By A.J. Baime
Holly LaCroix, 69, a legal assistant from Oceanside, Calif., on her 1966 Ford Shelby Mustang G.T. 350H, as told to A.J. Baime.
My husband Terry and I were preparing to get married in 1973, and he had a friend who had this Shelby Mustang out in front of his house. The car was sitting there in the elements, and Terry kept saying, "You have to take care of it." Ultimately, we bought that car for very little money right before our wedding. I spent a lot of time in the passenger seat, and we went through tires like gangbusters.
Not a lot of these cars were made. In the mid-60s, the Mustang was huge, and Ford partnered with the racing legend Carroll Shelby to build the high-performance Mustang G.T. 350. Hertz bought a thousand of these cars for customers, calling them Rent-a-Racers. Cars were painted in Hertz colors, and the H in the name stands for Hertz. [When this car appeared in 1966, it cost $17 a day and 17 cents a mile to rent, according to Hertz.]
When Terry first thought about buying ours, he was hesitant, because he had heard that people would rent these cars, pull out the high-performance engines, and put their own in. When he figured out the engine was the real thing, he was thrilled. Most of these cars had automatic transmissions, but ours is one of the few built new with a four-speed.
When my husband got ill, the car was no longer his focus, and when he passed away, the car sat in the garage. I would start it every so often, but for seven years, it sat there.
Then one day last year a man named Lee Cross called me. How he got my number is a long story, but he knew I had this car and wanted to buy it. It was not for sale, so he told me about this G.T. 350 tour that he hosts. Every year, he picks a spot and hosts a gathering for Mustang G.T. 350 owners. He asked if I would come.
I am a shy person, and this was out of my comfort zone. But a light bulb went on in my head. I thought: This car needs to get out of the garage. I thought: I am going to do this.
I started getting the car ready. Terry and that car were a source of pride in our neighborhood, and people came to me when they heard what I was going to do, to wish me well. The G.T. 350 tour was going to be in the Ozarks in Arkansas, and we would be staying in Branson, Mo. I shipped the car, recruited a co-pilot, and flew east in October. The tour started on Oct. 27 -- my late husband's birthday.
For four days we toured the Ozarks. There were 25 cars, and the people made me feel like part of the group. For over 45 years, that car has been part of my life. I was so proud to watch it shine.
Write to A.J. Baime at email@example.com