The most incredible, amazing car thing just happened to me, and I've got to tell all of you. As eager and excited as I am to spill the beans, there is actually much to tell. While it would be easy to just get right to the punchline, I want to share the entire story so you can better appreciate my awe and amazement. To the TL;DR crowd, I apologize. As for the rest of you, grab a sandwich and settle in.
I first met Don as a customer, over a decade ago. Don is financially very well off. He lives in Sundance, which all by itself speaks to his fiscal status. He works for the film industry, though I'm not certain exactly what he does. Soon he became a repeat customer, and then again, and again. Over the years, he also became a very good friend. He will sometimes stop by the dealership just to sit and chat with me--to check on things, see how I am doing, and (most often) to talk at length about cars. Above all else, Don is most definitely a car guy... in the very best, most humble, down-to-Earth sort of way. As you might guess, he knows about my extensive background with the turbo Shelby Dodge cars.
Don owns a lot of cars. I've never been to his house, so I've never seen his entire collection. I know he owns an older Ferrari of some sort. On different days I have seen him drive a Lancer Evolution, a regular cab Ram SRT-10, a Viper ACR coupe, and a G63 AMG. Cars I have sold him that he still owns include an Outback 3.6R Touring, WRX STI, Grand Cherokee SRT 392, Challenger Hellcat, and most recently a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. In case you can't tell, Don likes cars.
Way back in 2012, he decided it would be fun to have an Omni stuffed full of 16v TurboIII engine. Not content to modify a run-of-the-mill GLH Turbo, Don instead searched the country for a clean, unmolested, 1-of-500 1986 Shelby GLHS. He found one somewhere out east, bought it, and had it transported to Utah. He then searched the country for a good condition TurboIII engine (which was undoubtedly harder to find than the car, thanks to the propensity of that 16v head to crack and self destruct) and a matching A568 transmission, and had those drop shipped as well. I have no idea how much he spent in this endeavor, but I am confident the total was a five-figure number. With everything here in Utah, he found some locals (a pair of brothers into the Shelby Dodge cars) who were willing to do the swap for him. The brothers worked at their family business: a prominent wrecking yard in SLC. Don eventually had everything delivered to them so they could set to work.
This is where the story goes sour. After some time, their family business closed down, the property was sold, and all of Don's stuff disappeared along with the brothers, who now could not be found. Don spent years trying to track them down. He enlisted me to help him in this task, but all my leads were fruitless.
In summer 2018, he miraculously managed to find one of the brothers. Soon after, he recovered his now-non-running GLHS and had it towed to our dealership. The car's condition had gone downhill. There was now a large dent in the driver's door and one at the rear left corner of the hood and cowl. It was a worse story underhood. The (unique to this model) radiator/intercooler combo was gone, as was the airbox, the battery and a few A/C pieces; the vacuum harness was essentially destroyed, and some of the wiring connections were undone and strewn randomly around the engine bay. Thankfully, the rest of the car's stock engine and transmission hardware appeared to be intact. As for the TurboIII engine and A568 transmission, to date Don has not recovered them... and he probably never will.
With the car once again in his possession, Don wanted to get it back on the road. If it wasn't going to receive a TurboIII swap, he decided it should be returned to fully stock status. For the rest of the year, Don tried to find another radiator/intercooler combo for our mechanics to install. This was simply impossible; nobody makes replacements any more, and your only source for a used one is out of another GLHS. I suggested he install a regular GLH Turbo radiator, then graft in some other sort of intercooler, but Don had no interest in making it non-stock. So the car sat forlornly on our lot.
Parking is at a premium at the dealership, and management noticed this little black car never moved. Being a valued customer, they didn't want to cold call him and rudely demand action. Instead, they had one of the service writers occasionally drop subtle hints here and there that it might be best for Don to have the car hauled... somewhere else. As the hints eventually increased in frequency and reality sunk in, Don decided he had lost interest in the entire project.
That takes us to Thursday, Jan 3rd. Don brought his daughter's Forester XT in for a service visit. As always, he sought me out to say hello and chat for a few minutes. He quickly turned our topic of conversation to the GLHS. He explained how he had lost interest in putting it back together, but he knew I could probably find a way to get it running again. He then said, "the more I think about it, the more I realize there is nobody in this world who would appreciate that car more than you... so I'm thinking I may just give it to you. Would you be interested?"
At this point, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was nearly speechless, but I managed to choke out a response. Among a half dozen thank yous, I indicated I would be honored to take over the project and get the car back on the road. He said he would get back to me, and then he left. My head spun. I wondered to myself if this was really going to happen.
Saturday morning (January 5th), I get a phone call from Don. "Do you genuinely want the car?" I said I did. "Great, then I will bring the title next week and sign it over to you. I've already told [the service advisor] that the car is now yours, so just go get the keys from him whenever you like." I again thanked him profusely. He then continued, "just to be clear, I am not asking you to reassemble it and then turn it back over to me. The car is now yours, to do with as you please. You are under no obligation to do anything at all. If you decide to flip it tomorrow, it won't bother me in the slightest. You do whatever you want to do with it."
Even considering how much he stressed that last part, I just wouldn't feel right if I didn't put this thing back on the road. I probably have enough spare parts in my garage to get it going again. I may even have a radiator that can (be made to) fit. And once I do get it going, I am tempted to get a vanity plate for it that says THX DON. Now, finally, I am getting truly excited about this whole project.
The next six days dragged by as I eagerly awaited another call from Don. On Friday the 11th, my phone finally rang. Don was completely apologetic. "I'm sorry; I looked and looked but I could not find the title. This morning I went to the DMV and filled out a duplicate title request; they said I should receive it in a couple weeks. As soon as I get it, I'll bring it to you." Well, gee--now my eager anticipation is going to be extended a bit longer.
What felt like an eternity later, today my phone rings again. "Hey, Dempsey--it's Don. I finally got the title in the mail, so I'm able to bring it to you. Are you in the office today?" As fortune would have it, I'm here all day. "Great, I'll see you around 5:30." Five excrutiating hours later, Don walks in the door at 5:15pm, title in hand. We fill out the appropriate areas on the back, plus I print out and have Don complete a state-issued Bill of Sale as supporting documentation. With that, he shakes my hand and wishes me good luck with the project.
And that is how I came to own 1986 Shelby GLHS #075.