Classic Recollections: Shelby once used to haul lumber, kayaks

 
 
Updated 11/26/2018 7:25 AM
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  • 1966 Shelby Mustang G.T. 350H

    1966 Shelby Mustang G.T. 350H Photos Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • Steve and his brother began restoring the car in 1998. The overhaul was completed in 2010.

    Steve and his brother began restoring the car in 1998. The overhaul was completed in 2010.

  • Steve and his brother began restoring the car in 1998. The overhaul was completed in 2010.

    Steve and his brother began restoring the car in 1998. The overhaul was completed in 2010.

  • Steve could regularly be found racing at Capitol Raceway in Crofton, Maryland. His best quarter-mile time was a 15.08 at 93 mph.

    Steve could regularly be found racing at Capitol Raceway in Crofton, Maryland. His best quarter-mile time was a 15.08 at 93 mph.

  • Steve and his brother began restoring the car in 1998. The overhaul was completed in 2010.

    Steve and his brother began restoring the car in 1998. The overhaul was completed in 2010.

  • The car has been driven across country three times and to the Bonneville Salt Flats twice, but as a "spectator, not contestant" in the high-speed runs.

    The car has been driven across country three times and to the Bonneville Salt Flats twice, but as a "spectator, not contestant" in the high-speed runs.

The now legendary Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont just celebrated a major milestone: 10 years of putting on one of the country's best car show experiences. Each year, organizers continue to raise the bar in delivering a world-class event, containing some of the rarest and most desirable muscle rides on the planet.

I got to relish in it all weekend long, being invited on-site as a featured author. Part of those perks included being a Celebrity Judge and awarding my pick of the show. It was no easy task, given the hundreds of gleaming machines worthy of spotlights. However, in the end, I was struck by this vehicle's story, full of odd and unusual elements.

When I heard phrases like "lumber on the roof rack," "over 200,000 miles" and "Shelby Mustang," I was hooked and smitten.

Steve and Dorrie McDonald of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, exhibited their 1966 Shelby Mustang Nov. 17 and 18 at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, where it earned Matt Avery's pick as Best in Show.
Steve and Dorrie McDonald of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, exhibited their 1966 Shelby Mustang Nov. 17 and 18 at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, where it earned Matt Avery's pick as Best in Show. -

The car in question, a 1966 G.T. 350H, belongs to Steve and Dorrie McDonald, who came to Illinois from Chesapeake, Maryland, to show their special Shelby. As a 21-year-old man, Steve purchased the car in December of 1971. The previous owner's wife was pregnant again and they decided it wasn't family friendly anymore, so they sold it to Steve for $1,000.

There was some door dings and it needed a new bumper and valance -- Steve was in prime position to not only get parts, but care for the car. He was a repair technician at Bert Spriggs Lincoln-Mercury in Annapolis, Maryland, giving him ties to order Ford parts, too. He would need those connections, as for the next 40-plus years he thoroughly enjoyed the classic and got more than his money's worth out of the rare vehicle.

The car was used as Steve's daily driver for many years, and he has put most of its 240,000 miles on the odometer.
The car was used as Steve's daily driver for many years, and he has put most of its 240,000 miles on the odometer. -

Beyond being a daily driver, Steve had no qualms about long road trips. "Anywhere I felt like driving, I'd go," he said. All told, he's logged nearly 240,000 miles, crisscrossing 38 states on multiple occasions.

There was the whim when he and his brother, Brian, jumped in and drove to California. Once there, Steve bought a hang glider and shipped it back. When it arrived, Steve swung by an Army surplus store, bought $19 roof racks, slapped them (and the glider) on top the Shelby and took flight to areas like the Outer Banks in North Carolina to take to the skies.

"The racks came in handy," Steve said. "If I needed two-by-fours or was going kayaking, I'd throw it all up there. If stuff didn't fit on top, I'd roll down the windows and let it hang out. That's how I usually got my Christmas trees home."

Back in 1974, Steve had the chance to trade $3,500 and his 350H for a real deal Shelby Cobra. "I turned it down because it didn't have a roof or heater," said Steve, chuckling. "That car just sold four years ago for $1.4 million."
Back in 1974, Steve had the chance to trade $3,500 and his 350H for a real deal Shelby Cobra. "I turned it down because it didn't have a roof or heater," said Steve, chuckling. "That car just sold four years ago for $1.4 million." -

He wasn't alone in his Shelby shenanigans. In 1977, Steve met his future wife, Dorrie.

"The guy I was dating was crazy for Shelbys," recalled Dorrie, who asked Steve to borrow the car to show him. "Surprisingly, Steve said yes! But in the end, he got the girl."

Beyond the love of his life, Steve also got another Shelby, buying it in 1979. "We bought it from a church friend and for a while we had a 'his and hers' thing,' " said Steve. He, Dorrie and the pair of black beauties made it to a few car shows but after having just borrowed money from his mom for a house down payment, they sold it in 1980 to repay the family loan.

"I knew from the start, it was something I always wanted to keep," said Steve, reflecting on his sweetheart steed. "My future plans include nothing but more driving."

• Matt Avery's book can be purchased at COPOthebook.com. Email him at auto@dailyherald.com.

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