Exclusive motoring – 1958 Edsel Villager

Exclusive motoring – 1958 Edsel Villager

1958 Edsel Villager

With only 978 produced, the 1958 Edsel Villager is one of the rarest station wagons on the road today. Photography by author.

Regardless of historical finger pointing and excuse making, Ford has to be credited for not just settling for the same-old same-old, inside or out, with the Edsel; the grille was controversial from the get-go, but inside, the stylists and engineers got together for a pair of interesting items that were beyond the standard-issue stuff for the era.

First was the barrel speedometer: Instead of a boring old needle swinging from left to right, the needle stayed steady while a revolving drum, its numbers clearly embossed into it, would match its number to the car’s speed. None of this “I couldn’t see the speedometer, officer!” nonsense; the number was in your face and right in front of you. As a bonus, it would glow if you exceeded a predetermined speed.

The second was the Teletouch push-button shift transmission. Now, pressing a button to shift wasn’t new: Chrysler launched its “jukebox” TorqueFlite transmissions the year before the Edsel debuted. Edsel’s particular innovations, though, were twofold. First, the shift buttons were positioned in the center of the steering wheel where they could easily be located, saving you the trouble–and danger–of taking your eyes off the road to look somewhere on the instrument panel. Second, they were electric and required only a gentle press for the smooth-acting button to send the message to the transmission. When engaging, the sound is mechanical and positive, rather than the substantial clank you might hear under a comparable Mopar.

It was August 21, 1958, three days before Edsel’s inaugural season was set to close, when our feature Villager station wagon rolled out of the Louisville, Kentucky, plant that it shared with sister Ford-badged products. It seemed like it was destined to be a Southwestern desert car from the get-go: The body was painted Driftwood, a pale beige that was just a few shades off of the complementary white that adorned the long roof and the side coves. “It also came with power steering and Teletouch, plus the padded visor and dash, which were options, and cloth seats, which were more of a choice than an option. It also had backup lamps, bumper guards, tinted glass, fancier wheel covers and dealer-installed air conditioning.” So says Ted Downer of San Francisco, the car’s owner and restorer, though it is no longer Driftwood. Aah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

“It was purchased new in Covina, California, and nearest we can tell it was taken to the high desert east of L.A., near Palmdale. Sometime in the ’70s, a guy in Costa Mesa, California, bought it and parked it. I found it in 2012. The owner was apparently a hoarder; he parked it in his garage in 1979, and then just buried it in the garage under all of the stuff that he was holding onto.”

What he saw in that Costa Mesa garage was something of an eye-opener. Other eyes might have considered this Edsel a prime example of the junk that filled the space. But Ted, who has owned and restored more than two dozen Edsels of all body styles since 1975, saw something else: potential. “The engine and brakes were frozen; it had been repainted once–badly–in the original Driftwood, and it looked awful: just dirty and badly-used. The bumpers were covered in surface rust. The floors were all gross. I later pulled the seats out and found a Hershey Bar wrapper advertising the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The wheel covers were missing, along with a couple of little things like the turn signal arm–they’re made of plastic; they’re tough to find today, and they disintegrate easily. The cloth on the seats was shot, and someone started taking the dash apart. But most of the parts there were stored in the spare-tire well. Someone had converted it to floor shift from its original Teletouch. It was just a big mess.

“But that’s good,” explains Ted, who obviously has some new understanding of the term “good” that most English-language speakers have apparently overlooked. “It was beat-up and tired, but not destroyed. It was a complete car. The body was straight and had zero rust. The cargo area had its original linoleum, along with the original padded dash and dash paint. It even had the original yellow California license plate on it.” Now, Costa Mesa is just inland from Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, California, about five miles from the sea. The roads are dry, but machinery there is not impervious to airborne sea spray. “This Edsel only survived,” Ted tells us, “because it was buried in a tomb of junk. And if I didn’t take it, someone would have ended up rodding it.”

And so, it was taken apart in anticipation of a full restoration. “The odometer read just 79,000 original miles, and though the engine was rebuilt after sitting for as long as it did, I kept the stock 10.5 compression in it,” Ted says. “I did replace the original carburetor for a more modern Edelbrock carb, but that was about it.”

The mechanical parts are restored fairly easily: Parts are interchangeable with enough other Ford products that finding the right components wasn’t an issue. And the body was solid. That just left everything else–easier said than done for a car with as few reproduced parts as an Edsel. “NOS parts–any NOS parts–are hard to come by for a 1958 Edsel these days,” Ted explains. “But restoring one isn’t impossible. Some of it is shared with Ford, like weatherstripping and glass. Some of it is reproduced–taillamp lenses, wheel cover appliques and spinners, a few little things. But interiors? Nothing is reproduced except for the seat cloth and vinyl materials. SMS makes material for the upholstery–vinyl and cloth–plus the carpet and headliner, but I had it sewed locally. No one makes an interior kit for an Edsel.”

Significant money was saved by using the factory-original dash pad. “They tend to shrink around the edges,” Ted points out, “but this one wasn’t cracked at all. It must have spent much of its life in a garage, even before the hoarder got it. So, I softened it up and stretched it back out.” The secret? “I used a silicone tire dressing, like Black Magic, and sprayed on a thick cover over a course of weeks. I restuffed it, heated it with a hairdryer, pulled it taut and then glued it back in place. It was hard to do, but it saved me about a grand from getting one made for it.”

Ted wasn’t so lucky with the acres of stainless trim. “Nothing is reproduced for it,” he laments. “I removed all of the stainless trim and took most of the dents out myself.”

While it was apart, Ted elected to make a significant aesthetic change: the color. “Driftwood isn’t my favorite color on the Edsel palette,” Ted admits. “Maybe on the scallop or the roof, as an accent color, but on the main body it looks kind of like milky coffee. Edsel advertised that you could order 90 different color combinations; the paint chart offered lots of blues and greens, and you could set it up using any colors you wanted on the roof, body and coves.” And so, Ted made a unilateral decision to switch the body to Turquoise, with a black roof and white coves as the accent.

1958 Edsel Villager 1958 Edsel Villager 1958 Edsel Villager 1958 Edsel Villager

Today, Ted insists it feels “like a new car. All the rubber’s been replaced, and I installed double-thick firewall insulation and sound deadener, so it’s really quiet and feels solid. Wagons are usually very rattly, and this one isn’t. I took my time, hunted the rattles down, and fixed ’em, one by one.”

Regarding the Teletouch transmission, Ted calls it the Edsel’s “Achilles’ heel … With regular use, they’d give warning signs and then expire, and there you’d sit. But I’ve rebuilt the motors in all of my Edsels, and I’ve never had another one go out on me,” though he confesses that the rebuilt units in his cars don’t see much rain or dirt. Whatever the issues Teletouch may have had when these cars were new, the interface in Ted’s station wagon feels positively dreamy. “They were designed originally for the redesigned 1958 Lincolns,” Ted tells us. “Look at the steering column in those cars–it’s enormous. But Lincoln backed out at the last minute; they decided that Teletouch was too advanced a feature for their conservative buyers, so Edsel got it instead.”

Getting in requires you to be a little bit limber: a high floor, low roof, short door, high seat and large-diameter steering wheel combine for a tight ingress. Once you’re in, there’s plenty of room in all directions–headroom and shoulder room are quite generous, particularly considering this is the smaller of the two Edsel bodies, and the seat demands that you sit upright as you drive. There’s no slumping in an Edsel.

“After we photographed the car, I got it home and re-jetted the carburetor,” Ted recalls. “I adjusted the timing; it’s a little rocket now, very stable, and I get 14 MPG on the highway. Most of the station wagons like this Edsel came with a 3.23 rear gear, which was pretty punchy around town. Of course Fordomatic transmissions start out in second gear unless you really punch it from a stop, which downshifts it into first, or you push L1 to start off.”

Twist the ignition key, and the engine settles into a 900-RPM idle. We know this because this particular car was ordered with the incredibly rare factory tachometer. Ted has seen only a handful of these units in person, and estimates that they were installed in about two percent of all Edsels, ever. Power on our drive–despite 300-plus horsepower and 400 lb.ft. of torque–feels only adequate to push its weight around. Curb weight is just the high side of two tons, plus another 400-plus pounds of driver and passenger during our drive, surely sapped as much from the accelerative power.

The extant power is easily-enough controlled: Aim the big E hood ornament, which reads the right way from both front and rear, and there isn’t the usual wandering mess we’ve come to associate with bias-ply tires on the straight and narrow. In the corners it’s another matter, the quick-enough power steering lets you react suddenly, but the suspension always feels half a beat behind. The Edsel leans dramatically, even at marginal speeds, and the typical bias-ply sidewall graunch is in evidence early into your turning circle. And despite our two-ton wagon being equipped with manual drum brakes front and rear, they’re beefy 11-inch drums, and offer both a firm pedal and reasonable stopping distances from speed.

1958 Edsel Villager 1958 Edsel Villager 1958 Edsel Villager

And Ted’s right: Even freshly-rebuilt wagons frequently have the occasional squeak or rattle magnified by the big echo chamber behind the front seat, but as we got to drive it, this Edsel felt tight and all right. (If contemporary reports are to be believed, Ted’s largely noiseless example is probably better than new.)

For decades, Edsels were punch lines, but time has put distance to the cruelty of contemporary comment. Despite the marque’s sordid legacy, or perhaps because of it, today this Edsel Villager holds its head high in a car-crazy crowd.

Owner’s View
I’d owned a 1959 station wagon as my first Edsel, and I’d always wanted a tri-tone nine-passenger wagon. Edsel Division made just 978 nine-passenger Villager wagons for 1958, which makes it one of the rarest Edsel models in its debut year, and finding one that had been parked for 35 years was a stroke of luck. It rides and drives like new. I just got it on the road when these photographs were taken. The only item left for me to restore is the roof rack.
–Ted Downer

1958 Edsel Villager

Specifications

PRICE
Base price $2,955

ENGINE
Type: 90-degree Ford FE OHV V-8,iron block and cylinder heads
Displacement: 361 cubic inches
Bore x stroke: 4.05 x 3.50 inches
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Horsepower @ RPM: 303 @ 4,600
Torque @ RPM: 400 lb.ft. @ 2,900
Valvetrain: Hydraulic valve lifters
Main bearings: 5
Fuel system: Holley four-barrel 1848Acarburetor, mechanical pump
Lubrication system: Pressure, gear-type pump
Electrical system: 12-volt
Exhaust system: Single exhaust

TRANSMISSION
Type: Fordomatic three-speed automatic, Teletouch pushbutton shift
Ratios:
1st: 2.40:1
2nd: 1.46:1
3rd: 1.00:1
Reverse: 2.00:1

DIFFERENTIAL
Type: Semi-floating hypoid
Ratio: 3.23:1

STEERING
Type: Recirculating ball, power assist
Ratio: 20:1 gear, 27:1 overall
Turns, lock-to-lock: 5
Turning circle: 44 feet

BRAKES
Type: Hydraulic, four-wheel manual drum Front/rear: 11-inch drums

CHASSIS & BODY
Construction: Body-on-frame
Frame: Ladder-type frame with full-length boxed side rails and five cross members
Body style: Four-door station wagon
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive

SUSPENSION
Front: Independent; unequal length A-arms, coil springs, telescoping shock absorbers
Rear: Live axle; semi-elliptic rear springs, five leafs each side; telescoping shock absorbers

WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Stamped-steel disc, drop center
Front/rear: 5.5 x 14 inch
Tires: Four-ply rayon bias-belted with white sidewalls
Front/rear: 7.50-14

WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Overall length: 205.4 inches
Overall width: 77.1 inches
Overall height: 58.8 inches
Front track: 59 inches
Rear track: 56.4 inches
Shipping weight: 3,930 pounds

CAPACITIES
Crankcase: 6 quarts
Cooling system: 20 quarts
Fuel tank: 20 gallons
Transmission: 22.4 pints

CALCULATED DATA
Bhp per cu.in.: 0.83
Weight per bhp: 12.97 pounds
Weight per cu.in.: 10.89 pounds

PRODUCTION
Total Edsel models: 68,045
Villager wagons: 978

PERFORMANCE*
0-60 mph: 10.2 seconds
*Source Motor Trend, December ’57

Pros & Cons
+ Rarity
+ Sublime sensations at the controls
+ Edsels have attained retro-geek-chic status

– Finding one
– Need to limber up to get in
– Very few parts reproduced

Club Corner
International Edsel Club
P.O. Box 312
Muskego, WI 53150
www.internationaledsel.com
Dues: $25/year
Membership: 540

Edsel Owners Club
1740 N.W. Third Street
Gresham, Oregon 97030
503-492-0878
www.edselclub.org
Dues: $35/year
Membership: 445

This article originally appeared in the March, 2014 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan

1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan

From the seller’s description:

1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aero Sedan, Original car. Cosmetic extierior restoration. Beautiful Country Club Wood option. Tutone art deco mint green and dark brown paint. Included on this wonderful car is a set of rear fender skirts, chromed front & rear bumper guards, foglights, spotlights, window rain guards, original seat covers, turn indicator unit. This an no excuses car. Orignial unrestored interior, engine, chassis, carpets, trunk mat, spare tire, jack. Car has ownership history with regarded person from collector car hobby and museum. (which I can document). Some chrome peel on front bumper hopefully shows up in picture. This car is a looker with great patina. Hope the pictures do it justice.

1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Country Club Aero Sedan

Pricetag

Price
$35,995

Location Marker

Location
Sarasota, Florida

Magnifying Glass

Availability
Available

Find more Chevrolets for sale on Hemmings.com.

Editor’s note: The purpose of the “Find of the Day” is to promote interesting cars from our classifieds. These are not the actual ads, so to view more images or contact the seller with questions, click on the hyperlink (underlined green text), which will take you to the classified ad itself.


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

The Meyers Manx ‘really is an attitude or a state of mind as well as a vehicle’

The Meyers Manx ‘really is an attitude or a state of mind as well as a vehicle’

Few times in history did somebody perfectly capture a time and a place with a simple auto design as succinctly as Bruce Meyers did with the Meyers Manx dune buggy. It’s been flung across the globe, copied, resurrected, reinterpreted, and more recently lauded and recognized for its accomplishments, and through it all Bruce Meyers has remained at the center of dune buggy culture. This documentary covers the entire history of Meyers and the Manx, from the beaches that inspired the dune buggy to today’s enthusiast gatherings.

[Editor’s Note: Sorry, Hemmings Sunday Cinema fans, today’s documentary in the Hemmings In-Depth slot doesn’t indicate a return to the old format. However, if you’re looking for cheeseball car chases, you could do worse than the ones from 1987’s “Dead End Drive-In.”]


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG

1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG

From the seller’s description:

You are viewing a pristine 1984 Mercedes 500 SEC Euro Retrofit AMG. The engine is Euro spec M117.963 with Euro logs. It’s is an icon from the luxury car market of the 1980’s which commanded a market price of about $85,000 new. With AMG treatment around $100,000.

This example was imported by Mr. Martin Wohnlich evidenced by his name that remains affixed the drivers side door pillar.

Prior to my ownership this vehicle was owned by a German gentlemen in Naples, FL where it remained for several years. During this period, it was impeccably maintained by qualified Euro technicians as evidence by numerous records. The timing chain, guides, tensioner and cam oilers were services during the period and shows about 40K miles on that recommended 100K miles service requirement.

In 2009, I purchased the vehicle and have owned it since. When I received the vehicle it was in strong mechanical condition and remaines that way today. The cosmetic condition of the vehicle was more than acceptable but exhibited some clear coat peeling on the hood and top. After a couple years of use I commissioned Powell Paint and Body, a high quality local body shop to strip and repaint the vehicle. The paint has been color sanded and buffed and is of top quality. I had previously located authentic AMG body parts which were installed and finished during the process creating a period correct retrofit AMG. I was then able to source a set of authentic AMG ATS period correct Penta wheels which were renewed by Wheel Wizard of Atlanta prior to installation. You can see them in the photos.

This work created what you see today. One beautiful example of what about $100K would buy you in 1984.

The interior is in excellent condition without tears or rips. The dash is in excellent condition. There are one or two very small plastic pieces missing but are so insignificant that it does not distract from the visual quality.

To enhance the long term experience, along with this sale I am including a spare set of dash wood, amber corner lights in case you prefer them over the clear corners currently installed, the wipers for the Euro headlights which I failed to have painted, and a nostalgic Nardi steering wheel.

The engine is in strong operating condition and can be driven anywhere. It has recently undergone a complete service by a local Mercedes Guru.

1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG

Pricetag

Price
$14,900

Location Marker

Location
Dawsonville , Georgia

Magnifying Glass

Availability
No Longer Available

Find more Mercedes-Benzes for sale on Hemmings.com.

Editor’s note: The purpose of the “Find of the Day” is to promote interesting cars from our classifieds. These are not the actual ads, so to view more images or contact the seller with questions, click on the hyperlink (underlined green text), which will take you to the classified ad itself.


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Four-Links – Vauxhall Craftsman’s Guild, swingarm origins, DPL flood update, Gerard Welter

Four-Links – Vauxhall Craftsman’s Guild, swingarm origins, DPL flood update, Gerard Welter

As pointed out in the comments to this week’s story on the coming Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild exhibit, Vauxhall did something similar for British youth, and it appears that contest had far fewer restrictions on body size and type.

Paul D’Orleans at The Vintagent spent some time this week delving into the history of the motorcycle swingarm in an attempt to divine its origins.

An update to last week’s mention of the burst water pipe that caused damage to the Detroit Public Library’s National Automotive History Collection: Repairs to the building and restoration of the damaged parts of the collection will keep the collection closed for six months. Hope that doesn’t put a crimp on anybody’s research projects.

This week, Goodwood paid tribute to Gérard Welter, designer of many a Le Mans competitor, who died at the age of 75.

Apparently, the NHTSA thought it best to crash test used taxi service Checkers rather than new ones. Judging by these videos of the crash testing that the ICTA recently posted, you’d have been best off asking your cab driver to never exceed 30 MPH.


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Open Diff – What’s on your automotive bucket list?

Open Diff – What’s on your automotive bucket list?

Photo by Wayne Stadler.

Pretty much any time we make mention of The Henry Ford here, somebody chimes in on the comments that it should be on every car guy’s bucket list. And that got us thinking: What else is on our readers’ bucket lists?

Museums are certainly one category of bucket-list items, and similarly we can imagine many car folks have places like Bonneville and events like Goodwood to see before the big dirt nap. We can also imagine there’s plenty of to-dos on your bucket lists as well, everything from driving Route 66 to finishing that project in the garage to getting behind the wheel of your dream car.

Me, I’d like to find a decommissioned LX Charger cop car and re-create one of the finest scenes in modern cinema.

Anybody have friends in the mall demolition business?


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1988 Dodge Daytona

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1988 Dodge Daytona

1988 Dodge Daytona

1988 Dodge Daytona hatchback with t-top roof for sale. From the seller’s description:

2.5 Liter L4 engine, AT, PS, PB, PW, tilt wheel, CD stereo, cold R-12 AC, gray fabric seats, No accidents. Vibrant, bright red original paint. For sale by private enthusiast 2nd owner. Garaged, very low mileage gem with original factory paint and interior. Only minor upgrades from factory delivered condition are Hella driving lights, elliptical grooved front brake rotors, K&N air filter, and later model Mopar in-dash stereo head unit with CD (no wiring harness modification). Original Mopar factory shop manuals, sales brochure, and owner’s manual.

1988 Dodge Daytona 1988 Dodge Daytona 1988 Dodge Daytona 1988 Dodge Daytona

Pricetag

Price
$6,495

Location Marker

Location
Silver Spring, Maryland

Magnifying Glass

Availability
Available

Find more Dodges for sale on Hemmings.com.

Editor’s note: The purpose of the “Find of the Day” is to highlight interesting cars from our classifieds. These are not the actual ads, so to view more images or contact the seller with questions, click on the hyperlink (underlined green text), which will take you to the classified ad itself.


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

The Cobra successor that never was, Shelby’s Lone Star, makes its concours debut at Amelia Island

The Cobra successor that never was, Shelby’s Lone Star, makes its concours debut at Amelia Island

Shelby Lone Star

Shelby Lone Star. Image courtesy Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

By the time the new 427 Cobra shipped to dealers in 1965, Shelby American was already working on a replacement. Internally known as the Cobra III, and later the Lone Star, one prototype was built before the project was scrapped for a variety of reasons. Though an evolutionary dead-end, the Shelby Lone Star is an important and long-unseen part of the brand’s history. Now restored, the prototype will make its concours debut on March 11 at the 2018 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

By late 1965, Carroll Shelby was stretched thin. In addition to producing a new generation of Cobras, Shelby was tasked with the re-engineering of the Ford GT 40 Mk II, winding down the racing program for the Daytona Coupes in Europe, and turning the Mustang from a fun commuter into a serious competitor in the eyes of SCCA racers. Shelby American set down its own ground rules and target dates for the next generation of Cobra, but was happy to seek input from English partner JW Automotive Engineering (JWAE) as well.

Shelby Lone Star

The Lone Star as delivered to Shelby American in 1967. Photo courtesy The Cobra Ferrari Wars.

As reported in the World Registry of Cobras and GT40s, Fourth Edition, internal documents show that Shelby American’s goals for the Cobra III included a conventional front-engine, rear-drive layout, though no body configuration or design was initially specified. Power would come from a new 351-cu.in. V-8 under development by Ford, though 289, 427, and 428 engines would also remain available. A four-speed top-loader transmission would be standard, but an automatic transmission would remain optional.

While the body design remained up in the air, major components of the interior — such as seats and storage trays — would be molded from a vacuum-formable plastic known as Royalite. No firm decisions had been made about how the body would attach to the chassis, but the original idea was to mold the body out of the same material, which would be easier (and hence, less expensive) than creating body panels from aluminum or fiberglass.

 

Shelby Lone Star

A sketch of the Lone Star prototype. From the collection of The Cobra Ferrari Wars.

JWAE’s approach to the new Cobra was radically different. Rather than starting from a clean sheet of paper, engineer Len Bailey thought it better to re-engineer the GT40, converting it from a track car to a (somewhat) civilized road car. To save money and simplify construction, Cobra components such as brakes and wheels would be used, and a 289-cu.in. V-8 would sit amidships, behind the driver but in front of the transaxle. The body, hinged in front and rear, would be made from aluminum, while the GT40 parts bin would be raided for suspension components and other bits.

Both proposals were reviewed, but ultimately the decision was made to go with the JWAE design, which was viewed as more forward-thinking. A quarter-scale model was completed and wind-tunnel tested by the end of 1966, and the final design included a removable Targa roof panel that could be stowed behind the seats for open-air motoring. Approval to build a prototype was given, and work began in early 1967.

The JWAE car rode on a 92.8-inch wheelbase, roughly splitting the difference between the Cobra’s 90-inch wheelbase and the GT40’s 95-inch wheelbase. An off-the-shelf 289, mated to a ZF-five speed transaxle, sat in a chassis that was a mix of Cobra and GT40 design, wrapped in an aluminum body created by Gomm Metalworking. Finished in August 1967, the car was shipped to Shelby American in California the following month.

Shelby Lone Star

The car in the final stages of restoration. Note the air intake behind the door, added by Shelby American. Remaining photos by Geoff Howard.

By then, Shelby American no longer had the rights to the Ford-owned Cobra name, so the car was called the Lone Star in reference to Carroll’s home state. He voiced no objection to the car’s red finish, but wasn’t a fan of the JWAE-installed white interior, and had it changed to black. The record says that Shelby American dropped in its own high-performance 289, though it’s equally likely that the automaker simply tuned the 289 already installed before road testing the car and shipping it to Dearborn for evaluation. If the project was approved, it was Ford that would be writing the checks.

A short time later, the car was returned to Shelby American without any kind of approval from Ford. The reason why is a matter of some debate; some believe that egress, which required climbing over the tall and wide driver and passenger sills that contained the car’s fuel supply, was simply too awkward for a production car. Others said that new federal safety standards for the 1968 model year would no longer exempt low-volume manufacturers like Shelby, and still others blamed the Lone Star’s death on its window sticker. Shelby’s original proposal called for a car priced in line with the 427 Cobra, yet at $15,000, the Lone Star was on par with the GT40 and nearly twice as much as a Cobra.

Without Ford money to put the car into production, Shelby quickly lost interest in the Lone Star. It graced the cover of the 1968 Shelby Accessories catalog, and made a tour of the car show circuit billed as a concept, but in October 1968 it appeared in a Competition Press classified ad. The copy read,

For Sale: Sex on Wheels!! Carroll Shelby’s Cobra Lone Star – specially designed and built ‘way out.’ Mid-engine, two-passenger, coupe/roadster, one-of-a-kind show car. Seen worldwide in International Auto Shows. Fully roadable with: aluminum body custom-built in England with removable metal top panel and electric windows. 289 high-performance engine, 5-speed all synchro ZF gearbox, tubular exhaust headers, Halibrand mag wheels, comfortable bucket seats. $15,000.

The Lone Star changed hands several times before 1975, when it was acquired by its current owner, a noted collector of Shelby Automobiles. By then, accident damage to the right front fender had been crudely repaired with a welded steel patch, pop-riveted in place and covered with body filler, but decades would pass before the car was sent for a full restoration.

Shelby Lone Star

This work was entrusted to Cobra expert Geoff Howard and his Connecticut shop, Accurate Restorations. Geoff described the project to us as, “the most labor-intensive car he’s ever worked on,” and as jobs go, it required as much a re-engineering as it did restoration. The Lone Star was a prototype and, as such, was never really designed to be driven for any distance, or with any regularity.

The engine, for instance, was welded – not bolted – to the monocoque, and there was so little space to work that the transaxle would only come out of the car straight down, and then with extreme difficulty. Accessing the suspension A-arms required removing the body and disassembling most of the car, a task made more difficult by the fact that the body was aircraft-riveted in place, with the rivets then covered with filler and paint.

Getting to the front wiring required removal of the windshield, a risky process since the glass was a custom piece unavailable anywhere in the world. Geoff’s solution (in addition to having three more windshields made, just in case) was to build a removable frame around the windshield, which allowed for mounting and removal without having to reseal the glass every single time.

The Lone Star’s body is now affixed with blind fasteners and Torx screws, making removal easier (if not exactly quick). Its suspension has been sorted, with no-longer-available bushings replaced by bearings, and the original (unobtanium) Armstrong shocks replaced by one-off custom units from Koni. The onboard fuel tanks now contain ATL fuel cells, and the brakes have been upgraded to competition Cobra specifications. The Lone Star is now a car that can be enjoyed for more than just static display, yet Geoff is proud of how much of the car he’s been able to preserve.

Shelby Lone Star

“It’s about 95-percent original,” he explained to us, citing the effort he made to preserve the interior. The carpet was worn through on the driver side, so rather than replace it Geoff crafted a heel pad like that used in Cobras. The headliner – with a bizarre embossed pattern no longer available anywhere – was saved, as was the shifter and shift knob. Only the original seat foam and upholstery was deemed beyond salvage, though the replacement matches the stitching of the original as closely as possible.

The Plexiglas windows, fogged by an errant cleaning with solvent by a previous owner, were sanded and polished until transparent. The body damage was repaired (with aluminum, this time), and aside from a few other patch panels remains as built in 1967. The sole exception to this was the steel bumper, seen in early press photos but absent by the time it was acquired by the current owner. Working only with these very limited images as his guide, Geoff recreated the bumper from scratch.

So what does the Lone Star look like? In profile, some say the car looks like a GT40 Mk V or a Lola T70, but Geoff argues more for the Ferrari P3/4, and we’re inclined to agree. Its nose carries a broad oval aperture, not dissimilar to a Jaguar D-type, while its tail is reminiscent of a Ferrari Dino, but taller. Some will love it, and others will hate it, but it certainly would have been a departure from Shelby American’s norms.

Of the car’s Amelia Island debut, Geoff said, “It’s restored, but it isn’t perfect because it contains so many original parts.” Frankly, that’s what we like to hear, and we sincerely hope that after so many years of care, its owner can enjoy the car that Len Bailey and Carroll Shelby had in mind.

The 2018 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance takes place from March 9-11, 2018, at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida. For additional details, visit AmeliaConcours.org.


Source: www.hemmings.com/blog