Unrestored and Unhinged 1967 Shelby GT500
The '60s street revolution saw Ford rumbling up at the front of the pack for most of the decade. A racing program, much more comprehensive than any other of the Big Three dared to attempt, had checkered flags waving in the imaginations of every shot-caller in Dearborn. They were selling their new Mustang Pony Car as fast as they could bolt them together. GM and Chrysler were scrambling to come up with sporty, mid-sized challengers to try and bite into Ford’s soaring profits.
In the midst of this adrenaline-fueled speed frenzy...
...company hotshot Lee Iaccoca approached Texas chicken farmer/road racing legend Carroll Shelby to try and tune their Pony into an on-track fire breather. The suits upstairs wanted victories. They didn’t want there to be any questions about which factory was building the best performance cars in America.
Iaccoca picked the right chicken farmer.
Shelby was delivered 36 stock ’65 Fastbacks to be refined with his concoction of stronger brakes, lower and stiffer suspension and many other detail tweaks. He installed Detroit locker axles and left the small-block 289’s basically stock. His performance recipe worked – these R-spec race-only GT350 Shelby Mustangs won five out of the then six SCCA regional championships. But there were bigger things planned by the California Cobra crew.
The street legal Shelby GT350 went into production at Shelby American’s small LAX hangar facility...
...causing the old “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” marketing theory to take on a whole new meaning. The base cars – minus hoods, radios and back seats – would be transformed into raw street racers, low on luxury and heavy on performance. Unnecessary weight like rear seats would be tossed. Lightweight fiberglass would replace the hoods and other body components.
Their new motto was, “Win on Sunday, drive your race car home and then to work on Monday.”
For ’65 and ’66 the Shelby Mustangs ran raw and wild, but strangely didn’t set any sales charts on fire.
Mainstream buyers were put off by the hard ride, nervous steering and pounding exhaust. For all the for-once true hype about being able to buy a stripped, lightweight racecar for the street, less than 3000 GT350s were built. It was clear that there had to be comforts available for American consumers. The 1967 Mustang restyle came at just the right time. Knowing that the bigger, heavier new model would never be able to perform as well on a racetrack as the earlier versions, Shelby would alter his concept.
The new-for-1967 Shelby GT350 would get all the braking and suspension tweaks expected of a Shelby Cobra, plus more luxury, more style, more everything.
The exterior profile had to be wild, to instantly distinguish the car from it’s high-production stock roots. A stretched fiberglass hood curving around a new grill was installed, with two large lights centered to create a quad light front end. After all, it’s dark driving the night stint at LeMans, as Shelby knew from personal experience. With the competition image in mind, the new car would be fitted with a roll bar and harness-type seatbelts. The quarter windows were now covered in functional air extracting scoops and the entire rear bodywork was replaced with a fiberglass ducktail spoiler and trunk lid.
The new car looked fearsome and things only got better under the hoodscoop.
The larger engine bay allowed Shelby to stuff in some real power. A new big-block dual quad 428 would now join the small-block GT350. The C-6 automatic transmission was offered as an option to tame all that horsepower and get it smoothly down to the pavement. Called the Shelby GT500, it stands apart as the ultimate Mustang variant.
Sorry, not sorry...
The owner of this special 1967 Shelby GT500, Al, wants to remain anonymous. He doesn’t want his name Googled or his garage staked out. He’s not interested in your offer. Scribbled notes slipped under the windshield wiper are unavoidable and easily thrown away. His GT500 is not for sale. Ever.
A near daily-driver, Al’s Brittany Blue Shelby is a familiar sight in his little piece of Southern California.
Up-close, the nicks and chips are too many to count. The fiberglass body add-ons are particularly ragged with age and road use.
“My mother-in-law, LaVerne, bought it in 1972 before it had much collector value. A neighbor had gotten his wife pregnant with twins and the car had to go. LaVerne had always liked the car and she made him an offer and he took it.”
Al is aware of his uncanny luck.
“She used to drive my wife to high school in it in Altadena, which she hated because there wasn’t any air conditioning. None of her friends liked it either because at the time it just wasn’t a desirable car. Too hot. Too much. But LaVerne loved it.”
“She liked to drive and drive it fast. One of her favorite things was to get up on the brand-new 210 freeway. They’d just built it. Hotshot kids would come up on her thinking they were fast and she’d blow their doors off, leaving them wondering who the heck that old lady was in the old Mustang,” Al laughs, pleased with the car’s history.
“Even at the end when she was sick, she still wanted to drive this car. She loved it until her last day. And then it came to my wife and me.”
“I’ve had it for over ten years and I drive the hell out of it. It’s a numbers-matching 428 dual quad putting about 475hp. I put in a bigger Isky cam and upgraded the C6 trans to a 2400 stall speed. This C6 will shift and kick and make noise in all three gears.” As the photo shoot moves locations, Al makes sure to back up his claims, sticking his foot in and punishing his tires whenever possible.
His thoughts on the new Shelby Mustang?
“Well, they’re knocking on 700 horsepower, which is incredible. But with this one, you hear mechanical noise as you drive and when you jump on it, it really throws you back in the seat. I think the weight gives it better traction. It holds the ground a little better than the new cars. Of course, they’ll always beat this one in the turns, but to rumble around and raise hell on the street – this is the one.”
Shelby’s crew never did get the new paint on the fiberglass body parts matched perfectly to the Ford base cars, and the fit and finish of his new body pieces were never going to win any awards, even when new.
The car was all about power and presence with enough mechanical upgrades built in to back it all up.
Today, finding a GT500 in this kind of original condition with this degree of road patina is something close to impossible. They are simply too valuable to collectors with too high a dollar value attached to them. (Editor's Note: A quick Google will reveal a numbers-matching '67 Shelby GT500 garners close to $200,000.)
“I drive out to car shows and am always surrounded by perfectly painted and restored Shelbys. But my car is always the one that draws the crowds.” Al’s GT500 is a one-of-a-kind motor-age artifact, #1331 off of Shelby’s line.
It’s Metal and it’s mental and it’s perfect just the way it is.
As an unmolested survivor car in heavy use, it’s almost unbelievable; as one of the most desirable kings of the muscle car era, it’s almost unthinkable.
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