Home » Bringing This Rare Shelby Truck Back To Life Meant Reckoning With The Death Of A Son

Bringing This Rare Shelby Truck Back To Life Meant Reckoning With The Death Of A Son

Theshelby In The Shed Ts
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We love cars. That’s why you’re reading this website, and why I’m writing for it. But more than that, we love stories. It’s not just about engines and horsepower and noisy exhausts, it’s about how these machines weave themselves into the fabric of our lives. Even the humblest car can mean a lot; maybe it’s the car someone learned to drive in, or the truck that carried them to a new beginning far from home. In the case of this 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota, it’s prized in the broader car world for what’s under the hood. But for its former owners, it was cherished for the place it held in their hearts.

Nathan Roe is a Hoosier, and a life-long car fan at that. “I’ve always enjoyed the older vehicles, being able to tinker without hooking it up to a computer,” he explains. Like so many enthusiasts, his passion has a strong family connection. “My Dad and I went to car shows on the weekends to enjoy what people were actually building, not just buying,” says Roe. After helping his father restore cars for years, he bought his own first car at 17, repairing and customizing it into an expression of his own automotive personality.

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Roe has a particular fondness for Dodge trucks, having collected a number of Dodge Dakota Convertibles over the years. But beyond that, he longed to add a Shelby Dakota to his collection. Dodge took the short-wheelbase two-door Dakota, and gave it to Shelby. The All-American performance house eschewed the Dakota’s humble V6, instead dropping in a 5.2-liter V8 for more grunt. 175 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque might not sound like much today, but at the time, it was the fastest pickup bar none. Oh, and it was 1989, so it came with a rad set of wheels and an excellent sticker pack to boot. Meanwhile, numbered plaques on the body reminded owners they had something special, with just 1,500 ever built. The original sales brochure showed the truck in the best possible light. It was a machine, poised and potent, with the tough, steely aesthetic that would have made this thing the perfect hero car for an 80s action film.

Pictures Shelby Dakota 1989 1 B

Shelby Dakota 1989 Images 1 B

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1989 Dodge Shelby
The sales booklet for the Shelby Dakota. Special, no?

With so few examples in the wild, Roe might have been waiting a long time to find one. In the end, it was a meeting of likeminded enthusiasts that led him to his dream truck. At a gas station with his Dakota convertible, he got chatting to a fellow in a nicely-presented 1975 Corvette. While talking cars, the Corvette owner mentioned a Shelby Dakota he knew of that had been sitting for some time. Roe passed his number along. A month went by, and he got a call. Would he like to come and look at the truck and have a chat?

As it turned out, the Shelby belonged to a couple. More accurately, it had belonged to the couple’s son. “Her son bought the truck off the showroom floor when he got out of the Army,” explains Roe. “He drove it around and enjoyed it, but he got very sick and passed away.” With the tragic loss of their son, the couple had held on to the truck in their garage for several decades. It had served as a connection to their lost child. “They kept the truck in memory of him,” says Roe.

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With just 24,000 miles on the clock, the truck was barely broken in. Still, as it sat, the truck had become buried in the bits and pieces that garages inevitably fill up with over time. “They said it hasn’t been driven since 1992,” Roe explains. “The guy told me he would start it every once in a while, but hasn’t done that in roughly 10 years now.” They talked for hours, with Roe showing the couple photos of his own vehicles that he’d collected and restored over the years. “They are getting older, and wanted [the truck] to go to someone that will enjoy the truck and keep it in good shape,” he explained. After he shared his stories of what his cars meant to him, the couple decided to sell the truck to its new caretaker. They negotiated a price and Roe made payments for the truck, picking it up in December last year.

Parting with a cherished vehicle can be difficult at the best of times. Even if we’re just moving on to something new, it can be bittersweet saying goodbye to a stout and worthy chariot that carried us through life’s adventures. In this case, there were obvious strong emotions at play. “It meant a lot to them… she was very emotional when I went to pick it up,” says Roe. “The truck was their memorial of their son.”

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“My plan is to keep it as original as possible, to preserve Carroll Shelby’s creation,” Roe says. He’s taking it slow, eager not to damage anything by being rash. With the engine not having started in years, it’s important to take care. “I want do a little prep on priming the oil and making sure the bearings and piston rings have oil before parts start to move,” he explains. Overall, though, the truck looks fantastic as it stands. The stickers and trim are all present, and having spent decades indoors has kept the paint in great condition. It looks set to become a beautiful example of Shelby’s pioneering sports truck.

When it comes to offloading an old commuter, sometimes we’re just happy to get some walking around money in our pocket. We’re not thinking about where the car’s going or what it will get up to next. Conversely, when a vehicle has played a major role in our lives, we naturally care more about it’s future.

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It’s clear that the couple who held this truck for so long were in no way looking for a quick sale. The truck mattered to their son, and so the vehicle mattered to them. Roe listened, and understood. As a car lover himself, he knew how strong those bonds can be. It was through this genuine love of cars that he became a steward for this Shelby in the next phase of its life. It’s a story of heartbreak and loss, but it’s also wonderful to see this beloved Shelby going on to a warm and happy home.

Image credits: Nathan Roe

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Bill McCoskey
Bill McCoskey
2 months ago

About 1965, while running with other students in PE class, I saw a 1948 Packard parked along side the road, it’s hood raised, and an elderly lady sitting in the driver’s seat. I was in 7th grade, and while not a mechanic [yet], I was interested in Packards, so I asked if I could help. The car had vapor locked, so I took my water-soaked neck towel and used it to lower the temperature of the fuel pump & fuel line to the carb, and managed to get it running again.

Once I got my driver’s license and was able to get my 1950 Packard on the road, I went to visit the lady and her Packard. I really liked her car, she had bought it new. It was a beautiful Deluxe Eight sedan, always garaged, with about 15,000 miles showing on the odometer.

In 1982 I got a call from a local attorney. The lady had passed away, and her will specified I was to get the car. Her family said I was the only person who had expressed any interest in the car, so they were very happy with me getting it. My best friend and I went over to the house, and on opening the garage doors, we found the Packard sitting there covered with bed sheets. She had still been using it from time to time, and it started right up. After filling the tires to the correct pressure and topping up the radiator. As the license plates had not expired, I drove it back to my car repair shop without any problems.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

Kinda funny that this was posted when it was.
The same day I was picking up a 1962 GMC Carryall that my favorite aunt left me when she passed.
Its a cool truck, but I’d rather have my aunt.

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/another-round-of-whats-it-worth-with-a-61-gmc-carr/181182/page3/

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
3 months ago

I love stories like this, the connections we can make with vehicles is always amazing to me.

Our ‘73 Dodge was owned for the bulk of its life by a man whose first and last names are mine and my sons first names respectively, it was originally purchased in the same city my brother just moved to and it shares a nickname with my best friends dog growing up. These occurrences are all, objectively, not connected in any way but they feel it to me through this truck, it has a good energy to it I get to share with my son. Sorry, got a little ramble going there..

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

It is stories like this here on the site that have convinced me to start being a little less sparky in my posts.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
3 months ago

I found a ’64 VW Type 3 Ghia one time just sitting on the grass in a yard. I met the owner, heard the stories, and left sources for restoration along with my contact number. Since it was 4 hours away and I only went to the area occasionally, I dropped by many times over 10 years leaving parts information and contact info. The original owner died, the son didn’t care, but still wouldn’t sell. Last time I went there, the house had been sold to someone else and the car was gone.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

Losing people you love is the toughest thing to deal with in life, IME. I try to keep no more than one thing of meaning from someone. From my mother, I kept her bike and turned it into an ACME (fake) rocket bike, which I’m sure she would appreciate as it leaves joy and laughter in its wake. From my grandfather, who was the only person I’ve ever really looked up to, I have his WW2 Navy knife, which he used throughout his life working around the house or in the garden. It’s been sharpened countless times and is definitely well-used, but it’s a part of him, I love the kind of symbolism of swords into plowshares, and it exemplifies his great adaptability, how he moved on after the war (and plenty of other trials before then), and ethic of reuse, repair, and repurpose. Anyway, whoever said, “time heals all wounds” must have never really loved or lost. IME, you don’t heal so much as learn to live with the scar tissues. It’s great they were able to let the truck go and that the new buyer seems to have reverence for the truck and its particular history. After all, these machines are just collections of material that nature is constantly trying to reclaim, it’s us living with them and how we feel about them that gives them their importance and “life” of sorts.

Last edited 3 months ago by Cerberus
It'll buff out
It'll buff out
2 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

After all, these machines are just collections of material that nature is constantly trying to reclaim, it’s us living with them and how we feel about them that gives them their importance and “life” of sorts.

I think just just about sums up the whole reason most of us are here. Very well said. If that isn’t a COTD, I don’t know what is….

Mike F.
Mike F.
3 months ago

I’ve had a couple of close friends who’ve lost a child, and although I’ve seen it from up close, I still can’t comprehend the kind of torturous, permanent grief it brings. Hanging on to anything that brings a connection to that lost kid makes perfect sense. But it’s really nice that this couple was ultimately able to see that getting the truck to someone who would do it justice and keep it running well would be for the best. I can’t imagine that they won’t get photos, videos, and a visit when it’s back in shape and on the road.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
3 months ago

That touching story reminded me of how I found a 1969 Scout 800 in Maine that was from Montana and never been driven in salt. The elderly lady was the mom whose son had been restoring it but died of cancer at an early age. I bought it to finish and rebuild but then my mother got uterine cancer and died, and so I sold the Scout to an IH lover and moved on with my own grief. The money from the sale went into a 1956 Lincoln which already ran and drove (my rule for projects now since life is short) and I later traded the Lincoln for my little 2003 Tacoma 2wd regular cab, 5spd autocross truck which I still have today. Life is a strange curvy road with spots of glare ice in unexpected areas. Sometimes you just need to slide through at WOT.

James Davidson
James Davidson
3 months ago

Great article and a heartbreaking story. I like to think that they have made arrangements for the couple to see their son’s truck once it’s back on the road again. That might help them feel a little bit more closure and confirm that they made the right choice. Maybe it could help them feel like their son is still with them in spirit in a new way each time this truck is out on the road again.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
3 months ago
Reply to  James Davidson

Just like J. Leno does, he invites the family to see their lost relatives custom car back on the road. As he often gets offers of cars that someone put their heart & soul into and want to arrange the sale before they die…
So yes, I would offer to show them the car and if wise, even offer to let them drive it with full coverage insurance, as I believe that those pickups were automatic, power steering & power brakes…

Thomas The Tank Engine
Thomas The Tank Engine
3 months ago

We love cars. That’s why you’re reading this website, and why I’m writing for it. But more than that, we love stories. It’s not just about engines and horsepower and noisy exhausts, it’s about how these machines weave themselves into the fabric of our lives. Even the humblest car can mean a lot

The truck mattered to their son, and so the vehicle mattered to them. Roe listened, and understood. As a car lover himself, he knew how strong those bonds can be. It was through this genuine love of cars that he became a steward for this Shelby in the next phase of its life.

And this is what we love about cars and car culture, and it’s what The Autopian does brilliantly.

Horsepower numbers, top speed, 0-60 times, they mean little to me now. Partly because of age, partly because numbers that were unattainable 30 years ago are commonplace now.

But the meaning of cars, our bond with them, how they make us feel, the details that excite us, these are what matter more to me now.

We get it. The Autopian gets it. And all of the people who are featured in this article get it.

What a lovely story, and we wish everyone the best.

It would be lovely to see an update when the truck is back to its best.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
3 months ago

“We love cars.” obviously you are not a professional mechanic or former mechanic as we hate cars except for a few exceptions like my Mustang GT, Vanagon Westy, Ford Econoline with a 351W & 4speed manual…
I caught this article because of the human interest. A few of my friends have rebuilt a late realities car and one rebuilt his wife’s first car a VW Bettle, even though he wasn’t into cars. So yes, I think that the parents need to ride in their late son’s car once it is restored & preserved, and if possible to drive it…

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 months ago

Man, my heart breaks for that couple. I’m glad the truck landed in the hands of someone who’ll enjoy it, though.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
3 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

A few of my friends have been buried by their parents. I honestly believe that there is nothing worse, particularly in the case of Lara & Dave, as they chose their exit…

Cal67
Cal67
3 months ago

That’s a tough situation. A former co-worker had his son’s Mustang that he was killed in stored in the garage. Worked on it a bit at a time for years as that was the only remaining connection he had with him. That car will never be sold until he passes on as well.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
3 months ago

How serendipitous. I was just caught in a somewhat related position the other day. My dad let me know that he had just come across the daily driven hotrod of a friend of ours that passed away about ten years ago. It looks like his kids are finally feeling like they can move on so they’re selling the car and my dad came across the ad by accident. Unfortunately neither of us has 25k to buy it, otherwise his plymouth would be moving to a new home.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
3 months ago

What a great story. When I bought my ‘68 Dart, I was actually interviewed by the seller to make sure it was going to a good home. He had turned down 4 people before me because he was afraid they would ruin it because it was a /6 car. That Shelby sounds like it’s gone to a good home.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
3 months ago
Reply to  Cam.man67

A ’68 dart still with the leaning tower of power? That is a rare beast anymore. I can’t say I’m not jealous.

As a side note, does anyone else think their new inline six should have been made as a slant six rather than the straight up one they did? I know they’d have had a more complex oiling system etc., but it could give them a lower profile for potentially better aero on the behemoths they’re building.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Geekycop .

A slant engine is better suited to a reverse flow head than a cross flow head. I also question how much a slant would reduce the height with how wide DOHC heads generally are.

I don’t think the height of the engine is remotely limiting how low they can make the hood line on any of the cars that the Hurricane will be in. As an example, look at the Mk4 Supra/LC300 that also came with a 3.0l twin cam straight six. Obviously it is possible to make a car with a fairly low good line that has a straight six.

JumboG
JumboG
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

My BMW straight six(s, I actually have 2 M54 cars) is mounted at a slant. Also, they work fine with a crossflow, as the exhaust can be pointed on the down side leaving more room for the intake up top.

Also, my truck in High School was a D100 with a slant six and a 3 on the tree.

Last edited 3 months ago by JumboG
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  JumboG

You can have a cross flow slant six with the exhaust on the bottom, but then the exhaust is under the engine cooking it. Not worse than any boxer, but not ideal.

JumboG
JumboG
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

It the same as an V engine’s exhaust, and I’d rather the heat going to the non-intake side of the engine as opposed to cooking the intake.

Gene1969
Gene1969
3 months ago

I’m so glad Nathan found these people and that they found him. He will do the truck justice and they will be happy.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

That is a whole truckload of pathos, right there. But also, joy in its resurrection.

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