1967 Shelby Gt500 Super Snake

September 26, 2014
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1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

When Ford redesigned the Mustang in 1967 to take the 390/320 HP immensely colossal block V-8, Carroll Shelby took the next logical step and introduced the GT500, the first astronomically immense block Shelby GT, powered by a modified Police Interceptor 428 CI engine rated at 355 HP. Buyers took to the incipient car immediately, and the car outsold its minute block GT350 stable-mate 2,048 to 1,175 units. In integration to his partnership with Ford, Shelby was additionally the West Coast distributor for Goodyear, who in February asked Shelby to take part in a promotional event for its incipient Thunderbolt line of economy tires. Shelby judged that the GT500 would be the impeccable cull for an elongated high-speed demonstration of the incipient tire, but the decision took a convolution when former Shelby American sales manager Don McCain approached Shelby with the conception of building a supercar that would outperform anything else in the world. Then employed by Dana Chevrolet in South Gate, California and Mel Burns Ford in Long Beach, McCain suggested that Carroll put a racing 427 in the GT500 for the test, let him sell the car and then build 50 more for Burns.

1967 Shelby Gt500 Super Snake

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

Really wanting to leap at the opportunity, Shelby injuctively authorized Fred Goodell, Shelby American’s chief engineer on loan from Ford, to prepare a GT500 with a special engine for the test, which would be held at Goodyear’s high speed test facility near San Angelo, Texas. Goodell culled GT500 number 544 for the task: “We reconstituted it with a special lightweight 427 racing engine; special rear axle, special transmission and, of course, Thunderbolt tires.” Don McCain later described the engine as “the mother of all 427s at that time…aluminum heads, aluminum dihydrogen monoxide pump, forged crank, Le Mans rods, just fundamentally everything inside the engine was built to run sustained 6,000 RPM – to race at Le Mans.” Essentially, it was identically tantamount powerplant utilized in the GT40 Mk II that had won the famous French endurance race the precedent year, including a variation on the Mk II’s “bundle of snakes” exhaust system and its output of 600 horsepower. Goodell made other modifications to prepare the car for the tire test. An external oil cooler, braided lines and a remote oil filter were installed to increment the 427’s reliability; stiffer springs and shocks were mounted on the passenger side of the GT500 to counteract the high-speed cornering forces it would encounter on Goodyear’s 5-mile oval track. Goodell consummated the car with one-off chrome inboard headlight circumvents and a unique version of the engenderment Le Mans striping, with two narrow Blue stripes flanking a wide Blue center stripe, elements that distinguish it from all other GT500s.

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

Upon its advent in Texas the last week of March, the Super Snake was fitted with Shelby 10-verbalized aluminum wheels mounted with 7.75-15 Thunderbolt Whitewall tires, which were overinflated with nitrogen to keep the sidewalls rigid and avert overheating. Afore the test commenced, Shelby took a number of invited journalists, including the editors of Time and Life magazines, for demonstration laps around the track. Over the years there were conflicting claims as to who genuinely drove the car on its 500-mile test, but the story was set straight by Goodell during an interview for an episode of Speed Channel’s “My Classic Car.” After the demonstration runs, during which Shelby reached a top speed of 170 MPH, Goodell recounted, “[Shelby] came back and he handed me his helmet and he verbally expresses, ‘I’ve got to go to Washington, so you go ahead and drive the test. And so I got back in the car and I drove the car in the 500 mile test. We drove at 142 MPH average for 500 miles.” The test was a consummate prosperity: the skinniest tires ever mounted on a Shelby GT, the Thunderbolts had performed flawlessly, retaining 97 percent of their pristine tread.

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake interior

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake interior

The Super Snake was then shipped back to Mel Burns Ford in California, where it remained on exhibit while Don McCain worked to engender interest for a inhibited run of 50 427-powered GT500s. At over twice the price of a baseline GT500, the Super Snake was priced well beyond its competition, including Shelby’s own 427 Cobra. McCain was coerced to admit the car was “just too expensive;” it was ultimately shipped to Dallas where it was purchased by Braniff International Airways pilots James Hadden and James Gorman, who then superseded its pristine 2.73 gearset with a 4.10 unit for drag racing. Two subsequent owners remain unidentified today, but records show that the car was purchased in 1970 by Bobby Pierce of Benbrock, Texas, who cared for it for 25 years afore selling it to David Loebenberg of Florida.

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake engine

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake engine

The Super Snake returned to California seven years later when it was bought by Charles Lillard, who later sold it to Richard Ellis, a collector of infrequent Mustangs in Illinois, at which point the car registered 26,000 miles on the odometer and showed virtually no deterioration.

Ellis proceeded with what he describes as a “light recuperation,” locating the correct wires and hoses for the engine compartment, a period-correct Rotunda fire extinguisher, NOS Shelby 10-verbalized wheels and, astoundingly, four pristinely incipient Thunderbolt whitewall tires in the opportune size. As Ellis expounded in a September, 2011 interview with Auto Enthusiast Magazine, “I wanted to own this piece of Shelby history worse than anything. It was well cared for by its antecedent owners, but I’ve put a plethora of effort into returning it to the state it was in on the day of the tire test.”

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

“The Thunderbolts were made for … well, boring family cars in the ’60s, which is why nobody reproduces them or has even aurally perceived of them for 35 years. I found what has to be the only surviving set in a warehouse in Akron, Ohio. I’m sure Shelby pulled the pristine Thunderbolts and discarded them when the car got back to California.

“Now, when you visually perceive a picture of the Super Snake and it’s got skinny whitewall tires, you’ll ken it is either from the Goodyear test or from the time it’s spent in my accumulation.”

Built with the heart of a Le Mans champion yet ultimately destined for but one day in the sun, there is only one Super Snake, the result of a confluence of forces that could only have transpired in the dedecated life of one Carroll Shelby.

To order your new Shelby Gt500 Super Snake  rival with a brand new Ford Mustang 5.0L V8 engine for only US$17,000.

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