mustang.

John (who wishes his last name to remain anonymous) had seen an ad for the Shelby Mustang at Stark Hickey in a car magazine around 1967 or early 1968—at the time, you could only order a Shelby Mustang from certain dealerships so he had to make a special trip down to Stark Hickey just to order the Shelby. Back in day, Stark Hickey Ford, or Royal Oak Ford, was one of the dealerships that helped made Woodward Avenue the legend it is today, with a a speed shop that many of the Ford guys used. They also sponsored numerous drag cars through the years, and there were stories that cars would line up right in front of the dealership for racing. When John ordered his Shelby, right on the lot were two Cobra roadsters sitting for sale. Unfortunately, just a few years ago the dealership closed.

In 1968 there was only 1,050 Shelby G.T. 500s were produced, before they changed over to the G.T. 500KR that used the 428 Cobra Jet engine. John’s Shelby was an early car, built with the 428 PI (Police Interceptor) and a 4-speed in Medium Blue Metallic with a black interior. John picked up his car from the dealership as soon as the car was delivered, and almost immediately started street racing the car.

He lived north of Detroit so the street racing wasn’t as prevalent as it was on the famous Woodward or Gratiot Avenues, but there was plenty of fast cars out and about to beat up on. If he or his friends heard about a fast car being a county or two over, they would just drive out there, hunting for the car! The only time John ever went to jail, he had just raced a 396 Camaro. The race was so close that they decided to run again. He pulled into a driveway to turn around, and a cop car blocked him in. After a few words back and forth with the officer, John spent his first and only time in jail.

In the short five years he had the car, John had beaten on it pretty good, but it was still mostly stock, never even installing headers on the car. One time showing off for a friend resulted in the car hitting a light pole, which messed up the rear of the driver’s side quarter a bit, but that was about the worst damage the car had. Back in the day, the car was at a shop in town getting some work done, and someone stole the original carb and air cleaner off the car, but he got proper replacements.

John got drafted and starting in 1973 served two years in the Marines. Before he left he put the car away with a clutch issue, and dug it out when he got home. Instead of inflicting more beatings on the car, he bought a 1973 Dodge Charger with a 318 as a daily driver and the Shelby has been sitting since he put it away in 1973.

This original-owner 1968 Shelby G.T. 500 has sat in this back room of the garage in1973.

John doesn’t have a barn, just a nice house with a garage, but the garage was laid out in a way that there was a back room that could only be accessed if you went through either the standard doorway, or under some shelving. In this back room of the garage was the Shelby. When we saw the car, both my friend and I gasped a little bit. He hadn’t seen the car in probably 15 years, and in that time frame the car had changed. When he had last seen the car it was complete, just rough from its time out on the road. Now it had a partial quarter missing, doors sanded and had studs riveted on to pull out dents, and a lot of parts had removed.

He explained that a few years ago his son had gotten the bug to work on the car, and he didn’t want to impede the young gun’s enthusiasm, allowing him to do whatever he wanted to with the car. The quarter was partially cut off where the pole had done its work and parts were removed to be cleaned or cataloged. The son was just learning how to work on cars, and what better canvas then his father’s Shelby? As things happen, the son got a job on the other side of the state moved so the car has been sitting in a partially disassembled, partially worked on, ramshackle condition ever since.

It wasn’t only the son who took the car apart—at one point the car was rolled outside another barn it was stashed in and somehow the car got completely soaked with water. Most of the original interior was taken out to dry and hadn’t been put back in. Thankfully everything unique on the car is still there, and it is basically sheetmetal work that needs to be done. The original engine and transmission are there, as are all the Shelby parts.

We talked for a few hours and had a blast, but I had a long day ahead and had to depart for more adventures. I thanked John for showing me the Shelby, and I thanked my friend for setting it up. Shock had set in by that time, that I was looking at an original owner 68 Shelby G.T. 500 that had been off the road basically since 1973. How crazy is that?!

If you know of any other cool cars sitting in barns, fields, junkyards, etc. let me know! You can contact me through all my social media, I’m on Instagram @TheAutoArchaeologist, Facebook as The Auto Archaeologist and YouTube as Auto Archaeology. Can’t forget regular old email, TheAutoArchaeologist@yahoo.com

Close up view of the door and damage in the front fenders. Notice the repair work done on the rocker panel stripe. The scoops and rear quarter show what sort of shape the car was in back in the day—this is where the light pole hit the quarter.
The passenger side was in a bit better condition, the most damage was just from rust and age.
Original owner John standing next to the Shelby G.T. 500 he special ordered back in 1968.
The original Shelby VIN tag, with some data left off to protect the owner.
This tag is normally missing, but remains on this car near the passenger side hood bracket mount.
This picture was taken back when the Shelby was still John’s daily driver.
The last registration for the Shelby before it was put away.
John still has the original title to the car, as processed back in 1968.
Can’t go wrong with the original Owner’s Manual for the car, just with some minor wear.
The original license plate for the car, still in mint condition even being 50 years old.
The original Ford VIN tag on the door.
The dash and steering wheel are all that’s left in the interior of the car after everything else got wet. For being 50 years old, the dash and all the pieces are still in good shape.
After getting soaked being outside, the interior was removed and dried out, and never put back in.
The original tail lights are still in good condition, just slightly pitted.
The engine bay is naked with nothing sitting in it, but the engine is just on the other side of the wall. Even being in many Michigan winters, the inner fenders are in good shape and the plastic pieces in the engine compartment are still in good condition after all these years.
The numbers-matching 428 Police Interceptor engine sits on a stand around the corner from the car.
Miscellaneous engine pieces sit on a lower shelf, including the original intake manifold.
Original hub caps for the Shelby are still in good shape as they were not on the car very long.
The 1972 Michigan State Parks sticker still proudly displayed on the passenger side of the windshield.
The original hood for the car was put in primer to keep it from rusting.