|By John Underhill, July 5, 2003
"I was the program chairman for the South Bend Region of the Sports Car Club (SCCA) of America and it was my responsibility to get a speaker for the monthly meetings. It is 1967 and Carroll Shelby is working with Ford Motor Co. to sell the fabulous Cobras and 350GT Mustangs. I called the Shelby District Manger (DM) and asked him if he would attend our monthly meeting and give a talk. He accepted and told me he was driving a street version of the GT40 and he would have it available for viewing. What a deal.
Since I had a slot car racing center, we made arrangements for the GT40 to be on display during the day of the meeting, which was a Friday. That afternoon the Shelby DM received a call and was told Carroll was calling an unscheduled meeting and he was to catch the next available flight after the SCCA meeting. He asked me if I would take care of the car and take it to Romy Hammes Ford on Monday morning. I assured him I could work that into my schedule.
We were to leave for the SCCA meeting at about 6pm and I was to get my driving lesson on the way to the meeting. After all, I had to drive the car to the airport and then home and I was told to feel free to drive it during the weekend. Someone had to do it, why not me? A heavy rain storm hit about 6pm and it was decided to postpone the driving lesson until the drive from the meeting to the airport. The DM drove to the meeting.
The meeting went well. When we left for the airport we were running close on time and the rain has turned to a downpour. He drove and my driving lesson became verbal. I remember there were five steps to the starting procedure. They went something like this ... turn on electrical system, fuel pump, ignition, hit the starter button and hang on. The other instructions were not to foul the plugs and if I get a flat, call him. We switched seats and he ran into the airport. The best part is the fact that it was right hand drive and the shift lever is to the right of the driver. Just getting in was a challenge.
The car is right in front of the airport entrance and a crowd has gathered plus more inside looking out the windows, at this beautiful and unique automobile. It is still a downpour, but the crowd remains. I really wanted to sit until the weather clears but that didn't seem to be an option. Something to do with ego and the show must go on. I remembered how to get it started and where the lights and wiper switches were. Due to potential fouling of the plugs I kept "winging" the engine. The crowd loved it. So did I. I brought the revs up, let the clutch out slightly and away we went. Thank God I didn't kill the engine. I felt like I had just won the 24 hours of LeMans.
I went straight home and put the GT40 in the garage. How many people put a GT40 in their garage that night? What a feeling. The next morning I awoke about 5am, gave me and the GT40 a bath and went for a drive. That morning that GT40 went 140 mph southbound on US31 south of South Bend, In. It got turned around, did it again (northbound) and returned to my garage. It never left again until Monday morning for the trip to Romy Hammes Ford. Many friends came over to see the car, but it never left the garage.
It is time to take the car to Romy Hammes Ford. The trip was uneventful except for one police officer. This car had the spaghetti exhaust system (just like the race version) and a small glasspack muffler on each of the banks before they existed out the rear of the car. Just enough to say, "it has mufflers, your honor." To avoid fouling the plugs I continued to wing the engine every time I got stopped at a stop light. As luck would have it a cop was behind me and we got stopped by a light. The police officer stayed behind me until I stopped at my slot car racing center. He pulled in behind me. Turns out he is a car nut and just wanted to see the car. He totally understood the fouling plug issue and thought the car sounded good, albeit a little loud. After checking something at the store I went on to Romy Hammes Ford and reluctantly turned the car over to them.
That was a fun weekend for me and I appreciate the opportunity of sharing it with you. I thank Jerry Hammes for creating this web site for all of us to enjoy."
Additional Shelby related information can be found
Click "1962 - 2003 Carroll Shelby"
Click "1969 GT 500"
BELOW... A labor of love by Victor Antkowiak. Soon to be ready for many to envy. April 6, 2004.