Charlotte resident John "Woody" Woodruff is among a very select group of automobile collectors, having owned the same Shelby Mustang GT-350 sports car since it was new 40 years ago.

He will be celebrating that milestone during the April 12-15 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "I've had this car for 40 years and have so much history tied up in it," Woodruff said about his prized ride.

Shelby Mustangs, which first hit the road in 1965, were a joint effort between the Ford Motor Co. and Carroll Shelby's Shelby-American. New Mustangs were shipped to Shelby's factory in California where they were modified and then distributed to Ford dealers across the country.

Woodruff's car, one of only 1,175 Shelby GT-350s built in 1967, was sent to Dockery Ford in Morristown, N.J. It was used as a dealer demo car for several months before Woodruff drove into the lot, looking to trade his 1961 Volkswagen Beetle for an American muscle car. Because it was a dealer demo, Woodruff said he was able to purchase the Shelby for $3,760, slightly less than its $4,200 sticker price.

Powered by a 289-cubic-inch V-8 engine rated at 306 horsepower with a four-speed transmission, Woodruff's Shelby GT-350 is one of only 200 early production models that featured functional lower scoops and high-mounted side marker lights. 1967 was also the first year the Shelby came with a four-point roll bar and featured taillights adapted from the Mercury Cougar.

The car's charcoal grey paint with Wimbledon white stripes is also very unique. "It's not a typical Mustang color because it's actually a Lincoln charcoal grey," Woodruff explained, noting that only about a dozen 1967 Shelby Mustangs were produced with that paint combination.

Even though he knew it was a limited production model, the Shelby was Woodruff's only car at the time and, from 1967 to 1975, served as his daily driver, minus the year he spent serving in Vietnam. He also took the opportunity to see the country in his rare muscle car.

"I think I've been to over 40 states in the car and I've driven it to Canada-Quebec and Nova Scotia," Woodruff explained. His trips included a 1970 sojourn across the country to visit Los Angeles, San Francisco and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

While it is not in what automotive aficionados refer to as "show condition," Woodruff has carefully maintained his Shelby. It was repainted several years ago, and he recently had the seats re-upholstered and the tires and wheels were replaced last year.

"Scratches and dings are going to happen," Woodruff said. "I keep it in a locked garage and don't leave it parked at a shopping mall. I drive to car shows and meets, but things are going to happen. I'll fix them eventually."

While similar Shelby GT-350s have sold for $125,000, Woodruff has no interest in ringing the cash register.

"The three-spoke wooden steering wheel is worth more now than what I paid for the car, but I wouldn't sell it," Woodruff said. "I had it up for sale when I went into the Army, but no one was interested so I took if off the market and haven't put it up since."

Woodruff's Shelby GT-350 will be a part of the Ford Owners Association of the Carolinas display during the final two days of the Food Lion AutoFair.

Other attractions scheduled for AutoFair include Atlanta Braves outfielder Andruw Jones' 2007 Cadillac ESV; 75 years of the '32 Ford "Deuce" coupe; an Evolution of the Stock Car exhibit; prized rides of NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jeff Green; and a pair of futuristic bubbletop show cars from the early 1960s.

Food Lion AutoFair attracts more than 160,000 visitors and features 58 car club displays, more than 10,000 vendor spaces and a collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. More than 1,800 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

For information, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.