Field Find? Classic Shelby and Mopar Muscle Cars Found Withering Away in the Arizona Sun

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This “Fab Five” belonged to Mark Spear, a gearhead with a taste for muscle cars, who passed away last April at the age of 71. His love of cars came from his father who worked at a local Ford dealership in Minneapolis, Minn. When Mark turned 21, the elder Spear turned his son on to quite a bargain.

A customer had traded in a 1968 Shelby GT500 KR, a soon-to-become iconic Mustang equipped with a stout 428-cubic-inch V-8. The KR (which stands for “King of the Road”) was rated at 335 hp, although later independent tests reported that the engine made well over 400 horses. Mark had to have it. So started a lifelong journey with the four-speed car, one of a little more than 1,000 fastback KRs ever built. He paid $2,119.67 for it.

During the years that followed, Mark became a military man, as well as an engineer, and met the love of his life, Ann. Speed and adrenaline played key roles in his life as an Air Force helicopter pilot, so it’s no surprise he later found himself collecting American muscle cars. He turned into a local legend for his fight to save the breed and keep his personal vehicles; yet, he also battled the outside sources of the world that made muscle-car ownership difficult. His involvement with local politics led him to consider running for congress at one point. In 2016, the United States House of Representatives recognized Mark for his outstanding community service in southern Arizona.

During the oil crisis of the 1970s, Mark seized the opportunity to buy the gas-guzzlers seen in these pictures. Plenty of examples were for sale at the time—cheap. He could finally purchase the dream machines he longed for, starting with a $450 1969 Dodge Charger 500 and a $2,000 four-speed 1971 Dodge Challenger with a 426-cubic-inch Hemi. Then came a four-speed 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T with a 440 cubic-inch V-8, followed by a 1969 Charger R/T 440—a “parts car” bought at a bargain price. This Mopar family of four joined his 1968 Shelby GT500 KR. All have survived, as demonstrated by the photos within this article.

Mark and Ann enjoyed the local car scene with their rides, making many friends along the way. When moving to Tucson a number of years later, the vehicles all came with them: some hooked to tow bars (the Challenger and the Coronet), the rest on trailers. The Spears loved to travel, enjoying many ocean cruises, but Mark was also happy to share his amazing machines at home when the opportunity ever arose to talk nuts ’n’ bolts. He remained a member of local and national car clubs for years, as he continued to collect parts and literature to fuel his passion.



Mark categorically refused to sell his muscle cars during his decades of ownership. Though rare and nearly new when he acquired each, all slowly fell into disrepair. The Charger 500 shared the main garage’s space with loads of electronics and inventory from his business; the other rides rested in the backyard under the harsh Arizona sun. For years, the Hemi Challenger sat in the driveway, attracting a steady stream of notes on the windshield and knocks at the door. All were turned away.

The very few people who knew about the Mustang and Mopars lurking on the property would occasionally pester Mark to sell, but the answer was always no. As Mark started battling health issues, several of his car buddies met to discuss his vehicles and the best way to help Ann with the collection. Mark Spear passed away on April 29, 2020.

His longtime mechanic and friend, Gary Taylor, took the initiative to help Ann in her time of need, knowing that the vultures would start circling and trying to pluck the jewels from the property. Gary additionally stepped up to assist with the monumental task of sorting through Mark’s lifetime of collecting. They made the wise decision of soliciting some professional help, ultimately entrusting Randy Carlson of Carchaeology. Incidentally, you might recognize him as one of the appraisers on the MotorTrend App’s Sticker Shock show. (Be sure to check out the MotorTrend App’s Summer Deal and start streaming great automotive videos today!) Randy agreed to inspect, appraise, and prepare the cars for hitting the market.

Later, an 18-wheeler traveled to Tucson and, one by one, the five vehicles were pulled from the yard and carefully loaded for a trip to California. “The car carrier rolling across the desert, loaded with sunburnt and dusty muscle cars, caused quite a stir,” Randy said. “Photos and videos were taken and shared online all along the path. The driver arrived here with a stack of business cards and phone numbers of people interested in buying the cars.”

At the time of this writing, the Mopars and the Shelby are being thoroughly inspected, as well as documented at Carchaeology’s “lab” in preparation for the cars’ eventual sales. Hopefully, these muscle machines’ engines will roar and wheels will roll soon.

Cheers to Major Mark Spear and his dedication to his V-8-powered muscle cars. Thank you for your service and for being the caretaker of these hidden jewels. Now, let’s all share in the fun of the vehicles’ discovery and revival.

1968 Shelby GT500 KR Specs

  • Acapulco Blue
  • 428-cubic-inch Cobra Jet engine
  • Toploader four-speed transmission
  • 50:1 Traction-Lok rear axle
  • GT equipment group, power steering, power disc brakes, tilt steering, factory shoulder harnesses, sport deck rear set

1969 Dodge Charger R/T Specs

  • 440-cubic-inch engine
  • 727 Torqueflite transmission
  • Power steering, power brakes, air-conditioning, center console

1969 Dodge Charger 500 Specs

  • Dark Green Metallic paint
  • 440-cubic-inch engine
  • 727 Torqueflite transmission
  • Power steering, power brakes, power windows, air conditioning, center console

1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Specs

  • Sublime Green with white top
  • Six-Pack, 440-cubic-inch engine
  • A833 four-speed transmission
  • Super Track Pak with 4.10:1 Dana 60 rear axle, white interior

1971 Dodge Challenger R/T Specs

  • Rallye Red
  • 426 Hemi engine
  • A833 four-speed transmission
  • Track Pak with 3.54:1 Dana 60 rear axle, sport hood, M44 hood and fender moldings

The post Field Find? Classic Shelby and Mopar Muscle Cars Found Withering Away in the Arizona Sun appeared first on MotorTrend.

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