The Fernandina Find

Posted on: June 2nd, 2024 by

I Can Find Stuff
I’ve been doing it my whole life. Brightly colored Easter eggs, loose change in the couch, the sunglasses on my forehead, nothing escapes me. That is especially true of cars. If I get a whiff of something special hidden away for decades, I will find it.  A Shelby Cobra that was wrecked in 1974? Check. A dusty Countach coming out from hibernation? Done. The shell of a Ferrari 330 GTC? Piece-of-cake. A ’68 Shelby GT350 convertible peeking out from under a tarp? Found it while I was blowing off Biology 101 during college. A warehouse full of Hemis? Found those a few months ago.


The “Gift”?
This “gift” to find stuff manifested itself circa 1988 when I became Mustang-crazy. My first “mega-find” was this unrestored, original owner 1969 Shelby GT350. I heard whispers about its general location from the son’s girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend’s step-nephew. Then I learned of the owner’s occupation. A little recon resulted in this pic. Please notice that my beloved Isuzu I-Mark Diesel is in the background:)
Being a teenager in high school, my $20 allowance prevented me making an offer. This perpetually-financially-strapped trend would continue for another 30 years. For some reason, I have this delusional belief that since they’ve owned their special car for 30 to 40 years, they would want to sell it to me…a total stranger. Please, let me apologize in advance if I try to buy your cherished automobile that’s closer to you than your weird uncle who still lives with his parents. I get it. I really do.
I recently shared my “Grandma Mustang” story which was a find that transpired over 40 years. What can you learn from this? That I do not give up. I can even find rare parts and automobilia: a dealer-only Porsche 930 poster, automotive tin toys from the 1950s, a Paxton Supercharger in its original box…yes, yes and yes.
Sometimes, Cars Find Me
You’ve heard my Pontiac GTO story. I was asked by a friend-of-a-friend to sell it and once I learned what a special car it was, I had to buy it. Stay tuned as Jay Leno’s video reviewing the GTO goes live on 6/3/24. I will send out an e-Blast so you do not miss it.

The Fernandina Find
During Amelia Island Car Week of 2022, I discovered what I’m calling my “Fernandina Find”. Having grown up in Jacksonville, I was back in my old stomping grounds. For that reason, I brought my then 82-year-old dad as he had been wanting to visit Jacksonville for “one last time”. As it turned out, it was his last visit. If
you missed my tribute to him, you can find it here.  While growing up, my dad would take me deep sea fishing off of the coast of Amelia Island, Jax Beach and St. Augustine. I recall one trip where we went 56 miles offshore pursuing Red Snapper and Amberjack. Being 10, I did not have my sea legs yet and I “chummed the waters” for about 90 minutes. Strangely, I was not horribly scarred by this event, and I enjoy fishing even to this day. My “chumming” must have worked as “we” caught almost 60 Snapper that eventful day. My dad and his buddies caught the fish. I just counted them when I wasn’t otherwise preoccupied.
This Was Different
This time in Amelia though, I could not drag my dad to the beach. He was so weak he just wanted to sleep in his Fairfield Inn queen-sized bed. We were less than a mile away from sandy and salty bliss. He never found out what hit him, but he was told it was not the VID.  Eventually, I coerced dad out of his bed with promises of a hometown tour and a fried shrimp basket. While out, I took him to his childhood home, his high school, where our family grew up and other locations from better times. One morning before my RM Sotheby’s duties, I decided to take him on a tour of downtown Fernandina Beach.
During Car Week, Amelia Island is the heart of the car world. Every collector, expert, personality, YouTuber and enthusiast is on the island. Because of this, my radar for a great find was not on. Who would ever think there was a find that had not already been found? Especially this week….and in this town.  As we drove around downtown, I noticed an open garage with an Ivy Green 1966 Mustang convertible on a lift. Since I loved and restored one of these, I took this picture hoping the phone number on the building still worked. As I was leaving, I noticed a guy walking by and I asked him if he owned the car. He did not but he took my business card and said he would give it to his neighbor…The Owner.  As soon as I got my dad settled back in the hotel, full of fried shrimp, hush puppies and a Pina Colada, I got the call. The Owner, aka Bob, stated that the Ivy Green Mustang was just a little six-banger. Bummer…but not unexpected. However, he then said, “you know what’s under the tarp, don’t you?”  Tarp? What tarp? I had vague recollections of something bulbous and greyish in the driveway but taking care of my dad had thrown me off my game a bit. Then I heard the words my 14-year-old-self would have soiled himself over…. “There’s a Hi-Po under there.” What the F? Yeah, I don’t curse…this isn’t the Smoking Tire or Spike’s Car Radio even though I love those guys😊.
Twenty Minutes Later…
I was back in The Owner’s driveway. Bob uncovered “The Fernandina Find” and I just took it all in. It was a 1965 High Performance Mustang Fastback…Caspian Blue over Blue. Bob had bought it 18 years earlier with plans to restore it and life intervened as it often does. It had only traversed 12 miles in those 18 years and it was not currently running…or stopping as the master cylinder was gone. But I absolutely loved it.
The Hi-Po Mustang
The ”Hi-Po” was the ultimate iteration of the first-gen Mustang. Also known by its engine identifier, the K-Code Mustangs were the basis for Carroll Shelby’s GT350s and the same powerplant that propelled the might Shelby Cobras to international wins in the 1960s. Installed in a 1965 Mustang, you could not get power steering, AC and it only came with a 4-speed transmission. In addition via deletion, it only came with a 90-day warranty. Ford assumed these Hi-Pos were going straight to the racetrack where they would be flogged relentlessly in pursuit of the elusive checkered flag. This one escaped that fate.  The Hi-Po was extremely rare as less than 0.09% of Mustangs built from 1965 to 1967 were so equipped.
Perhaps the coolest, and rarest, aspect of this Hi-Po was its exhaust system. Or lack of one. Instead of having the traditional dual exhaust with mufflers, it had the factory equivalent of an aftermarket glasspak set up. What is that? Basically, no mufflers but instead reverberation chambers that did little to muffle the sounds from the high-revving Hi-Po engine. Only available for five months, it is highly desired by those in the know. Its loud and obnoxious…but factory installed obnoxious…there’s a difference:)
The BIG Question
Bob must have seen that I connected with this car as he asked, “what would you do with it?” I reviewed the car closely and noticed minimal rust, all of the original Hi-Po parts were present, it had incredible patina and its stance was just right. I stated what I thought was obvious, “I would put it back together and drive the heck out of it.” Bob hesitated for a moment, contemplating his next steps. We parted ways with no promises other than to stay in touch and as I left, I closed my goodbye with, “If you ever want to sell it, please let me know.”  As I arrived at RM Sotheby’s auction, I had to share this find with someone…ANYONE! As luck would have it, I noticed Tom Cotter, Shelby Cobra owner, author, historian, and host of the Barn Find Hunter, enter the auction. He was impressed by the find and quickly asked, “Is it on the island?”  And…I hesitated. What do I say? Do I lie? That’s not me. Do I say yes and open myself to the biggest mistake a car guy could make? It didn’t matter. My hesitation was the answer. Tom’s Cheshire Cat grin was followed by “I’ll find it before the weekend is over”. He knew immediately that it was within reach. Thankfully, he never found it.
The Wal*Mart Money Back Guarantee
Over the next six months, Bob called to inform me he was going to sell and that I had the first shot at it. After we agreed on a price, he stated that I could not pick it up until it was in the same shape as when he bought it 18 years earlier. Bob got it running, installed the master cylinder, sent me videos of all of the accessories working, removed and shampooed the carpet and sprayed rust protectant on the floor boards. AND, a week before I was going to pick it up, he asked me what kind of tires I wanted on it. He didn’t want me driving on old tires. Did I mention that he also included a money-back guarantee? I chose the American Racing wheels instead of the Styled Steel wheels as they were period correct and I have fond memories of my cousin’s red fastback from the early 1990s.
In buying and selling cars, a money back guarantee is unheard of. What could possibly explain his actions? Bob spent the majority of his career working for Walmart which included a three-year stint opening new stores in India. A strong work ethic and a fair deal was instilled in Bob at an early age. On a side note, I was recently told that Rob Walton, one of the Wal-Mart heirs and a true car guy, only wears clothing that can be bought from Wal-Mart…including his watch. I am going to confirm that in Monterey…stay tuned😊
Paint Chips Are Freeing!
From the moment I bought it that December, I knew I wanted to drive it during the next Amelia Island Car Week 2023. The first 10 miles were stressful as I did not know how reliable it would be. Bob drove it 12 miles in 18 years. I drove it 112 miles in three days. Having a “patinaed” exterior, covered in small dents and paint chips, is freeing. I had no problem bombing down some of the gravel backroads of the island.  Since the purchase, a good friend, Dale Oakes of Euro Classics, found and installed this incredible 1960s-gauge cluster and sorted the car. Is it a keeper?  You bet…at least until that GT350 shows up. While it is under my care, what am I going do to it? Absolutely nothing. Except drive the heck out of it.