Technically, it is a 1966 Shelby GT350 Fastback with an original stoplight red paint job and a high performance motor designed by the father of the American muscle car movement.
But in reality, this car is much more: It’s the type of machine that car buffs thought existed only in bar room babbling or in the grimy gossip of a gearhead garage.
“This is why car guys are forever chasing cars,” said Richard Sevenoaks, owner of Tulsa-based Leake Auction Co., which specializes in selling classic autos. “If some guy says he has a Corvette out in the field, you have to go look at it. You are always looking for the Holy Grail, but for most guys it never pans out.”
Maybe fields aren’t the place to look. How about the garage of a Lawrence apartment complex? One off Four Wheel Drive, no less.
“I don’t think this car has seen the sunlight for 26 years,” said Peter Pratt, a Houston attorney who took possession of the apartment complex and its garage as part of a lawsuit involving a $600,000 ruling by a Texas court against one-time Lawrence residents Rex and Gail Youngquist.
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It was in January when Pratt got an email from the property manager of his newly acquired complex. There was a garage full of junk — actually the “debris of life” is how the property manager described it. Old skis. Junk tools. The type of stuff you would expect to find in that corner of the basement you never visit.
Beneath it all was this car.
A quick check of its outdated license plate and its VIN confirmed that the car belonged to Gail Youngquist. A Texas court had appointed Pratt as the receiver of Youngquist’s property to satisfy a legal judgment related to improper oil drilling in the state. Long story short, Pratt has a car to do something with.
Pratt admits that he’s not exactly a car buff, but he knew it was something special. The folks at Lawrence’s Hillcrest Wrecker went to remove it from the garage. When they saw it, they told the property manager it couldn’t be stored at the Hillcrest lot. Too much liability.
So Pratt told them to bring it to Houston when they got the chance. It was there the next day.
“It’s a real rare car,” said Gary Bennett, of Lawrence’s Laird Noller Ford and an avid Mustang collector. “A Shelby is definitely one of the most collectible American cars out there. There is no question about that.”
Pratt had it dropped off at a friend’s garage. The mechanic put new fluids in the car, a new battery, and air in the tires. It fired right up.
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The Houston attorney began doing a little research. There was a service book that showed the car had its oil changed at a Conoco station in 1976. It had about 84,000 miles on it at the time. It now has 87,000 miles on it, and based on the dates of its lapsed registration, Pratt believes it hadn’t been moved from the garage in 26 years.
“This is one of the more interesting ones I’ve found, and when you live the life of a receiver, you find some pretty interesting ones,” Pratt said.
Sevenoaks, the auctioneer, is scheduled to complete the story next week. The car will be sold at a classic car auction in San Antonio on Saturday. He has placed a conservative auction estimate of $80,000 on the vehicle.
But you never know until the hands start going up in the air. Pratt won’t be shocked if it goes higher than that. The car is rare in a way other than being that mythical “barn find,” as such stories are known in the collector-car world.
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This car is a Shelby that was sold to Hertz, who used it as part of a “Rent-a-Racer” program, which allowed people to rent a hot rod on Friday, take it to the track all weekend and bring it back on Monday.
Only about 1,000 of those special Hertz Shelbys were produced. And nearly all of them were painted in a black-and-gold scheme. Only a few came in the red and white. Pratt has found one document that suggests only 50 were painted in that scheme.
Sevenoaks doesn’t know. He just knows he has never seen one. Bennett, at Laird Noller, has a valuation book that lists a pristine black-and-gold Hertz Shelby going for as much as $220,000. Even a middle-of-the-line model can go for about $100,000.
While Bennett is looking up those numbers, someone points out that the car all these years had been sitting off Four Wheel Drive. That is within eyesight of almost every major auto dealership in Lawrence, including one operated by Bennett.
Huh, isn’t life funny?
“Yeah,” Bennett says. “That would have been a good one to find.”
What else can you say?