I was not new to Shelby Mustangs back in 1982. By then, I had been a machinist for 17 years in my home state of Maryland, and I owned a 1966 G.T. 350 (SFM6S2335). I’d been saving to fund another 1966 Shelby Mustang. The search began and a coworker, Steve Cox, showed me an advertisement for a ’66 Shelby in The Baltimore Sun newspaper. I made the phone call and got the original owner’s wife. She said she had 50 calls on the car, and that she thought it was sold. I asked if a guy from Pennsylvania by the name of Wayne Conover bought the Shelby. She said she thought so. I knew Wayne and was waiting at his house when he got home with the Shelby. He said it was too good of a deal to pass up, but if I wanted the car, I could have it for what he paid.
Wayne and I had been going to the Performance Ford Show at Ricart Ford and National Trails Raceway in Columbus, Ohio, for the previous several years, and our next annual trip was coming up in a couple of weeks. Wayne said his son, Tony, wanted to take the ’66 Wayne had just acquired out to the show and make a few passes down the track. I told Wayne, if I didn’t see anything at the show, I would take the car when we got back. I didn’t find anything, so I bought that ’66 G.T. 350. This was October of 1982.
The car was SFM6S737, and when I got it, it was all black and lettered, set up for drag racing with gold anodized wheels. It had run in the high 11-second bracket in the quarter-mile, yet it was still a numbers-matching four-speed car. The Shelby had been raced mostly at Cecil County and Capitol Raceway, both in Maryland.
I ran it on the street just the way it was raced for two years. It was a good 7,000-rpm high-gear car. Finally, in 1984, I decided to restore it, and naturally I turned to my friend Wayne’s Cobra Ranch for the job. They stripped the black paint to find that it was originally red with white stripes. We had to replace the quarters because they had been cut to fit the drag slicks, and restored it to the factory color scheme.
Once it was complete, we started showing the car and, in 1987, we drove the Shelby to SAAC-12, the Shelby American Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, making the trip through several rain storms with 4.11 gears and loud pipes. Then, in 1989, we drove to SAAC-14 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. My daughter, Shannon—our new pride and joy at the time—was less than six weeks old and riding along in the back seat. We were traveling out Interstate 80 and heading off our exit when we ran out of gasoline. Fortunately, we were able to drift up to the stop sign and then push the car across the street to a gas station.
We continued attending SAAC events as the years went on, though we started trailering the car. We attended SAAC- 15 in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1990, and SAAC-16 in Charlotte in 1991. That same year, we joined the Mustang Club of America (MCA) and started showing our green Shelby (6S2335) in the trailered concours.
In 1994, we had the green Shelby in the concours at SAAC-19 Indianapolis, and while we were at the convention, I got to drive Tony Conover’s ’66 Shelby (6S008) on the road course. I’d been familiar with road racing for years. Back in 1979 at SAAC-4, Wayne had purchased the 1966 Mustang Trans-Am car originally driven by Tom Yeager Jim Walsh with his then year-old daughter Shannon in 1990, at SAAC-15 in Dearborn, Michigan, showing the restored Shelby. Today Shannon occasionally drives the G.T. 350. and Bob Johnson. By SAAC-8 in Dearborn, he had the #34 sedan restored to race ready. We had trailered the car out and ran the High Speed Event held on Ford’s proving grounds track. Wayne was driving and I was riding shotgun. I remember holding onto the rollbar and watching the 200-mph speedometer climb up to 180 on the straights and hold 150 in the turns. We were the second fastest car there, only slower than Lee Wilmot in the 5R108 “R” model. But it was the experience of driving at SAAC-19 that really got me hooked on vintage racing.
I made the decision to set up my red ’66 G.T. 350 for road racing, which meant I had a year to get it ready for the next convention. Tony and I got the car converted to SVRA specs and then both successfully completed the three-day competition course with the Skip Barber Racing School at Summit Point, West Virginia.
Then, in 1995, we trailered the car to SAAC-20 in Atlanta for the High Speed Event, and the following year we took it to SAAC-21 at Lime Rock in Connecticut for our first vintage race. Tony drove the car a couple sessions. While I was on the grid-setting lap, the engine dropped a valve and put us out of the race.
We got into a pattern of showing the green Shelby (6S2335) at the MCA Nationals and racing the red car (6S737) with the SVRA. We trailered and ran the vintage races at many of the SAAC conventions to follow and ran the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in 2006.
We also raced with the SVRA at tracks including Summit Point, Pocono, Watkins Glen, and Beaver Run Motorsport in Pennsylvania. In 1996, Gary Barnes, whose Thunderbolt was featured on the cover of the January 2013 issue of HMM, #113, was my SVRA “big brother;” in 1997, Curt Vogt of Cobra Automotive was my big brother.
It was 2007 when we trailered to Virginia International Raceway for the 50th Anniversary Gold Cup Historic Race. At that event, on the grid-setting lap, we barrel-rolled the car a couple times. The car was significantly damaged, and, naturally, our racing was over for that weekend.
We shipped the car to Doug Richmond’s shop in Newark, Delaware, to begin the process of repairing it. The Shelby required 109 hours of frame straightening. Howard Pardee, the registrar of 1965 and ’66 G.T. 350s for SAAC, stopped in at Doug’s to see how the project was progressing. We gave the body a year to stress relieve itself, then tweaked it for proper fit. Conover Racing & Restoration then completed a concours restoration.
In 2011, our goal was to have the car finished for SAAC-36 at VIR, the same track where we destroyed the car four years before. Our goal was met. We had a like-new Candy Apple Red 1966 G.T. 350 for the concours, and were awarded a gold the first time out. We showed at SAAC-37 Watkins Glen in 2012 and SAAC-40 at Pocono in 2015, and also received second place in the popular vote.
We have showed at MCA Nationals several times. In 2018, we received our Senior Grand National award from the Antique Auto Club of America (AACA).
In summary, 6S737 has been drag raced, street raced, and vintage road raced. It has had three restorations and has even retained all of its original sheetmetal, except for two sets of quarter panels. The original front fenders hung in the garage for 16 years while the car was being raced (so they were spared the rollover crash). The G.T. 350 has all the unique Shelby components original to the car, as well as the numbers- matching engine. It has received the concours Crown Jewels from the “big three” (SAAC, MCA, and AACA).
Now 6S737 is getting ready to be street driven again to start adding some miles to its original 40,000. The car has spent its whole life in Maryland, except for its weekend trips. My 27-year-old son, J.R., has autism, and he rides shotgun everywhere we go. He will never drive a car. I never leave home without him. He gets to ride all the time, and we get to make a lot of new friends. For the last several years, we have annually logged more than 9,000 miles in our Shelbys. Shannon moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, but when she visits, we pair up to drive a couple Shelbys to our local Cars & Coffee that gathers every Saturday morning, all year round.
[Author’s note: A special thanks to Tony Conover, a personal friend for the past 41 years. A thanks to Carroll Shelby for making the cars, and thanks to the Shelby American Auto Club, Chuck Cantwell, Howard Pardee, Greg Kolasa, and Rick Kopec for making the 1966 Shelby G.T. 350s what they are today.]
Do you have photos from “back in the day” of your muscle car(s) and an interesting story to write? It’s high school English class assignment time: Submit your images, memories and contact information to Muscle Car Scrapbook, c/o Hemmings Muscle Machines, attention: Terry McGean, P.O. Box 2000, Bennington, Vermont 05201, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.