With contributions from AJ Smullen and Vernon E.
From the showroom floor, Al Grillo Ford in Lynn, Massachusetts seemed like a great place to buy a new Ford. Hundreds of customers
made Grillo one of the most sucessful Shelby dealers in 1968. However, it was what went on behind the showroom that would lead to the demise of the dealership
and Al Grillo himself.
July 1968 - Al Grillo (left) poses with Playmate, Michelle Hamilton and Ed Casey, Shelby's regional representative. Grillo was always well dressed and rarely wore the same clothes twice. He often chomped
on a big cigar, but rarely smoked.
Grillo Ford was located at 220 South Common Street in Lynn, Massachusetts. It's hard to believe that Grillo
was in business for less than two years. Grillo purchased Nel-Nick Motors in early 1967. The dealership was always full of high performance vehicles. They sold 427 Cobra roadsters, a street GT40 and dozens of Shelbys.
A handful of Shelbys were sold during the summer of 1967. They also did some customization work. It was rumored they would build anything for anyone. Several of Grillo's custom jobs found their way
to North Carolina, reportedly to be used by "moonshiners".
P/1058 might be the most beautiful car ever produced. It was sent to Al Grillo. It was also used by Ed Casey as a personal demonstrator. The picture is courtesy of Legendary Motor Car. According to A.J. "Smiley" Smullen, Grillo's
speed shop manager, Grillo may have sold as many as 17 GT40s! Smullen said the cars were "a real buzz" to drive. He feels the cars were under appreciated in the 1960s. The regular buyer had a real tough time relating to the supercar, Smullen told me.
You need to be a professional driver to really understand the capabilities of the car. Smullen related a story to me when he and another person drove a GT to nearby Gloucester, Massachusetts. He said most of the route was through urban areas, but they managed to
achieve a top speed of 188 miles per hour. By the time a local police officer stopped by Grillo Ford, Smullen had already hidden the car in the back under lock and key. The officer said, "Smiley every cop in eastern Mass is looking for that car!". Smullen, smiled and said
he didn't know anything about it...
This picture of P/1058 was actually taken at the factory! How cool is that?
This is CSX 3342. It's an original Grillo car. At one point Grillo asked Smullen to the back of the dealership. There sat 7 new Shelby Cobra roadsters. "Smiley, take your pick of these cars." Smullen looked at Grillo and said, "I cant afford that!"
Al Grillo insisted the $6960 was reasonable. "You are going to be sorry", Grillo added. "These are going to be worth a lot of money someday." Smullen's still not sure if it was truely insight or sales bluster.
SFM6S021 was a factory drag car. It was originally sold to Hi Performance Motors in California and then transfered to Al Grillo in 1967. Picture from the internet.
During the 1968 model year, Grillo was ranked in the top ten of all Shelby dealers nationally, selling over 70 cars. Dieringer was a NASCAR driver that occasionally visited the dealership.
He was a friend of Grillos and mostly came by for special promotions.
This beautiful 1967 is Grillo car. It has the louvered hood.
# 783 came from Grillo. The Lime Green, GT350 now sports some fancy wheels.
This gorgeous white convertible is # 1425. The white with blue stripes may be the best combination.
Grillo sold this special orange GT500 KR. It is # 3405 and was one of only 4 cars painted this color (WT 5107). This car is currently in France.
Here's the same car at Grillo in 1968. That's Ed Casey and Michelle Hamilton. Ed's job was to escort the Playmates during their dealership visits!
I'm certain Ed was a top performer, because there must have been a long line for that job!
This Grillo advertisement actually appeared in HOT ROD magazine. Just in case you doubted he was a high stakes player. Grillo also maintained a relationship with Holman-Moody.
Here is an email from Paul. Paul describes his memories and a sales technique referred to as "bird dogging". That's when a salesman offers a small fee to people that refer customers. It was very common.
Carroll Shelby, Grillo and Casey pose for a picture beside a new 1968 Shelby. Grillo was the consumate salesman. He was very well read and liked to strike up a conversation.
Grillo sold a number of special paint cars. I counted at least six. Most were yellow cars. This yellow GT350 is # 3441 and it was under restoration when this photo was taken.
Grillo used this nameplate on his cars. I have seen several of these on Shelby decklids.
#2068 is also a Grillo alumnus. This GT500 sports a red exterior and a saddle interior.
This Grillo car is #4051 and it spent some time in Asia. This picture is real!
Grillo's dealer demonstration plate was white with blue letters. The "D" signifies a dealer. "313" was Grillo's unique number. Grillo had more than two dozen of these plates assigned to the dealership.
The suffix is the plate identification. So here, the "C" indicates the third plate issued. Grillo used these plates on cars he kept around the dealership without the intention of a quick sale.
“Thanks so much for the story about Al Grillo Ford. Back in the day, I lived on Shepard Street and my dad was friends with one of the salesman at Grillo. At that time, I lived just walking distance away. On the left, just up the road, is brick building which was the Lynnway bowling alley. The gas tank you see in that photo (top of page) is where I used to go fishing as a kid. It was the gas wharf. Large ships bringing in the gas would dock there and a lot of larger fish would follow it in to feed. Also, right behind Grillo Ford was a road that was seldom used at night. A lot of people used to use it as a small drag strip at night. The police really never bothered anyone for drag racing, that is until someone began bringing in muscle that was made just for the drag strip. Then they shut it down.
I am not sure if my dad knew Al or not, but knowing my dad, he most likely did. My dad has since passed away. I remember he brought in one of my friends to get a new Mustang. My friend bought it and my dad got $25 bucks for bringing him in.
Back then, I was so unaware of what was going on at that dealership and find it so interesting to hear about it.
Lots of memories....
In 1969, the dealership was closed by Ford. Grillo owed the Ford Motor Company a considerable sum of money. Records indicate Grillo never sold a single 1969 Shelby.
Most of Grillo's stock was transfered to Lynn Ford and the assets of the business were sold to Yaz Ford. Yaz Ford was owned by Boston Red Sox baseball player, Carl Yastrzemski. The remaining cars in inventory were transfered to other dealerships.
Vincent "Big Vinnie" Teresa worked directly for well-known figures of New England organized crime. According to a 1971 newspaper article, Vincent Teresa was also a close associate of Al Grillo. According to
Vincent Teresa's book ( My Life in the Mafia ) Grillo was a foolish man that wanted to hang around the mob. Teresa swindled hundreds of thousands dollars from Grillo and had fun exploiting him at every opportunity.
Teresa gave Grillo counterfeit bonds and securities to cash. In return, Grillo kept a small cut.
By 1971, Teresa was in a federal prison and Al Grillo had "mysteriously disappeared".
There is little doubt that Grillo owed the mafia a large amount of money.
Vincent Teresa would later serve time in federal prison and enter the federal government's
witness protection program.
Today Al Grillo is a CVS Pharmacy. In the 1960's you could stop by and pick up a Holley carburetor. Today, you can stop by and pickup your
arthritis pills. Thanks to Don for the picture.
The information for this story was compiled from various sources. These include contributions from the Shelby American Automobile Club, vintage newspapers and Vincent Teresa's novel. If you have any additional information
or corrections on Al Grillo Ford, please feel free to drop me an email. I am always looking for contributions to the story.