|Ed Villa's '67 Shelby Mustang GT500 prepares to race at Raceway Park, Englishtown, NJ, in 1969 (Photo: Mustang and Fords magazine).||Lost and found: Villa's '67 Shelby Mustang GT500, as it looks today, more than 25 years after he sold it (Photo: Mustang and Fords magazine).||Another shot of the '67 Shelby Mustang GT500, preparing to be shipped to Villa's home in Tennessee (Photo: Mustang and Fords magazine).|
(Ed. note: This article appears in the January 2003 issue of Mustang & Fords magaine. Visit the magazine online at www.mustangandfords.com.)
We have plenty of chances to see beautiful cars on the pages of the magazine, but there usually isn't space allotted to talk about the people behind the cars. Every car has a story, but it's the owner who gets to tell it.
This is just such a story and it needs to be told. Ed Villa was once a drag racer in New Jersey. His story takes him to Florida in 1976 and then he settles in Tennessee in 1986, where he resides today. We'll let Ed tell his story in his own words.
"In 1968, I purchased a 1967 GT500. I drove it every day and, on weekends, I drag-raced it at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. I drag-raced it in 1969 and 1970. I did very well. The car was on the cover of Raceway News, Volume 1, issue No. 12, and was a top-10 champ in 1970.
When I moved to Florida, I was out of work and had to sell the car in 1976."
The end, right? It might have been had Ed not kept the car in his heart the whole time.
In July 2001, Ed's son was checking out the "cars for sale" ads. He told his father, "This sounds like your old car."
The ad read: "SHELBY: 1967, GT 500, original paint Brittany Blue, fresh drivetrain, 64,000 orig. miles, auto, VIN 0XXX (number deleted for privacy), one owner 18 years, inboards, 5 Mag Stars, very, very original & solid, but needs repaint."
The ad included a price and a phone number. The car was in Florida.
"I called the guy up," Ed said. "He lived near Tampa, and he had just purchased a Brittany Blue GT500 that had been in storage for the past 25 years. He said it was some kind of race car from New Jersey. We loaded up and took a trip to Tampa. Sure enough, there was my baby."
It was a great reunion, but Ed realized there would be hours and hours of work to get the car where he wanted it to be. "It was in rough shape, but you could see my name on the sides, still had the dash plaques from the 1969 Fall Nationals, and still had some of my stuff in the trunk. I had to buy it back and trailer it home."
The difference between what he paid to get it back and what he sold it for all those years ago was staggering. The price is no one's business, but let's just say he paid 10 times what he sold it for.
This is about more than money. This isn't getting a car "like you used to have." This is getting the car "you used to have."
"It has the original engine and transmission, and still has the Doug's headers I installed over 30 years ago."
The car made the trip to Tennessee and is well into the process of being restored back to its glory. Ed has plenty of pictures from those days on the track to help jog any faded memories. His collection includes timeslips, newspaper clippings, track photos, and even copies of the program from the racing era. He also has a collection of photos from his other racing venture, a March 722 Formula Atlantic car.
Now, Ed works on his '67 Shelby GT500, but that's not all. He builds Harleys at the rate of about one a year (reaching seven at one point.) "I guess I need to sell some," he said in April. His son has a white Mach in his collection. Ed has had other '67 Shelby rides and a Pantera in the recent past, but it's the memories of the late '60s and the cars he and his friends raced and rode that remain burning brightly.
Drag racing is different today, but the idea behind the competition is still strong. Cars have changed since the days of Ed's championship days in the D/SA, but they may not have gotten better. To Ed Villa, there's nothing better than a '67 Shelby GT500, but only one in particular. Now, the reunion is completed. This story has a happy ending.