In nature, animals are sensitive to earth movement vibrations. In a world of predator and prey the sleek reptilian cobra is one of the most feared, and the muscular equine mustang one of the most majestic. This is what happens when you tamper with nature…
The GT500 featured was first purchased by Rob and Jan 23 years ago in England, and imported into New Zealand shortly after that. Its original colour was Grabber Green, which is similar to the green on the motorway signage we are all familiar with; a colour this car will never be again, according to Rob. Rob and Jan owned this vehicle for five years, and then in Rob’s words he came down with ‘cash register’ eyes — the car was sold.
As it drove away Rob realised the enormity of his mistake, and he spent the following 17 years determined to buy it back. He succeeded in ’04 in the beloved Shelby. Rob said sitting back in the Shelby was like coming home.
A bloodline to be proud of
The Shelby Mustang was produced from 1965 to 1970 as a response both to the great success Ford had with its revolutionary Mustang launched in 1964, and as an answer to the criticism that that Mustang had been short on high-end performance.
Shelby established a factory in Los Angeles in 1965, and began producing a couple of hundred GT350s a month. The GT350, the first of the Shelby Mustangs, used GT in the name to designate that the car was based on the Mustang GT (Grand Turismo or Grand Tourer). The reason for the 350 part of the designation is not clear, but is believed to have been chosen because it was larger than any other number on By 1967 performance car enthusiasts were looking for big engine in a small car, and Shelby responded with a GT500.
The GT500 featured a 428 cubic inch (7014cc) engine in a modified Mustang chassis. The GT500 badge was used to identify a Shelby Mustang with a big block engine to allow it to be distinguished from its small block stablemate. 1969/70 was the final year of the relationship between Shelby and Ford (which has been recently rekindled), as Ford was preparing its own Boss 302 and Boss 429 Mustangs. This, combined with increased safety regulations, lead to the end of the Shelby Mustang.
At the end of the 1969 calendar year approximately 789 Shelby Mustangs were unsold as they were still coming off the production line — due to a short production cycle of only nine months in 1969.
Those remaining cars were updated with vented fuel systems, gloss black stripes on the hood (semi-gloss black on Black Jade-coloured cars) and a chin spoiler from the Boss 302 Mustang. Also updated were the VIN numbers that were completed under strict FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) supervision.
The racing bloodline refinements were not just add-ons — the GT500 was purpose-designed by Car Craft as a total package, with Shelby providing the venom for this majestic Mustang. The 1969 Shelby Mustang was based on the new Sports Roof model, which was the new corporate name for the fastback.
This car spent its formative years coated in black — in fact it suffered from having too much paint, so much that you could hardly close the doors without cringing (and chipping off paint)! The 441967 GT500 ROAD muscle GT500 had been given the once-over by Dave Loose — a patch of rust the size of a thumbnail was repaired — and that has been the extent of body repairs to this date. This car has never been involved in an accident. During its 17 years in the care of other owners, the car’s colour was changed to that we see featured, Yellow Tinter, with contrasting black/silver pearl graphics.
Mesmerised by the Cobra Jet
I spent a total of six hours looking at this car, and it was an absolute treat. From every angle the GT500 exudes engineering excellence. The huge all-encompassing front bumper turns up in the corners to meet with a matching leading edge that flows over the front fenders, and across the sizeable bonnet to present a front profile as aggressive as that of a mako shark. Rob referred to the grille as “chicken mesh”, but as he is usually driving he would never have noticed that the grille shimmers as the GT500 moves, catching reflections in a hypnotic and beautiful way.
The car features nine functional scoops. The bonnet contains three forward-facing NASA scoops, the centre one channelling air to the engine’s intake system — these too shimmer, reflect and demand your attention. Twin rear-facing bonnet scoops make full advantage of the low-pressure area in front of the windscreen. The bonnet and the front fenders in the GT500 were manufactured in fibreglass (a weight saving measure born out of the racing bloodline), as were the boot and extended rear spoiler.
The GT500’s side profile reveals flowing lines that sweep and curve to streamline air efficiently over its flanks, and intentionally towards its forward facing side scoops. This car has something in common with nature — everything is functional, and exists for an explicit purpose. Side stripes with GT500 lettering can be found at the front fender in front of the brake scoop, with snake emblems behind the rear side windows and on the left side of the front grille. Also, Cobra Jet emblems were used on the GT500’s front fenders.
The rear of the GT500 flicks upwards intentionally — the angle of the centre aluminium exhaust housing matches exactly the angle created by the rear spoiler. Again this aerodynamic detail was born of the racing bloodline — to me this is as significant as the final stroke of a master painter’s brush on a work of art.
The parts of a GT500 most of us will see are the impressive sequential taillights, which were taken from a 1965 Thunderbird and are housed in a custom aluminium rear housing.
Beauty is not just skin deep
Competition suspension, transmission and rear axles were all features of the Shelby, and there have only been minor changes to this car fromthe Shelby original. The front has been lowered 2.5 inches, with the rear remaining at stock height; the end result underlines the stance of this car and gives it a very impressive rake. Koni shock absorbers have been installed all round, while a rear sway bar and traction bars have been added to help get the power to the ground, and to give a ride quality that is very comfortable and reassuring whilst retaining just the right amount of feedback. When purchased this car did not have the original wheels, as there’d been a factory recall of the Kelsey Hays Mag Star alloy steel wheel — what you see here are wheels expertly custom-built by Dave Campbell (formerly of Steelie Wheels). The fronts remain original at 15×7-inch, but the rears were built to 15×10-inch specification to allow fitting of wider (and much needed) rubber.
The interior was based upon the production Mustang’s Deluxe Interior DeÌcor. It was available in black, white or maroon red (although only a very small number were produced with a maroon red interior). Shelby identification can be found on the door panels, steering wheel, passenger’s dash and seat belt buckles. The GT500 console houses two Stewart Warner gauges — for oil pressure and amps — along with two toggle switches for fog lamps and courtesy lights. The GT500 also has inertia-reel four-point harnesses — another hint of its racing bloodline. The instrument cluster contains an 8000rpm tachometer, a 140mph (225kph) speedometer and a fuel gauge. I mention the fuel gauge because it’s a very busy instrument. When produced this car was expected to average 8mpg (29.4 l/100km), but with Rob behind the wheel we are talking approximately 4mpg (58 l/100km) around town (4.5mpg or 52.3 l/100km if he drives economically). While 4mpg reads horribly, when you’re driving a car with the kudos of a Shelby, and when that car is your ultimate — I have to
agree with Rob when he says, “Who cares!”
The sound of the GT500 starting up sends shivers both down your spine and up through your feet. Rob says he doesn’t really like the sound (his purist ears think it needs fine-tuning), but to me the sound was both inspiring and intimidating. It was thunderous — and I noticed when idling on a cool morning the 428 Cobra Jet appeared to be spitting alternately from the dual exhaust. This car features the factory standard option Big Shaft Top Loader four-speed manual; Rob brought revs up, and we were off. The GT500 was very happy to merge into suburban traffic, and it was very happy to leave the rest for absolute dead at any given opportunity. The power of the big block in combination with the suspension and Rob at the wheel was simply stunning. They got it right on this one. The GT500 yearns to be driven — and to be driven in the way that was envisaged — tough!
Be seen and heard
Rob often gets questioned (read hassled) about driving such a unique vehicle — some think it should be seen and not heard. Rob’s attitude is to enjoy the GT500 — so don’t be surprised to see it on the street, or the strip, or the circuit or, indeed, the grass-khana. The GT500’s interior is very well appointed and comfortable for both the driver and the passengers — I just love the original stereo radio! There is a saying, once bitten — twice shy. The GT500 redefines that. It should be once bitten, twice as respectful. Respectful of what this car represents, of what it relishes and of what it can unleash. My God-given eyes are brown in colour, but thanks to Rob, they may well now be blue- tinted and oval — just like his. But then again, I don’t have a Vauxhall Victor 101 lurking in my past — that is another story (and I volunteer the editor to write that one!)
Rob is very proud to be both a member and current president of the Muscle Car Club in Auckland. Thank you Rob for what was an immensely enjoyable time spent in your company, and in the company of the GT500. Over the last few months I have been privileged to meet a number of your fellow club members, and lucky enough to be taken for a ride or two. Both you and the club contribute so much to the community, both directly and indirectly. By realising, and holding on to, your dreams, you keep the dream alive for the rest of us. Thank you.
Age: 69 through and through
Length of ownership: Six years, going on 23.
Previously owned vehicles: “All Fords — what else is there?” and Telstars And last, but not least, a Vauxhall Victor 101!
Thanks: Ross Walker – Maintaining the exterior Attila Nyemetz – Maintaining the mechanicals Doug & Denise Campbell for Making the re-purchase possible
Engine: 428ci (7014cc) Cobra Jet V8 with ram air producing 335 horsepower (250kW) at 5600rpm; 440lb/ft (596Nm) of torque at 3400rpm
Driveline: Close Ratio Big Shaft Top Loader four-speed manual, nine-inch diff 3.5:1
Suspension: Suspension modification: Shelby custom Export brace
Brakes: Front disc with rear drum, functional cooling scoops
Wheels/Tyres: Standard wheels were 15×7 aluminium five-spokes, F60x15 Polyglas GT tyres
Interior: Oil pressure and amp gauge in console, inertia-reel harness, roll bar, deluxe black or white (limited number of maroon red)
Features: Power brakes, power steering, shoulder harnesses, fold-down rear seat on fastbacks, Tilt-Away steering wheel (when available)
Available options: Fold-down rear seat (SportsRoof only), F60x15 Polyglas GT tyres, air conditioning (automatic only), tinted windows, power ventilation, intermittent wipers, heavy-duty battery, Traction-Lok
Body style: SportsRoof (fastback) with fibreglass hood, fascia, fenders, deck lid and quarter extensions, custom engineered panel for the 1965 Thunderbird 1969 colour range: white with blue GT500 stripes (all others had white, black, or gold GT500 stripes), Can- dyapple Red, Acapulco Blue, Grabber Blue, Black Jade, Silver Jade, Royal Maroon, Grabber Green, Grabber Yellow, Grabber Orange, Competition Orange
1969 price: US$4709 (SportsRoof), US$5027 (convertible)
Total street production: 1534 SportsRoofs, 335 convertibles
Performance: Quarter-mile ET: 14.00 at 102mph (164kph) Top Speed: 115mph (185kph) at 5100rpm 1967 GT500