One-off 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake heads to Mecum

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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One off Shelby front One off Shelby front
One off Shelby rear One off Shelby rear
One off Shelby side One off Shelby side
One off Shelby engine One off Shelby engine
One off Shelby interior One off Shelby interior

This prototype was sold for $5,000 in 1967 – is now expected to reach $1.2 million

The one and only 1967 Shelby GT500  Super Snake is set to cross the auction block at next month’s Mecum Kissimmee auction. The one-off prototype was sold for $5000 back in 1967, and is expected to reach between USD$1 million and USD$1.2million.

When the 428ci big-block Shelby GT first arrived in 1967, it was an instead hit and outsold its small-block stablemate - 2048 to 1175 units - in that first year.

Shelby, at the time, was also the American West coast distributor for Goodyear tyres, who later asked Shelby to partner with them in a promotional event for the new Goodyear Thunderbolt range of tyres.

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Shelby initially decided that the GT500 would be the perfect candidate for a high-speed demonstration, but things took a turn when Shelby American Sales Manager Don McCain pitched the notion to build something truly special – and fast!

Shelby tasked Fred Goodell, Shelby American’s Chief Engineer, to prepare a GT500 with a special engine for the test set to take place at Goodyear’s high-speed test facility near San Angelo Texas.

Goodell took the #544 Shelby GT500 and "rebuilt it with a special lightweight 427 racing engine; special rear axle, special transmission and, of course, Thunderbolt tyres".

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McCain said of the engine: "the mother of all 427s at that time… aluminium heads, aluminium water pump, forged crank, Le Mans rods, just basically everything inside the engine was built to run sustained 6,000 RPM – to race at Le Mans".

It was essentially the same powerplant utilised in the GT40 MkII, the previous year’s famed winner of Le Mans 24.

The car gained further ancillary upgrades, including: an external oil cooler, a remote oil filter, and stiffer springs and shocks on the passenger side of the vehicle, to help sustain high-speed cornering.

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During the test, the car reached a top speed of 273.588km/h (170mph), with an average speed of 228.5km/h (142mph) over 500 miles. The tyres retained 97% of their tread.

Shelby American intended to build 50 more 427-powered GT500 Super Snakes, but the exercise was found to be far too expensive for the consumer, at over twice the price of the already-successful GT500, and well beyond Shelby’s own 427 Cobra.

The car has changed hands a number of times, passing through a number of long-term owners. The second-last owner, Richard Ellis – collector of rare Mustangs – saw the odometer tick over just 26,000 miles and showed virtually no deterioration since new.

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Ellis gave the car a light restoration, locating correct wires and hoses for the engine, period-correct Rotunda fire extinguisher, and a set of new-old-stock Shelby 10-spoke wheels with unused Thunderbolt tyres to boot.

Ultimately, the car presents just as it did on that day of Goodyear’s high-speed demonstration. It still remains the only 1967 GT500 Super Snake, a mythical back-room project, with the heart of a Le Mans winner, and destined for just one day of glory back in 1967.

 

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