Shelby Changes Hobby To Passion

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John Zilisch’s 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500

Cars are my hobby, not my life, just my hobby. It started with a $25 Model “T” when I was 14. I was too young to drive and the car didn’t run anyway, but I learned a lot. At first it was easy. Old cars were cheap and my first attempts at restoration didn’t do much damage to any real icons. Usually with some good hunting I could find something interesting, run it for a while, upgrade it, and sell it for a few bucks more than I had paid. Not much different than a lot of guys growing up in the ’50s.

But along the way I began to enjoy the mechanical side. A carburetor that needed rebuilding, replacing a set of brake shoes, and then finally my first engine rebuild when I was 17. It was a disaster because I didn’t torque the inlet manifold (no torque wrench) among other things. How many other guys do you know who have received a torque wrench from their mom as a graduation present?

I even spent some time during college working part-time in a body shop. It only paid 90 cents an hour, but I got to work on my car after hours. The only car the owner ever let me paint was my own, which was understandable.

The body shop work lasted just about long enough for me to realize that straightening a panel or applying paint is a skill and an art form not easily acquired. Like the mechanical work, there is only so much a person can do in the family garage. I have stripped several cars to the body and put them back together again, from a Corvair Corsa Convertible to a Porsche 911. I lived with them all the way and was proud of the results.

One car led to another. But, with a growing family, school loans to pay off and just too many other priorities, the hobby car in the garage was just that, a hobby. The cars were never worth much, but they were interesting and each one got just a little bit better and a little bit more exotic than the last.

Three years ago I was finally able to purchase a 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500. I have always admired the Shelby cars but, had never been able to take my hobby to that level. I guess being retired does have its perks. However, now the hobby has expanded from just puttering in the garage to a very involved commitment. Being a part of the Rim Country Classic Auto Club means that there are opportunities for involvement in events just about every weekend. Come join us if this is your thing.

John Zilisch

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