Are Shelby Mustang buyers more shrewd than most?

“They’re only original once” is a mantra enthusiastically parroted by auctioneers and dealers. It seems to have caught on with collectors, too, as some original, unrestored cars of top quality are bringing significantly higher prices than even freshly (and accurately) restored examples.

Cars in scruffy, neglected condition – non-running barn-finds, essentially – have commanded startling premiums. Dirt, grime and rodents’ abandoned homes seem to have value among some collectors. With that in mind, it was with great fanfare and hopes for a headline result that Bonhams offered 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 (serial number SFM6S163) at its recent Greenwich, Conn., auction.

After all, the barn find fascination has produced results like a Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet at Auctions America’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., auction in April. That faded and neglected apparition, with poor clearcoat on the paint, sold for $269,500, the value of a cosmetically restored and well maintained example.

In Scottsdale, Ariz., in January, Gooding & Company featured three barn finds, all with carefully preserved dirt and bird droppings (woe to the future curator). A Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster brought a relatively modest, but still expensive, $792,000. Its garage companion, a 190SL in somewhat worse condition, went away for a seriously optimistic $74,250, selling into a decidedly weakening market for the model. The cream of the crop there may have been a ’62 Maserati 3500GT Vignale Spider that sold for $473,000. Not only were its doorsills rotten and lumpy, it didn’t have the original engine.

Engineer Fran Grayson purchased the aforementioned Shelby GT350 in 1967. Before he bought it, the Mustang had been raced and used for promotions by two related Ford dealerships in Massachusetts, Harr Ford and Natick Ford. It served as a daily driver, too, as its badly rusted right side proclaims, until 1976, when Grayson tucked it away. It remained in his storage building until recently.

SFM6S163 was one of the 252 so-called “carryover” ’66 Shelbys, built from late 1965 Mustangs using the ’66 grille, quarter windows and GT instrument panel, among other details, but retaining the performance features of the ’65 cars.

Its originality was uncompromised, but it also came from a meticulous home with a thick folder of literature and records as well as parts and service invoices. Its body was a bit more compromised, though Bonhams specialists were quick to point out that they’d been under it and the floors were, with the exception of the right rear footwell, solid.

Modestly estimated at $80,000-$120,000, it was highly anticipated when it crossed the block late in the auction and sold for $159,500.

In the context of recent sales of the desirable carryover ’66 Shelby GT350, this represented a realistic, even modest, value for a potential Preservation class show winner. Russo and Steele reported selling SFM6S213, restored to pristine, show-ready condition, at its Monterey, Calif., auction last year for $313,500.

Why no originality premium on SFM6S163? Apparently Shelby Mustang buyers have more sense than to read something into the tea leaves of dirt, animal scat and grunge.

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