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Auto show may be last local stop for '69 Shelby owned by Acme woman

| Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, 10:57 p.m.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Elaine White, of Acme, poses next to her late husband's 1969 Shelby GT500 on Aug. 4, 2014. Robert White, a carpenter, died of pancreatic cancer in November 2013.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Robert White's 1969 Shelby GT500 on Aug. 4, 2014. White, a carpenter, died of pancreatic cancer in Nov., 2013.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Carroll Shelby autographed the dashboard of Robert White's 1969 Shelby GT500. White, a carpenter, died of pancreatic cancer in Nov., 2013.

One of the main attractions at the annual vintage auto show in Mt. Pleasant on Friday could be a car that's been parked in a garage for almost 40 years.

Elaine White of Acme has completed restoration of the 1969 Ford Shelby GT500 that her husband started before his death last year of pancreatic cancer.

“It's a labor of love … he couldn't finish it,” said White, who plans to show the car on Friday. It may be the only chance local car enthusiasts have to see it. White is mulling several offers, including one for $150,000 from a California collector.

White and her family decided to sell the car because a 1969 Ford Shelby GT500 with just over 8,000 miles on it sold in Centre Hall in April for $280,000.

Word spread quickly that there was another Shelby in Pennsylvania, and White's phone started ringing. In addition to the California offer, she received calls from potential buyers in Pittsburgh and Rolling Springs, Pa.

“That will be fantastic to have a car like that (to display),” said Rich Kujawa, 67, chairman of the car show that attracts visitors from Uniontown, Altoona and Johnstown.

Money from the sale of the car will go to her children, Shannon Fess of Mt. Pleasant and Cale White of Acme, Elaine White said.

The car they bought new 45 years ago in Tombsford, Va., for $5,100 sat for almost 40 years after serving as the family's primary vehicle. It has a little over 41,000 miles on it.

Robert White, a carpenter, “just fell in love” with the car shortly after the couple was married, but Elaine White worried how they would make the $103-a-month car payment.

“We had kids to raise, didn't have all that money,” she said.

As their family grew, they parked the Shelby in the garage in favor of more family-oriented transportation. Robert White was in the middle of a project he started about five years ago to bring it back to life when he died.

“Certain cars just grab you,” said Dave Mason, 62, of Greensburg, who is helping with the restoration. “The color just stands out ... (and) it has a unique sound.”

White's car has Carroll Shelby's signature across the glove compartment under the number 2911 — the last four digits of its vehicle identification number, a unique code used by the automotive industry to identify individual vehicles.

“When my husband found out that Carroll Shelby would sign the dashboard if you made a donation to his children's foundation, he took the dashboard out and shipped it to him,” she said.

That two Carroll Shelby cars would be found within 140 miles of each other might be unusual, but not that rare, experts said. Keeping track of cars such as these is difficult — they normally don't sit out in the driveway.

White's model and the one sold in Centre Hall are among 1,536 made in 1969.

“There's just no way of knowing ... it's pure coincidence,” said Mike Mueller, automotive writer and muscle car expert from Arlington, Texas.

“Unusual, yeah … improbable, not really,” said Floyd Garrett, an expert in 1960s and 1970s high-performance cars from Sevierville, Tenn.

White wants to find the car a home with someone who will appreciate it.

“My husband loved his car, and I want (the new owner) to love it, too,” said White, who was 14 when they met.

“He liked horsepower. I liked the ones with four legs and a tail,” she said.

Muscle cars, which reigned from 1960 to 1972 , remain popular among collectors. Mecum Auction Co. hosted a three-day sale in Harrisburg in July with about 1,000 cars crossing the auction block.

Ford asked racing legend Carroll Shelby in 1964 to turn its popular Mustang into a performance racer. Shelby and his company, Shelby American, rolled out the first Shelby Mustang on Jan. 27, 1965. The original Shelby GT500 was the first American car to leave the factory with a roll bar. White said her husband would be excited about the show.

“He truly loved the car. He would be thrilled,” she said.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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