Ask most vintage auto enthusiast what their dream car would be and you’ll get as many different answers as there are models to choose from. Mopars, Fords, Chevys, etc. all fill the wish lists of car enthusiasts everywhere, but what if you didn’t have to choose?
For Floridians Brian and Samantha Styles, the decision isn’t which marque to select, but which car to acquire next.
With no shortage of pristine American muscle at their disposal, Brian and Samantha Styles have their pick of the litter.
“We are not ‘Brand’ collectors. Our collection consists of cars that excite us, regardless of manufacturer,” Brian, who explains that his collection is no static display, said. “We enjoy both the cars we show and those we drive differently.”
The ‘drivers’ are cars that were typically restored a decade ago and are starting to show a little patina but make no mistake; these aren’t your run-of-the-mill cruisers. The Styles only collect the rarest of the lot with impeccable documentation and provenance.
Eager to cruise the sunshine state, The Styles collection combines droptop fun with big-block muscle. (Photo Credit: The Keepers of Cars, Jesse James Allen)
“What matters,” Brian told us, “is that you can fully authenticate the rarity of the car based on the VIN, data plate, castings, stampings, factory records, original paperwork, and sometimes even through locating and interviewing the original owner(s) of the car.”
“Finding examples with original engines is nice, but hardly necessary,” Brian added. “These cars were designed by hand and the tolerances weren’t great. Those equipped with high-horsepower engines and subsequently enjoyed… Well, their engines usually didn’t survive. That’s the reality of these old cars.”
A kid at heart, Brian Styles enjoys his first childhood car memories with his collection of automotive toys and collectibles.
Pinpointing the roots of Styles automotive acumen Brian alludes to a story relayed to him by his parents at some point in his early 20s. “I forget the exact backdrop for the conversation, though I was told I was miraculously conceived in a C2 Corvette Roadster,” the father of two said.
This may explain his childhood penchant for collecting die-cast, Matchbox, Hot Wheels, Corgi’s and most anything with four (or more) wheels. “I used to love to draw cars and trucks as a child, and then build plastic model kits. I’ve always been a collector of cars,” Brian recalled. “It’s just that the scale has changed along with my age” he said casually.
A 1969 Cougar 428CJ Ram Air four-speed convertible that was a successful Super Stock Division 1 car would make for an interesting trip to the local grocery store.
“My first car was a metallic blue Murray ‘Dude Wagon’ pedal car at age 2. Next would be a hand-me-down ’78 VW Rabbit, which I promptly totaled,” Brian confessed. Eventually a ’78 and ’85 Corvette would serve as transportation for the burgeoning future collector.
Any well-curated collection is ever-evolving. The Styles have always focused on American muscle and pony cars, built during the pinnacle of the 1967-1973 era.
“Over the years, Samantha and I have continually re-focused, from just about anything that was pretty to cars that were purpose-built and finally to the present, consisting of uber rare convertibles of the big-block or ram-air variety,” he explained.
• 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400 Ram-Air IV four-speed convertible
• 1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 Ram-Air II four-speed convertible
• 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 L78/L89 four-speed convertible
In that vein, Brian and wife Samantha assembled a jaw-dropping collection including some of the most sought after examples of muscle in the country. Of course, in every collection, there is always a crown jewel. And, for the Styles, selecting that gem is easy…
The Crown Jewel
“We have no ‘favorite.’ That’s like asking a parent which one of their children is their favorite,” he explained. “I do, however, respond that if the building was on fire and I had time to save only one, it would have to be the one that is hands-down the most significant — the 1967 Shelby GT500 convertible.The only one ever made.”
Just don’t call it a prototype.
The one and only 1967 Shelby GT500 convertible is the pinnacle of the Styles’ collection.
“This is a factory produced one-of-one,” Brian added. “All ’67 Mustangs special ordered by Shelby American were equipped with the Ford Cobra 428 topped with dual four-barrel carbs. This GT500 convertible was no different, meaning number 0139 is the only multi-carbureted Mustang convertible ever built!”
Shoehorned into this GT500 is a Ford Cobra 428 topped with dual four-barrel carbs, and featuring Selectaire air conditioning, and exhaust emissions.
The California-based Shelby American was plagued by “launch problems,” and the original plan for 1967 1/2 convertibles getting reluctantly scrubbed. That resulted in the first GT convertible, car #0139, becoming the one and only ’67 GT500 convertible ever built.
Utilized heavily in Ford promotional shots as the new 1968 Shelby, this car remains as it always was — the sole 1967 Shelby convertible ever produced. (Photo Credit: The Keepers of Cars, Jesse James Allen)
With a wide selection of classics to choose from, Brian and Samantha don’t rule out adding to the herd.
“If money were no object we’d love a ’69 Camaro RS/SS L78 Convertible, a ’64 Pontiac XP833 Banshee, and a Tucker 48,” Brian conceded. “We’d also like to expand the stable with an international flavor to include a ’67 Toyota 2000GT, a ’69 Nissan Fairlady Z, maybe a ’71 Lamborghini Miura SV, a first-gen Acura NSX or a ’98 MKIV Supra Turbo in Royal Sapphire Pearl.”
Sounds to us like they’re going to need a bigger stable.