A man and his Shelby G.T. 350—51 years on
“We grew up as farmers,” Jim Walsh’s letter begins. Living in a rural part of Maryland, Jim and his older brother Tom learned to drive with a 1946 Chevy “field car” with a three-on-the-tree, procrastinating hoeing corn and other farm duties to feed their burgeoning automotive hunger.
This was in the early 1960s and the boys didn’t know much about cars, but the spark was there—all they needed was a match to start the fire. That came in the summer of 1964 when a salesman selling magazines, mainly Hot Rod, stopped by the farm. Jim says, “My brother and I convinced my father to subscribe, and I still have all those magazines. In reading the articles, we discovered who Carroll Shelby was. He was building Cobras and was going to build Shelby Mustangs.”
By 1965 Jim had owned several cars, and with his brother Tom he built a 14×28-foot garage with a pit using lumber the boys cut with their own sawmill on the farm. They had gotten into a little street and drag racing, and when the Hertz Rent-A-Racer G.T. 350H cars came out, Jim realized that he was too young to rent one, but he knew that one day soon he would own a ’66 Shelby of some sort. Before finding the right car, he even stocked up on Shelby accessories from friend Rick Walker who worked at the local Ford dealer.
By 1967, with enough money in his pocket from working on the farm and in a machine shop for $2.00 an hour, the guys began the search for a ’66 Shelby G.T. 350, watching the newspapers, dealerships, and used car lots. He says, “One evening we stopped at Schmit Ford in Baltimore, Maryland, and mulled over about 30 1966 Hertz rental cars—all were black with gold stripes. We lifted the hoods on all the cars, and some had 715-cfm Holleys while others had Ford [Autolite] carburetors. Some had aluminum high-rise intakes and others had stock cast-irons. These Shelbys had come from Washington, D.C., but I still was not looking for a rental car.”
He soon changed his mind but just lost out on a black Hertz car at a dealership in nearby Hanover, Pennsylvania, after having watched it for several months. By the time Jim and Tom decided to pull the trigger and buy the car, it had already been sold to Dickie Poole from Westminster, Maryland, who went on to own that car for 40 years. About the car, Jim says, “This summer of 2018, I met three people pertaining to this Hertz Shelby. The first was Buddy Bream, the owner of the car lot and the person that sold the car over 50 years ago. The second was Gary Taylor, who hauled corn for Poole and often used the Shelby as a shuttle to get home. The third was a gentleman that remembers seeing the Shelby sitting at the Top Hat Restaurant along Rte. 140 in Westminster, one of the local hangouts in the early ’70s.”
Sometime after missing the black Shelby, Jim was still scanning the papers; he came across an ad in The Baltimore Sun for ’66 and ’67 Shelbys at Schmidt Ford in Baltimore, so with his brother Tom they went to check them out, saying, “To our surprise, inside the dealership was a brand-new white 427 Cobra for sale for $7,200, but this farm boy was not spending all his money in one place. The car we came to look at was also on the show room floor, not knowing at the time this was the last ’66 Shelby that was shipped to Archway Ford in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 22, 1966. I still have the advertisement from The Baltimore Sun newspaper.”
The car was the Ivy Green 1966 Shelby G.T. 350 (#SFM6S2335) you see here. Jim says, “When I saw the stripe-delete Shelby, I knew it was going to be mine. The salesman said it had been traded in on a new Bronco and had less than 3,000 miles on it—I still have the salesman’s card. He said it was the hottest car in town, and we told him, ‘We don’t think so,’ since we had just driven there in a 1960 Falcon with a big-block 427 FE.”
Without even taking a testdrive, Jim plunked down $200 to hold the car (he was too young to buy it without parental permission), and the next day he returned with his father and a treasurer’s check and bought the car. “I still have my half of the check and the bill of sale,” Jim tells us. That was on March 19, 1968. Back on the farm, “the chickens had to go” to make room for the Shelby, which took up residence in the chicken house.
With other cars to drive, the Shelby was only driven on weekends and in good weather. The original owner had installed 4.57:1 gears in it (street racer anyone?), but Jim at one time had used the car as a truck, hauling a 427 block in the trunk, which completely ruined the original gas tank. In 1969 he sent the supercharger back to Joe Granatelli at Paxton and had new ball bearings installed, and at the same time he added the white Le Mans stripes over the Ivy Green paint.
When his younger brother Steve crashed his ’63 Falcon (with a Boss 302 engine from their older brother), Jim let him have the Shelby, but he kept the supercharger for “when he gets tired of the car.” Steve Walsh drag-raced the Shelby up into the late ’70s at the local tracks—York US30 Dragway in Pennsylvania, 75-80 Drag-A-Way, and Mason-Dixon Dragway in Maryland—running a best of 12.86 at 106 mph. “The Shelby still has the remains of the two hitches from flat-towing,” Jim says.
The Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC), having been formed in 1975, began to grow, and the guys took their G.T. 350 to their first SAAC convention in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, in 1979. In 1984 they repainted the car, and later on they pulled the engine and detailed the engine bay, reinstalling the Paxton supercharger for concours shows. Jim had always thought about contacting the car’s original owner, saying, “After 26 years, I looked through the phone book and found him. I called and got him on the first try. We agreed to meet with the Shelby at the Big “M” car show in Bel Air, Maryland, and when he saw it, he said the car looked better than new and had thought that the car probably ended up in a junkyard. I asked him about the Paxton supercharger and he said it was dealer-installed when new in 1966, and that the mechanic was Charles Engle. I gave [Engle] a phone call and he remembered that ‘the owner was very particular, and it took all day.’ Six months later, the original-owner’s wife called and said they found the original window sticker and bill of sale and mailed them to us. A few months after that, they sent us a new set of lug nuts.”
In 1989 Jim and his wife drove the car to SAAC 14 in Pocono, Pennsylvania, with their newborn daughter, Shannon; she was less than six weeks old, riding in the back seat. With parts from Brant Halterman at Virginia Classic Mustang and Tony Branda, the car was looking good, but there was one thing missing: the Archway Ford badge. “I spent a year looking in junkyards and flea markets with no success,” Jim says. “I decided to call Archway since they were still in business and talked to a salesman about the badge. He said he had a couple in his desk and to be there before 5 p.m. if I wanted one of them. Since I put the badge back on the car it has drawn a lot of attention. I have met a lot of people that have worked or bought cars at Archway Ford, and at the Cars & Coffee they call it the ‘Archway car.’”
After joining the Mustang Club of America (MCA), the Walsh family started showing the car in the Trailered Concours class, earning a Gold award at their first national show in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1992. The car had less than 78,000 miles on it. In 1993 Jim put the Shelby up on blocks to detail the underside, and that year he also got to make hot laps with Carroll Shelby himself in Rick Kopec’s R-model Shelby at SAAC 18 at Watkins Glen. “Carroll said he wanted to give me a ride to remember,” relates Jim.
Since then, Jim and the Shelby have attended all of the major SAAC and Mustang events, bagging trophies along the way. In 2015, with all the awards under the car’s belt, Jim turned it into a cruiser and driver, saying, “We installed a new Tremec five-speed thanks to Conover Racing and Restoration. The Shelby was 50 years old with 86,000 miles on the original 289 numbers-matching engine, which had yet to be taken apart.”
The next year, the 289 went through a complete rebuild by Mark Small Machine in Westminster, Maryland, and at 6,300 rpm and 4 psi of boost from the Paxton, it made 408 hp. Jim says, “We put new life into an old car. The body has always been rust- and dent-free and never taken apart or restored, with only one repaint. The Shelby has all the special Shelby components original to the car right down to the radiator, fan, and the Goodyear Blue Streak spare tire. I still have all the paperwork, including the Manufacturer Statement of Origin, original window sticker, and bills of sales. Six months after the rebuild, we drove the Shelby 3,400 miles.”
The car has spent its entire life in Maryland, save for the weekend jaunts with Jim’s autistic 27-year-old son, JR, often riding shotgun. “My mother is 93 years old,” Jim says, “and still lives on the same farm. We still use our homebuilt garage with a pit that we built as teenagers.”
“After 50 years and 98,000 thrilling miles, I want to thank Carroll Shelby for a teenage dream come true,” Jim says, continuing, “Special thanks to Tony Conover, a personal friend for the past 41 years, and thanks to the Shelby American Auto Club, Chuck Cantwell, Howard Pardee, Greg Kolasa, and Rick Kopec for making Shelby Mustangs what they are today.”
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