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When it comes to Ford muscle cars of the '60s, nothing beats a Ford product with the name “Shelby” attached to it. From Carroll Shelby’s ready-to-race Cobras to the iconic Mustangs emblazoned with his moniker, these raucous rides have not only become top-tier collector grade muscle, but they have etched out a permanent mark in world-wide racing history.
Yes, they are still out there. Greg and Dean Schimetschek are father and son gearheads who have a thing for Shelby products. They scored this fully documented 1966 GT350 after hearing about it through a friend.
Though many discoveries of packed away or forgotten collector cars have come to light over the past few years with the barn find craze, there always seem to be new ones popping up weekly. Case in point is this amazing 1966 Shelby GT350, found and purchased in Connecticut by a father-son team of auto enthusiasts, Greg and Dean Schimetscek of Haddam, Connecticut.
“We scored the Shelby by luck basically. Dad and I knew about the Shelby for years, but the owner, Noel Benoit, was never ready to sell. We talked to him about four years ago, after finding out about the Shelby through a friend. My dad recently found his number and called him on a whim. Benoit hinted he might be ready to let the car go, so we headed over there ASAP to check it out, “ according to Dean.
The Shelby was originally purchased by Noel Benoit after he had returned from a Vietnam tour. After narrowly missing out on being traded in for a 1968 Shelby, the GT350 was socked away in the mid-to-late 1970s for a restoration that wasn't completed.
Let’s go back to September 1966. Benoit had just recently returned from Vietnam and was eager to upgrade from his 1965 Mustang coupe. He went down to Williams Ford in nearby West Hartford, Connecticut and traded in his used pony plus cash for this Candy Apple Red GT350. It’s an interesting build, with Noel opting for a four-speed car but with no stripe. The only other option was the fold down rear seat. At that time, Williams Ford had three Shelbys in stock, with one featuring the iconic 10-spoke wheels. He told the dealership he would purchase the Shelby if, and only if, they exchanged these upgraded wheels and installed them on his car. They agreed.
Benoit ended up going back to the dealer in 1968 with his Shelby, trying to make a deal on a new GT500. That deal fell through, but the proposed purchase paperwork stayed with the car. Interesting fact is that Benoit’s Shelby is actually titled in his mother’s name. The reason is not known, but it could have been possibly to get around insurance costs at the time.
Over the past 40 years, this particular Shelby was put up on blocks, and then used as a storage closet. Though it was partially disassembled, every needed part was found after a detailed search of the garage and adjacent building.
Once the Schimetschek’s arrived, they found the car embedded in the typical stuff you would normally store in your garage. It had become a table, a shelf and a storage unit while it lay dormant over the years, so a little digging was needed to get to the car for inspection. However, that was only the half of it. “The car was brought into the garage sometime in the mid to late '70s (last registration was 1974). A restoration on the car was started, but the process stalled around 1980. A lot of the parts were now off the car, so now the challenge was to make sure everything important part needed for the reconstruction was there,” Dean said.
Before they started the tedious task of reclaiming all the parts, the parties involved agreed on a price. Once that was accomplished, the guys began hunting down everything that would bring this Shelby back to life. “The car was up on blocks in his garage with the hood and windshield resting on the roof. The doors and several parts were buried throughout the garage. The front fenders, which are NOS Ford replacements, were upstairs. The wheels were stacked in the basement, along with the exhaust, original Ray Brown lap belts in a bag in his living room, and the illusive original Cobra tachometer and racing mirror were finally found hidden in a cabinet.”
Original owner Noel Benoit disassembled the Shelby in hopes of returning it to its original glory. He got much of the work done and was in the process of reassembly. The interior needs to be put back together, but much of the upholstery is in excellent condition.
More good news came through a rigorous inspection of the Shelby carcass. “The Hi-Po 289 Cobra engine, aluminum case Borg Warner T10 transmission, and 9-inch rear end are all original to the car. All Shelby components are original – hood, side scoops, rear quarter windows, steering wheel, lap belts, tach, valve covers, intake, oil pan, export brace, Monte Carlo bar, traction bars, etc. The interior upholstery – seats, door panels, headliner, and dash pad are original unrestored. Original dated Hi-Po radiator is there, and the exhaust is NOS. For the most part any replacement parts Benoit bought for the car forty-years ago were either original pieces or actual Ford replacements”, states Dean.
This Shelby still has its original Hi-Po 289 Cobra engine intact, along with the original T10 transmission and 9-inch rear.
Now the needy Shelby is back at the Schimetschek’s home garage, and it is in good company. “We have a GT500KR we purchased locally a few years back, along with a built up 1965 clone, made up of original Shelby parts,” said Dean. It will take some time, but the guys know this stunning Shelby is worth the effort.
“The car has been verified by the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) and documentation includes the original dealer invoice, pre-delivery sheet, owner's manual, loan agreement from 1966, and last registration from 1974. My dad Greg has spent the last forty-plus years trying to find his old red ‘65 K-Code Fastback he had as a kid without any luck so I’m happy to see him land in this. Plans are to just put it together and drive.”
Hard-to-find parts for the Shelby, from the 10-spoke wheels to the Shelby-specific belts by Ray Brown, and especially the Cobra-specific tachometer and Rotunda racing mirror, are all present and accounted for.