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The 2.2 Million Dollar Super Snake


 

January 23 | Mike Smith


I am sure by now you have heard all about the 1967 Mustang Shelby GT500 “Super Snake” that sold earlier this month for $2.2 million at a Mecum Auction in Kissimmee FL. I mean how couldn’t you, it broke all the records for the price of a Mustang. It was projected to sell between $1 million and $1.2 million, which obviously it far surpassed. But the question remains, why was this car worth so much money?


To understand why this car was so valuable, you need to know where they came from. In 1967, Ford saw a need for an optional larger engine that was capable of creating more horsepower for the average Mustang. The finished product that Ford created was the 390 big-block V8 that produced 320hp. Carroll Shelby who was already producing a small block Shelby GT350s decided that since Ford was upping the horsepower in the average Mustang, that he needed to create a new model with a big block V8 that would outpace the rest of the Mustang line-up. The final product had a modified Police Interceptor 428ci engine rated at 355hp and would be called the Shelby GT500. Buyers instantly fell in love with the GT500 with the 500 outselling the GT350 2,048 to 1,175.


Carroll Shelby was then approached by Goodyear (he was the West Coast distributor for Goodyear) to do a promotional event for Goodyear’s new Thunderbolt line of economy tires. Shelby concluded that since the GT500 was selling so well, that he should use the 500 in the Goodyear promotion. Soon after, Shelby received a call from former Shelby American Sales Manager Don McCain. McCain suggested that Shelby build a car for the promotion that would outperform anything else in the world. McCain suggested that Shelby put a racing 427 engine in the new car. McCain then suggested that Shelby allow McCain to sell the promotional car and that Shelby build 50 more identical cars for Mel Burns Ford in Long Beach California. Shelby agreed and got to work.


Carroll Shelby instructed Fred Goodell, Shelby American’s Chief Engineer (on loan from Ford) to start production on the special GT500. The new GT500 would be the promotional car used in the testing of Goodyear’s Thunderbolt tires at Goodyear’s high-speed test facility near San Angel, Texas. Goddell stated that took GT500 number 544, added a lightweight 427 racing engine, a special rear axle, a special transmission and the new Goodyear Thunderbolt tires. The 427 engine that was used in the new GT500 was the same powerplant used in the GT40 MkII that had won the famous Le Mans race the previous year. Don McCain later claimed that the engine had aluminum heads, an aluminum water pump, a forged crank, Le Mans rods and that it basically had everything inside the engine required to run the engine at 6,000 RPMs. On top of the engine upgrades, the new GT500 was equipped with a variation of the GT40’s “bundle of snakes” exhaust system, which gave this GT500 the name “Super Snake”. Before finalizing the car, Shelby made some last-minute modifications which included and external oil cooler, braided lines and a remote oil filter which were installed to increase the 427’s reliability for the test. Due to an estimated 600hp output of the new engine, Shelby added stiffer springs and shocks on the passenger side to counteract the high-speed cornering that would happen during the testing of the new Thunderbolt tires. Finally, Fred Goodell completely the car with one-off chrome inboard headlight surrounds and a version of the production Le Mans striping with two narrow blue stripes flanking a wide blue center stripe. The stripe set was designed to distinguish the “Super Snake” from the production GT500s with the 428ci engine.


The new Shelby GT500 Super Snake arrived at the Goodyear testing facility in Texas the last week in March 1967. Shelby fitted the car with 10-spoke aluminum wheels mounted with 7.75-15 Thunderbolt whitewall tires, which were overinflated with nitrogen to help keep the sidewalls rigid and to prevent overheating. Carroll Shelby then took the Super Snake for demonstration runs with journalists that were there to cover the event. During the demonstration runs, it is said that Carroll Shelby hit speeds of 170mph. After the demonstration runs, Shelby handed the helmet and the keys to Fred Goodell who drove the Super Snake during the actual testing of the Thunderbolt tires.


Fred Goodell drove the Mustang GT500 for 500 miles that day, averaging 142mph. The test of both the car and the new Thunderbolt tires was a complete success. To this day, the Thunderbolt economy tires were the skinniest tires ever mounted on a Shelby GT. The tires performed flawlessly and even retained 97 percent of their original tread.


After the testing of the Super Snake, the car was then shipped back to Mel Burns Ford in California. It remained on display at Mel Burns Ford while Don McCain tried to generate interest for the originally planned limited run of 50 Super Snakes. Unfortunately, McCain couldn’t create any interest and finally had to admit that the $5,000 price of the car was just too much. With all the advancements that Shelby put into the special edition GT500, the car ended up costing over twice what the baseline GT500 cost and even cost more than Shelby’s own 427 Cobra. The one-off Super Snake eventually got sold two Braniff International Airways pilots James Hadden and James Gorman. Hadden and Gorman changed out the gearset from a 2.73 to a 4.10 so they could do drag racing with the high-powered GT. The pair then sold the car to Bobby Pierce of Benbrock, Texas in 1970 who cared for the car for 25 years. In 1995, Pierce sold the GT to David Loebenberg of Florida who owned the car for 7 years.


In 2002 Charles Lillard bought the car from Loebenberg and returned the GT to California. Lillard then sold the Super Snake to Richard Ellis. Ellis being a rare Mustangs collector in Illinois but the car in his collection and reported to the Shelby Registry that the car had 26,000 in the odometer and showed almost no deterioration. Ellis proceeded to do what he described as a “light restoration”. He managed to locate the correct wires and hoses for the engine compartment, a period-correct Torunda fire extinguisher, NOS Shelby 10-spoke wheels and amazingly enough, four brand-new Thunderbolt whitewall tires.


Since then, the car has been shown in the book “Million Dollar Muscle Cars” by Colin Comer and in 2013 was sold again to John Wickey another Shelby collector. Wickey cared for the one-off Shelby super car until the day of the Mecum auction. On January 11, 2019, Carroll Shelby’s supercar started another chapter when it was sold to its new owner for $2.2 million dollars, becoming the first Mustang to ever sell over the $2 million-dollar mark.

 

 

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake Specs

 

Highlight

1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

Vehicle Base Price (MSRP)

$5,000

Engine

GT40 Mk II 427 engine

Transmission

4 Speed Manual (3.00 ratio)

Horsepower

527 ps (520 bhp / 388 kw) @ 5600 rpm

Torque

678 Nm (500 lb-ft) @ 4000 rpm

Base Curb Weight

1491 kg (3287 lbs)

0-60 MPH

4.3 s

1/4 Mile

12 seconds (est.)





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