Tim Lea is a leading 1965-1970 Mustang expert and owner of Tim Lea Restoration. Tim Lea Restoration is based in North Andover, MA. As a Mustang owner and enthusiast for decades, Lea has dedicated his life to the preservation of the world’s most sought-after muscle cars made by Shelby and Ford. His most recent achievement is his three Concours Gold Awards for his work on a pair of rare 1968 Shelby GT500KR convertibles. These cars were judged to be restored to dealer-showroom condition, true to original Ford and Shelby assembly-line standards.
“If you time-warped back to 1968, this is how every nook and cranny of these cars should look,” comments Lea of Tim Lea Restorations. “With projects like these, winning Gold isn’t just in the details, but in preserving the car’s original authenticity.”
The two Tim Lea-restored Shelby Mustang convertibles both won Gold at the recent 42nd Annual Mid America Ford & Shelby Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One of the cars is a 1968 Shelby GT500KR #4308 owned by noted Southern California philanthropists/Ford collectors Rae and Ted Segerstrom. Of the 1,571 total 1968 GT500KRs made, 518 were convertibles. The Segerstroms’ car is one of only five “Special Yellow” four-speed/air-conditioned KR convertibles: three had white tops and two received black tops. The KR designation denotes that the car came with the legendary 428-cubic-inch Ford Cobra Jet V-8 engine.
The Segerstroms’ car was found in Pennsylvania with only 37,000 original miles. Last registered in 1976, this GT500KR was relatively complete despite less-than-ideal storage conditions. The Tim Lea Restoration team spent more than sixteen months reviving the car. The process began by inspecting and disassembling the Shelby Mustang. All of the parts were then cataloged and inventoried. Next, the body was blasted to remove all rust and corrosion. Following the necessary bodywork, Lea applied the paint exactly the same way the factory did forty-eight years ago: with the doors attached to the body shell and the hood, trunk, and other body panels off the car.
The car’s “Special Yellow” color (paint code WT6066) has an interesting backstory. Ford originally offered Shelby GT500KR Mustangs in a “Sunlit Gold” metallic. A.O. Smith, the company that Shelby-ized the Mustangs for Ford with special gauges, center consoles, and engine modifications, had difficulty color-matching the metallic paint to the signature Shelby fiberglass hood, light buckets, valance, and rear spoiler. The company ultimately asked Ford for a comparable non-metallic replacement for “Sunlit Gold.” The solution was “Special Yellow” from Ford’s industrial/fleet color catalog. It debuted on GT500s in May 1968.
The most challenging aspect of the restoration was accessing the various components behind the dash panel. Ford introduced a removable dash in the 1969 model year, but the earlier cars had their HVAC parts tucked behind a fixed panel. “There’s an amazing amount of plumbing and electrical underneath the dash,” Lea comments. “If you don’t know your stuff, you’re going to get in trouble.” Further complicating the job, the GT500KR convertibles have additional top-mechanism parts that require careful adjustment.
On the interior, Tim Lea Restoration uses new old-stock (NOS) materials for the upholstery wherever possible. The original 428 Cobra-Jet V-8 was totally disassembled and re-built to mint condition by R. Johnson & Sons Engine Service in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The second award-winning 1968 GT500KR is owned by Mustang enthusiast Bob Cassling of Los Angeles. This “triple black” car (#2340) features black paint, a black convertible top and a black interior. It won back-to-back Gold awards: first at Mid America in Tulsa with a repeat performance a few days later at the Shelby American Automobile Club 2016 National Convention (SAAC-41) in Ohio. This is Cassling’s second 1968 black KR convertible. The first won Gold at Mid America, SAAC and the Mustang Club of America (MCA) national meet, making the car a “Triple Crown” winner at the country’s three most significant Shelby Mustang shows.
These recent concours awards bring Tim Lea Restoration’s Gold total to well over 30 – which includes five “Triple Crown” winners. Lea’s next projects include restoring the four remaining 1968 “Special Yellow” GT500KR four-speed, air-conditioned convertibles, all owned by Rae and Ted Segerstrom.