1968 GT 500 KR Patina With Pride!
Father-and-son duo wait for their time to come, and their patience paid off—big time
Greg Schimetschek developed an obsession for a certain local 1968 Shelby the minute he laid his teenage eyes on it. You see, the East Haddam, Connecticut, resident just wasn’t used to seeing cars like this muscular Mustang in his travels. “It was a big treat just to see it out; there weren’t many Shelbys around. We only ever saw them in magazines,” says Greg. One thing was for certain—the young, burgeoning car aficionado was not going forget about this particular car too quickly.
Greg was no stranger to Ford’s hot rides. He owned and drove a nice K-code Mustang fastback in high school and was quite fond of muscle rides, hot rods, and wild drag cars as well. But the Shelby-built cars, well, those were the crème de la crème as far as he was concerned.
On his jaunts through neighboring Old Lyme, he would spot this particular Shelby on a regular basis. It wasn’t long before Greg located the car sitting out in front of the owner’s house right there in town. Local resident Ron Purinton had bought the car used from the second owner and liked to drive it regularly. Then the car was parked nightly right in his yard, where curious eyes could easily check it out.
Soon after locating the Shelby in the owner’s yard, Greg started chatting with Ron about his car. The brazen youngster even asked Ron if he would sell the car the first time they met. The answer was a resounding “NO,” the then-smitten Shelby admirer remembers. But Greg forged on, always taking a peek at the Mustang while doing work in town, just keeping an eye on the “for now” out of reach prize.
Greg and his wife, Diana, had son Dean in 1987. “Some of my earliest memories are heading over to Ron’s to look at the car,” says Dean. In 1990 Greg had another chat with Ron about purchasing the car, but still, the car was not for sale. By now Shelbys had hit new heights in the collector-car market, and Ron started covering the car up when not in use to keep the car on the down-low.
The years passed by, and now Dean was turning into a young hot rodder and became just as intrigued with the Shelby as his father already was. The visits to Ron’s house continued, with the same question being asked over and over. It became apparent that the car would never part from Ron’s possession. But the Schimetscheks forged on. Once for fun the duo asked Ron if he would part with it for a million dollars. “No, I don’t think I ever would,” he replied with a grin.
Ron’s stance on the Shelby was certainly solid, so the boys took it in stride. However, they never forgot about the car. “We were in Old Lyme often, so we kept a lookout,” Dean says. In 2014 they stopped by to see how Ron was doing. The car was still under its tarp, and Ron was as solid on his stance as ever. Figuring that Ron would never sell, and even if he did, the car would have a multitude of suitors, Greg and Dean gave up the idea of ever owning the car.
In 2016, Greg received a tip about an early Corvette for sale in Old Lyme. Turns out it was one of Ron’s cars. He had saved a lot of parts from a wrecked Stingray and they were now being put out for sale. Sadly, Ron had recently passed away and his partner Dan was selling the contents of the garage. Greg and Dean bought the hardtop for the Corvette and then started talking about the Shelby. Dan loved the story and the history the twosome had with the car, but he felt it was too early to sell the Mustang. The parties decided to revisit talks in the spring for a possible sale.
They talked over the following months. The biggest concern was that Dan wanted the car to go to an owner who would appreciate the car as much as Ron did. After some thought Dan decided that Greg and Dean would become the Shelby’s next titleholders—if and only if a deal could be reached. A number was put out by Dan and the Schimetscheks accepted. The Shelby was finally coming home with Greg and Dean.
One interesting fact here is that Dean had never seen the car out from under a tarp. And Greg’s glimpses of the car were usually from a good distance, as it had been under that tarp for many years. Imagine their surprise when it was finally unveiled. For years they had thought it was just a G.T. 500. When the KR was finally revealed, the twosome had to hold in their excitement. “I was shocked to see “G.T. 500KR” on the rockers,” admits Dean.
Only manufactured the last three months of production in 1968, the Cobra Jet–powered “King of the Road” was the ultimate Shelby. The VIN was checked and verified that it was a true R-code car. The boys were treated to more great news: “It runs,” says Dan. The car was actually driven right up on the trailer. “Leaving that day with my dad and the Shelby, towing our prize behind us, was one of the greatest moments in my life,” exclaims Dean.
So what did they actually purchase? The 1968 G.T. 500KR convertible was an early production car, built on May 22, 1968, and sold out of Al Grillo Ford in Lynn, Massachusetts. It’s one of 518 convertibles produced. The dealership only lasted for three years, as the owner had supposed ties to the mob. Al mysteriously disappeared in 1971, never to be seen again.
It originally came with a four-speed manual, which was changed to an automatic early in its life (they are sourcing an original Top Loader as we write this). It’s basted in Candyapple Red paint, matched with a black interior and white top. The paint is mostly original and presentable, with a few touch-ups and, of course, some New England rust. But to their advantage, the Shelby has never been restored or taken apart.
The interior is original for the most part, with a ’69 Shelby steering wheel being swapped in before the Schimetscheks bought it. The upholstery is original, and even the seats are in great shape. The born-with Kelsey-Hayes 15x6 wheels are on the car with a fresh set of re-pop Goodyear E70-15 Speedway 350 tires that the new owners installed. These wheels are contrary to the popular 10-spoke aluminum wheels seen on most 1968 Shelbys today, but all ’68-built examples were originally delivered with K-H steel wheels and hubcaps. The car had been riding on a set of Cragars since Greg first laid eyes on it over 40 years ago.
As far as its overall appearance, the sheetmetal is in very good condition for being a car that’s lived its entire life in New England. Winters alone there can take a severe toll on a car’s sheetmetal, with salt and heavy humidity causing havoc on the outer skins. Luckily, this car was stored on a hard surface, where issues are reduced when dealing with extended outdoor storage.
To make it roadworthy, the aforementioned tires were installed. Other needed repairs were a run-through of the brakes and an engine tune-up. It wasn’t long before the twosome had it out at its first local car cruise, showing the locals just what had been stashed right in front of their eyes over the years.
Today Greg and Dean couldn’t be happier. As co-owners of Jeremiah Johnson Trading Company, an antique firearms dealer, the car is always with the twosome and ready to take on the street. So now, as the future keepers of Ron’s beautiful Shelby, the Schimetscheks have adopted Ron’s motto. “Just as he said all those years, we now tell everyone else; the car is not for sale.” We get it, guys. We get it!
Photo GalleryView Photo Gallery
Photography by Scotty Lachenauer