It's not uncommon for rare vehicles to surface in a barn or rundown garage, encrusted in decades of dust, itching to be sold for a handsome profit. What is rare, however, is to find a one-owner, 1969 Shelby Mustang GT500 — one of only about 1,000 ever made — resurface in its original condition, fastidiously maintained and never washed for fear of damaging the paint, with only 8,500 miles on the clock.
Larry Brown, a resident of Centre Hall, Pa., passed away on his birthday during the latter part of last year, leaving behind a trove of fascinating items. With no wife or children to inherit his estate, the entire collection — his house, TVs, snow blowers, motorbikes and of course cars — are heading to auction, with the Mustang the star attraction.
Brown purchased the car on May 9, 1969, for $5,245.97. The last recorded warranty work occurred in September that year, when Brown had the door glass adjusted. At that time, the registered mileage was 1,665. By 1973, Brown had stopped driving the car altogether, storing it in his garage with just 8,531 miles on the clock.
According to the auction listing at Ron Gilligan Auctioneers, the GT500, that features a 428 Cobra Jet engine meshed to a 4-speed transmission, still maintains its original paint, tires, belts, hoses, factory steering wheel cover and 1968-dated coded spark plug wires. Vehicles with more miles, in far less original condition, have sold for over $100,000 — offering clues as to how much Brown's GT500 may fetch when it goes under the hammer on April 25.
Internet skeptics, however, have doubted the car's originality, analyzing the pictures for any evident discrepancies. It all started with the barely-worn Goodyear tires, appearing too new for 8,500 miles. This progressed when the keen-eyed pointed out that the tires were 8-digit Goodyear codes, made only during 1970 and '71 — making it impossible for them to be original on a car from 1969. Commenters also questioned the engine's mileage due to the "amount of oil blow by all over (the) front of (the) motor and on (the) valve cover."
This was challenged by Dane Hooper, an individual managing the estate, responding that the residue on the engine "looks like a thin film of undercoating or Cosmoline." This would make sense given Brown's obsession with keeping the car pristine (note the mud flaps to protect the quarter panels and fine wire mesh to keep debris from damaging the radiator). The coating may have been added to prevent corrosion prior to it being stored for 40 years.
After speaking with one of Brown's close friends and mechanic, Hooper clarified that the tires were indeed changed due to the original's inability to stay balanced for more than 500 miles. The front two tires were replaced under warranty with the rears being switched some time later. The production line wheels, however, remain original.
According to Hooper, the car was maintained by Brown even when he wasn't driving it — firing the motor as recently as three years ago. It was known throughout the neighborhood that, when Brown did drive his Shelby from 1969 to 1972, he refused to drive it in the rain or even hose wash it for fear of rust: "If this car has been hose washed," the listing states, "it probably occurred at the detail bay of the selling dealer before delivery."
A car as special as this deserves to be driven. But when the hammer falls next month, those set to benefit from the sale might be thrilled Brown kept it dry.