Rare Ford Mustang Shelby muscle car fetches $280K in auction
A rare 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 that had been locked away for 45 years sold for $280,000 — more than twice its expected price — at an auction on Friday that transformed a small town near State College into “Muscle Car Central.”
The car, bought new in 1969 by former ironworker Larry Brown for a little more than $5,200, was sold to car collector George Cowfer of Philipsburg, Clearfield County, owner of Junior Coal, a strip mining company.
The car had slightly more than 8,300 miles on it when it was found in Brown's garage after his death, touching off a frenzy in the world of car collecting. Brown died on Sept. 17 at 76.
Collectors and other experts who had expected the Shelby to sell for about $130,000 were surprised by the sales amount.
“It had a lot of hype and that helps. Everybody in the country knew that car was for sale,” said Ron Libengood, owner of Classic Cars by Fort Pitt in Sharpsburg. “But that's a big number.”
The auction was one of the top two events in Centre Hall Mayor Ray Hankinson's nine years in office.
“Well, we almost had a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert once,” said Hankinson, who lives four doors from Brown's house.
Stories about the sale of the car have been circulating in the borough for months. One potential buyer, locals said, was coming with a $1 million line of credit, just in case prolific car collector Jay Leno showed up.
“He vowed to not leave without it,” said Joe Hammaker, council president.
Officials in the Centre County borough east of State College were told to expect asmany as 15,000 people for the auction. The small town, about 12 miles from State College, does not have a police department.
“We closed the road in front of (Brown's) property,” said Jack Muthersbaugh, vice president of council, who lives next door to Brown's house. “I told my wife to sit in the backyard and collect $2 per car (for parking).”
Their planning didn't prevent the gridlock, which was compounded by a large Amish auction at the other end of town, residents said.
Hundreds of vehicles parked at the Centre County Grange Fairgrounds at the edge of town, others simply parked their vehicles in the streets, said Darlene Confer, general manager of the fairgrounds.
“You can't get anywhere near here,” said Marcia Gemperle, owner of the Whistle Stop Restaurant. “On one end of town, there's Amish on horses as far as the eye can see, on the other is expensive cars and tractors.”
Auctioneer Ron Gilligan on Thursday started the bidding on Brown's household items, furniture and real estate. About 500 people attended that auction.
But the big draw was clearly the Shelby auction, Confer said.
“As soon as it was over, they started to leave,” she said.
There was always talk about “that car” around the borough, Hankinson said. People could even see it in the garage.
“But no one realized what he had,” the mayor said.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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