There's now a new-old king of Mustangs, as the only original Shelby GT500 Super Snake has broken the price record for the public sale of a Mustang. Mecum's Kissimmee sale yesterday featured the GT40-engined special crossing the auction block and setting an all-time sales record for a Ford Mustang, its final bid hitting $2.2 million.
Its blockbuster sales figure is little surprise the car's history. The Shelby GT500 proved to be a huge success when introduced, outselling its little GT350 brother by almost a factor of two.
When Carroll Shelby was approached by Goodyear, of which he was the West Coast distributor, to join a demonstration run in order to promote a new tyre, the GT500 was the obvious choice.
However, at the same time former Shelby American Sales Manager Don McCain suggested that Shelby should build a supercar using the racing 427 V8 - this lead to that engine finding its way into a GT500 for the demonstration. The plan was to demo the car and build a further 50 examples for the Long Beach dealer McCain was working for.
Shelby American’s chief engineer Fred Goodell was asked to prepare the special engine that was effectively a modified version of the unit found in a Ford GT40 MKII. GT500 No. 544 received the engine designed and modified to deal with extensive high speed running, a unique transmission and bespoke rear axle.
McCain described the 427 engine in this car as ‘the mother of all 427s’ as its exotic components such as aluminium heads, lightweight water pump, forged crank and Le Mans rods made it the ultimate V8 of the breed.
At the Goodyear demonstration Shelby took a number of guests and journalists out in the car and reportedly cracked 170mph. Goodell then drove the car for the test averaging 142mph over 500 miles! The Thunderbolt tyres on test proved highly durable, but the headlines were all about the Super Snake.
The car was then sent to the Californian dealership to drum-up publicity for the limited run of 50 cars as planned. However, due to the exotic nature of this Shelby, the cost was vast. McCain had to concede that the car, no matter how impressive, was simply too expensive.
The Super Snake was sent to Dallas and sold to James Hadden and James Gorman, who modified the gearbox for drag racing. In 1970, Texan Bobby Pierce purchased the car and retained it for some 25 years before it was then sold to a man from Florida.
After changing hands a few more times, the rare Mustang was bought by a collector who lightly restored the car — even finding a new set of Goodyear Thunderbolt tyres like those used during the test. The car was then sold to its previous owner, Shelby collector John Wickey, who has cared for the one-off car ever since.
Shelby American is currently producing 10 continuation examples of the classic Super Snake, but there’ll only ever be one original car.
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