The first two years of Shelby Mustang production, 1965-66, were the golden years of Carroll Shelby’s efforts to turn a comfortable pony car into a sharp-handling, race-ready GT.
By the time the big-engine GT500 joined the small-block GT350 for the 1967 model year, there were signs of strain in Shelby’s relationship with Ford. Here are a few lesser-known facts about the GT500.
• Comparatively Few Were Actually Built by Shelby in California. The GT500 came out at a time when Ford was seeking to exercise closer supervision over its partnership with Shelby. A little more than a year into the run, Ford moved production from Shelby’s operation in Los Angeles to the A.O. Smith Factory (of water heater fame) in Michigan, where the blue oval people could keep a closer watch on things. Thus, the last two years of GT500 production did not take place at Carroll Shelby’s shop.
• It was briefly the car of Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. For a few episodes in season four of the classic spy comedy, “Get Smart,” the title character drove a blue/tan GT500KR convertible. Buick became a sponsor the following season and the Shelby disappeared in favor of the mini-Corvette Opel GT.
• A single convertible was built for 1967. It was intended that a convertible would be offered for the 1967 model year but the aforementioned production shift and other issues prevented this from occurring until the 1968 model year. Just one convertible was built for 1967.
• A single example was built with a GT40 427 racing engine. Perhaps the most exciting and certainly one of the most valuable GT500s was the single 7-liter GT40-engined “Super Snake” that Shelby personally demonstrated to drum up interest that was not forthcoming. The car sold at the Mecum Indy sale in 2013 for $1.3 million.
• Unsold 1969s were sold as 1970 models. There was actually no new production for the 1970 model year, but as there were almost 800 leftover 1969 models, Ford successfully petitioned the federal government to allow the cars to be re-VINed as 1970 models. A chin spoiler distinguishes what became the last of the classic GT500s, which were sold after Ford’s agreement with Shelby had terminated.