In theory, the 1969 model-year Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT500 was to be the second of a quartet of years for the marque that began in 1968 with a new Mustang supplier (Metuchen), a new source of fiberglass (A.O. Smith), and a new home for Shelby Automotive (Michigan).
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Planning for the 1969 model year began around late May of the year before, when Shelby Automotive management sat down and generated a shopping list of 1969 Shelby options. “Nice-to-haves” were proposed for various areas of the car and were discussed and deleted or continued based on subsequent meetings.
On the outside of the car, it was proposed that the Dzus hood locks, which were incorrectly referred to as “Zeus” hood locks on paperwork related to the meeting, be continued. Special side striping, perhaps of reflective material, was to be implemented. And there was consideration for colors that would be available only on the Shelby Mustang, as well as fog or driving lights, R.P.O. (Regular Production Option) racing mirrors, and the return of functional side scoops, which had disappeared at the end of the 1967 model year.
In the cockpit, a 140-mph speedometer and an 8,000-rpm tachometer were up for discussion, along with a vinyl-covered steering wheel, a roll bar, and a shoulder harness, continuing the tradition started in 1967, plus a wood-grained instrument panel, a map light, high-backed seats (or low-backed seats with head rests) and unique Shelby interior trim.
Unique Ford Mustang Shelby items proposed for the powertrain included tuned mufflers, unique Shelby-only axle ratios, a real wood automatic transmission shift lever handle, close-ratio transmission gears, a tighter shifter, and even fuel injection. Koni shocks and four-wheel disc brakes also made the initial list and it was proposed that only one standard wheel be offered, but with an optional, widerwidth tire available.
General Shelby-unique items proposed included power windows, a sound deadening package, special valve covers, a sliding roof, a special four-note horn, and other as-yet undetermined 1970 model year Mustang Regular Production Options. It’s worth noting that as a “premier” brand of Ford Motor Company, Shelby had access to features that did not debut on the more mundane Mustang for another couple of model years. Interior features from the upcoming Mach I version of the Mustang (which in many ways was a direct competitor of the GT350/GT500 and part of the impetus for future changes in Mr. Shelby’s overall attitude) were considered, such as the aforementioned high-backed bucket seats.
A fortnight later, the management group reconvened and, by this time, a couple of items had been cut. Axed were the map light, the tighter shifter, the close ratio gears, fuel injection, Konis, and the sliding roof. Many of the other shopping-list items had made the second round of cuts and, in some form or other, ultimately made it into production.
Less Mustang, More Shelby
By this time, the nightmares of the 1967 production run were behind Shelby American.
In fact, production was going so smoothly with its largequantity specialty manufacturer A.O. Smith popping out hundreds of high-quality parts, that the sky was the limit as far as Shelby styling for 1969 was concerned. Well, almost. There were, of course, constraints surrounding the amount of disassembly and reassembly that could go into each Shelby, but within those bounds of reason, the door was wide open for some pretty significant stylistic changes. While the grille and hood of the previous few years’ Shelbys differed from the Mustang, 1969 went another step further, by incorporating unique Shelby fenders as well
Smith’s experience in fabricating entire sports car bodies from plastic enabled the company to distance the 1969 Shelby from its Mustang roots more than ever before. The fenders terminated at the nose with a large, full-width grille opening. The headlights, instead of flanking the grille opening, as in years gone by, were now situated within the large, open mouth. Expanded mesh formed the grille and a bright trim ring encircled the opening within the grille mouth; bright chrome trimmed the edges of the opening and continued to form the front bumper at the bottom of the grille opening. The bumper, for the first time ever, was not the standard Mustang impact bar, but rather a unique Shelby component.
The Straight Scoop on Shelby Scoops and Ducts
Molded into the sides of the front fender were semi-functional brake cooling ducts; the scoops were open to the front wheel wells, but didn’t blow directly on the brake rotors. A small snake medallion that was nearly, but not quite, identical to the 1968 snake was located off-center (as had become Shelby’s style) in the grille opening. Lucas driving lights hung below the front bumper, nestled within a Shelby-unique front valance pan; 1969 Cougar parking lights were hung nearby.
The hood, which was also fiberglass, was a relatively flat affair with a different scoop design than in previous years: instead of scoops protruding above the surface of the hood to ingest air, three National Advisory Council for Aeronautics ducts were recessed into the hood in a triangular arrangement, with two ducts at the front corners of the hood and the third at the apex of the triangle, in the center, farther aft. These low-drag ducts were developed by NACA (National Advisory Council for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA) and they worked by drawing the layer of air in direct contact with the surface of the hood into the opening.
Because they do not protrude above the surface of the hood, NACA ducts are lower drag than conventional air scoops, which stick out into the airstream. An added benefit was that because of their design and location, the NACA ducts were quieter than the twin-nostril Pontiac GTO-like scoops in the 1968 Shelby hood, which tended to generate a large amount of wind noise as the air entered the opening. The outboard ducts allowed cool air into the engine compartment in general, but the center duct sat above a large plenum that was molded into the underside of the hood. This sealed against the engine’s air cleaner thanks to a large rubber gasket, providing a cold air induction effect into the air cleaner and ultimately the carburetor. Unlike the 1968 Shelby, in which ram air was only used on the King of the Road model, both the 1969 Mustang GT350 & GT500 received the ram air hood.
To give warm underhood air a way to exit the engine bay, two air outlets were placed in the hood, directly aft of the engine bay air inlets. All five openings featured mesh within them. Chrome plated, twist-lock Dzus fasteners (similar to the 1968 design, but slightly beefier in construction) were located at the front two corners of the hood. To further maximize aerodynamic efficiency, when closed and locked, the Dzus fasteners sat within circular recesses molded into the 1969 hood, for a flush, streamlined look.
Despite the emphasis on styling over function (as evidenced by the early termination of such mechanical goodies as a tight shifter and Koni shocks), the 1969 Shelby reintroduced functional brake cooling side scoops, which had fallen by the wayside in 1967. The installation of these devices had been pretty well locked in, since they were first figured out by Phil Remington in 1966, when they debuted. But for 1969, Mustang styling threw a bit of a monkey wrench into the works. There needed to be two types of side scoops, and the associated internal ducting—one set for the convertibles and one for the fastbacks, which for now were called SportsRoof models. This was because the standard Mustang Mach I side scoop location was high on the quarter panel “hip,” behind and above the door handle, and it was recessed into the quarter panel, more as a duct than a scoop.
The Shelby version made these ducts functional through the addition of internal ducting, and improved efficiency by covering the duct-like Ford opening with a scoop-like fiberglass shell. The location for the upper Ford ducts was incompatible with the convertible folding top mechanism, thus explaining the reason that convertibles lack side ducts. Shelby installed 1967-type side scoops on the convertibles, attached to the sides of the quarter panels, like in the beginning. The convertible scoops also incorporate internal ducting to blow cool air over the car’s rear brake drums, as they did when they were first introduced in 1966.
The Last Part of the Horse
There has been something of a tradition that Shelby Mustang styling features of a given year have found their way onto the base Mustang of a year or so down the road. Whether this was a conscious Ford design approach or simply that Shelby styling, which tended to push the styling envelope in some aspects, was simply incorporated based on its creativity isn’t known. But what was known was that it did happen, and more than once. The incorporation of Shelby-like side air intakes to the 1969 Mach I was one such idea another was the introduction of a ducktail spoiler to the base Mustang for 1969. While this tended to follow the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” school of thought, it tended to make Shelby stylists have to think a little harder to continue to keep the Shelby a step ahead of the Mustang styling.
With the base Mustang now having adopted the Shelbylike ducktail, the task was now how to establish the rear end of the 1969 Shelby as stylistically different from that of the Mustang on which it was based. The use (or rather, continued use) of 1965 Thunderbird taillights set in a molded fiberglass tail panel was a good first step and Shelby uniqueness was further expanded upon by the use of expanded mesh panels, set within recesses also molded into the tail panel. But the crowning achievement of the Shelby-unique rear fascia styling had to be the exhaust pipes, which exited in the center of the rear face.
But the great appearance was not without issue: the close proximity of the vented fuel cap to the exhaust outlet might not have been one of Shelby’s better ideas from a safety point of view. The fuel cap continuously vented gasoline vapors from the tank, resulting in a fuel vapor cloud lingering around the fuel cap. Fuel vapors, being heavier than air, tend to settle toward the ground, and as the fuel vapor cloud settled, the design of the car’s rear fascia dictated that they settled right into the area of the exhaust outlet.
Under certain running conditions, when the carburetor was set just right and there was a rapid backing off of the throttle, the engine could backfire. It was known as “pop back” and it was unique to the GT500’s 428 powerplants. On a couple of occasions, this pop back ignited the fuel vapor cloud and actually set the tail end of the car on fire! It was incredibly ironic that one advertising tag line for the 1969 Shelby was “fire, and refinement” but that was not the kind of fire either Ford or Shelby Automotive had in mind. The fix was to install nonvented fuel caps and replumb the fuel tanks so that they were vented via a hose that exited at the bottom of the rear quarter panel, away from the exhaust exit.
GT350s and their 351 powerplants were not subject to pop back and didn’t receive the plumbed tank venting. The whole deal was a very close call, as some worst-case engineering analyses actually had the pop-back ignition of the fuel vapors work its way back to the fuel tank, causing an explosion. The few fires that were experienced were small and, save for some damaged fiberglass and paint, caused no catastrophic effects.
Paint and Tape Stripes
There was another aspect of the 1969 Shelby that deviated from tradition: its stripes. The GT350 and GT500s had always been identified by rocker panel stripes (or more correctly, doorbottom edge stripes only the 1965 GT350’s stripes extended onto the rockers). The 1969 models saw the stripes migrate upward, to the center of the door. From a distance, the stripes (now produced in black, white, gold or blue reflective tape and keyed to the body color) appeared to be the usual thin-thick-thin racing stripe design. But a closer look revealed that the upper and lower thin borders were divided into two even thinner stripes. The GT350 or GT500 logo, formerly positioned at the bottom of the front fender, behind the wheel, was now located within the front fender brake-cooling duct.
In order to fit the allocated space, the traditional Microgramma Extended Bold font was changed to a very tall, narrow typeset, extremely close to (if not actually) Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed. The stripes were laid out so that the designation was a cut-out area on the stripe that allowed the GT350 or GT500 moniker to show through the stripe with body color. On the subject of colors, 1969 Shelbys were offered in more than a dozen choices, although not all debuted at the same time: an initial group of colors were supplemented in March of 1969 with Ford’s new “Grabber” colors, which were available on Fords for 1970, starting when that model-year car was available, around September 1969.
These four colors (WT 5014 Orange, WT 8002 Blue, WT 7167 Green, and WT 6173 Yellow) were pulled from the Ford fleet color catalog, the same catalog from there the six 1968 Shelby “special” colors came from. In fact, WT 5014 was one of the 1968 colors. The first three became Grabber Orange, Grabber Blue, and Grabber Green, respectively. After debuting on the Shelby Mustang in 1969, the colors became avalable on the Ford Mustang in 1970. There is some evidence (vehicle warranty claims with corrected color codes) to suggest that the yellow may have remained 1969 Shelby-unique and that the 1970 Mustang Bright Yellow (renamed Grabber Yellow in 1971) may not have been the exact 1969 Shelby color carried forward to the 1970 Mustang line. For this reason, the 1969 Shelby yellow color is identified here as “Shelby Grabber Yellow,” although this was not a 1960s period nomenclature.
Rolling With the Changes
Shelby abandoned the 1967 and 1968 approach of having only mag-wheel-looking covers as standard fare and optional deluxe wheels available at extra cost. Instead, the 1969 Shelby rolled on 15-inch-diameter composite aluminum and chrome five-spoke wheels, like the Shelby Cragars of 1965 and the Mag-Stars of 1967. The cast-aluminum center “spider” was initially pressed into a chromed-steel rim, but these wheels were recalled and buyers were given replacements that were riveted together. There was another recall for improperly-machined wheel lug seats.
As the replacement wheels were not immediately available in the quantities needed, buyers were given chrome Boss 302 Magnum 500 wheels as an interim solution and were offered the Shelby wheels when they became available. Some buyers didn’t bring their cars back for the second “re-wheeling” and as a result, there are still a handful of 1969 cars today rolling around on original Magnums.
Rental Racer Redux
While some performance enthusiasts didn’t see eye-toeye with the more refined 1969 Shelby, someone did: Hertz. The rental company purchased 150 of the luxurious GT350s to supplement its Sports Car Club, by which time was now also comprised of Mach I Mustangs and Cougar Eliminators. Completely unlike in 1966, when Hertz got its very own special model, but very much like the year before, the 1969 Hertz Shelbys were straight off-the-rack models and they were extraordinary in their uniformity. All were GT350 SportsRoof models with air conditioning, automatic transmission, Traction-Lok rear end, Sport Deck (fold down) rear seat, tinted windows, AM radio, and tilt-away steering wheel.
Continuing the long-standing Shelby tradition of always one exception to the rule, a couple of convertibles went to Hertz, though it is not believed that they were for-rent cars. All of the Hertz cars were delivered in April of 1969, and it was the intent of Shelby Automotive (and likely Hertz) that all rental units be at their servicing dealers by May of that year.
By 1969, the Shelby buyer had evolved into a much more refined car buyer than in 1965, and the car therefore followed suit. Any buyer familiar with those first rough-and-ready GT350s was, upon opening the driver’s door, in for a serious dose of culture shock. No longer the stark, “any color as long as it’s black” cockpit, the command center of the 1969 Shelby was indeed a different animal. The whole cockpit abounded with (simulated) woodgrain trim panels, giving the entire place a rich, sophisticated look and feel. High-backed Mach I seats were selected and, in fact, the entire cockpit was essentially stock Mach I fare.
Minimal changes to the interior were made in the front seat area: badges on the door panels and center of the rim-blow steering wheel. The Mach I instrument panel layout featured a large tachometer next to an equally-large speedometer. Incorporating the tach into the dash created the same problem that Shelby American had confronted in 1967: the tachometer displaced the ammeter and oil pressure gauges. For 1969, the two important engine monitoring dials were replaced with warning (“idiot”) lights in the instrument panel.
As in 1967 and again in 1968, the missing gauges were relocated below the dash, mounted in the front of the center console. Unlike in years gone by, however, these were angled toward the driver, for better viewing. The rear seat area featured the same rubber-padded roll bar as the 1968 cars—tubular steel covered with rubber in the SportsRoof cars or a thick, sculptured cover like the 1968 ragtops. While the roll bars were visually identical to the 1968 edition, structurally, they were different: the 1968 bar ran down to the floor, where it was welded to the unibody structure. But the 1969 roll bars were shorter and bolted to the inner side of the quarter panels. They were also manufactured from thinner-walled tubing. The same suspended shoulder harness as in the 1968 hardtops was used in the hardtop 1969 cars and, just as in 1968 convertibles, had the cross-chest belt. Interior colors available in the GT350 and GT500 were black and white, but fewer than 80 cars were delivered with red cockpits. Like the 1967 Parchment interior, the white 1969 interior featured white seats and door panels with black carpeting and dash pad.
Under the hood, the 1969 Shelby GT350 was powered by Ford’s new 351 Windsor V-8. The 290-hp engine had been considered for use in the 1968 Shelby, but the added weight of the bigger-displacement small-block compared to the increase in horsepower was felt not to be a worthwhile tradeoff at the time. For 1969, however, it was 351 ci in the GT350, while the 428 remained in the GT500. The trend of ever-decreasing amounts of “Shelbyization” to the car’s engine room continued, with neither the GT350 nor the GT500 wearing a Shelby-unique air cleaner. Instead, both models were equipped with Ford’s ram air cleaner, which was similar but not identical to the 1968 GT500 KR’s assembly.
Small-block cars received a SHELBY aluminum intake and black die-cast valve covers, while big-block cars had bare aluminum valve covers in a couple styles. Cars equipped with Ford’s Drag Pack, which featured high numerical ratio rear ends, received a power steering cooler. Automatic transmission types consisted of the C-6 auto in big-block cars and Ford’s FMX automatic in the GT350.
Under the front end, a 15/16-inch-diameter stabilizer bar limited body roll, while out back, 4-speed GT500 cars used the staggered rear-shock-absorber approach introduced in last year’s GT500 KR.
Production of the 1969 Shelby differed in a number of ways from its year-before sibling, and the changes extended deep into the production process. For openers, A.O. Smith received its unfinished V-8 Mustangs from Ford’s Dearborn assembly plant, instead of Metuchen.
While the specific reasons for the change have not been documented, there are strong suppositions: many 1968 cars arrived at A.O. Smith after their nearly 700-mile open railcar trip from New Jersey with numerous dents and dings in unexpected places, like the middle of the roof. The damage wasn’t the result of careless Ford workers, but rather bored adolescents who took great delight at throwing stones at the shiny ponies as they rumbled across country. A shorter trip would put the cars at risk for a shorter time period. There have also been unsubstantiated reports of some railcars arriving at Smith days late, after lingering on railroad sidings after unscheduled train movements. Whatever the reasons, it certainly made more sense to ship the cars 130 miles where the trip could conceivably be made in a day.
Another difference between 1968 and 1969 production was the amount of material left off the cars as they left Dearborn. The 1968 cars went sans hoods, grilles and deck lids; the front and rear body openings were plugged by “slave” trunks and deck lids; and there has been reference made to a possible molded plastic engine cover (an ersatz hood) that may have also been utilized as the cars rolled off the Metuchen line. Cars in 1969 were shipped completely devoid of all the Mustang front body sheet metal, although, again, there may have been a molded plastic cover—or perhaps a Mustang hood—used to cover the bare engines (one of the many trivial-at-the-time-production details that have sadly been lost to history).
Once at A.O. Smith, the cars underwent a different production “flow” than they did in 1968, driven by the substantially increased amount of parts installed at Smith. For this year’s Shelby build, final assembly was undertaken on the top floor of the multi-story Smith factory building, which required that the cars take an elevator trip to the building’s upper deck. The elevator wasn’t the typical passenger box with opening doors, though, it was basically a platform that rode up and down within an elevator shaft. At each of the four corners was a cable and those cables were each attached to an independent motor with a cable reel on it.
In theory, all four motors worked simultaneously, each lifting its corner of the platform equally for a tilt-free ride up or down the shaft. In theory. On at least two documented occasions, however, the motors or cable reels declared their independence from the others and decided not to work as a team, which caused the platform to tip, sending the nearly-completed Shelby plummeting down the elevator shaft. There seemed to be no commonality between the two incidents, in terms of just how far the Shelbys fell; one of the cars was written off, but remarkably the other was repaired and completed.
There is an adage that more people will report an unfavorable experience at a restaurant than will report a good one, and tales of 1969 Shelby construction seem to follow that model as only the stories of the fiascos seem to persevere over the years. But in actual fact, production ran, for the most part, like a relatively well-oiled machine and most cars were completed without incident. One favorable story of the car’s production, however, has survived, that of the application of the body side stripes. Once the bugs had been worked out, assembly line workers, managers, and observers were amazed at how quickly the local Ionia workers (most of whom happened to be women) could properly apply the reflective stripes on the fenders, doors, and quarter panels.
Hitting the Brakes
In June of 1969, just as Apollo 11 was on the pad ready for its blastoff, so too should have been the 1970 Shelby program. But instead of the 1970 GT350 and GT500 programs roaring to life, Carroll Shelby pulled the abort handle: he asked Ford to terminate the Shelby Mustang program. This may seem like an unusual request to have come from Shelby, but he had his reasons. Some of them were like festering sores, issues that had been lingering for years. Others were recent revelations. Nevertheless, all could be summed up in one brief sentence: It just wasn’t fun anymore.
For the past couple of years, Ford management had been taking a greater and greater role in the running of Shelby’s company. The practice had actually begun at the beginning of the program, but it wasn’t as obvious then. But in 1969, Shelby found himself having to increasingly ask permission to do what he had just done (and done with World Championship—winning results, it should be noted). Ford accountants were calling the shots. More and more of his time was spent defending his basic right to run his business his way, and less and less was actually spent running it. Ford corporate sales structure wasn’t helping his situation either: once he was the only game in town but, by now, Ford had sprouted several performance versions of its Mustangs—two flavors of Boss (302 and 429) and Mach I—and they were all competing against each other for essentially the same customers. You might wonder if there was some slight resentment on the part of Shelby because so much of the GT350 and GT500 had become based on the Mach I.
While it might be disingenuous to say that there was a single straw that broke Shelby’s back, it certainly didn’t make matters any better when Shelby learned that some of the Boss 429 development costs had been paid for from finances that were initially allocated to his program. His decreasing enthusiasm for the Shelby Mustang project was coupled with his increasing interest in his big-game preserve in Africa, and the end result was that he wanted—and got—out. Ford agreed to terminate his contract. In late July, Ford officially served notice that Carroll Shelby’s contract had been terminated.
But it wasn’t as easy as simply turning off the light switch, padlocking the door, and walking away. When Shelby decided to quit, 789 Mustangs had either just completed the transformation into 1969 Shelbys but had not yet shipped, or were still in process. Ford couldn’t simply scrap them, so a plan for their completion had to be devised. As usual, there were factors that complicated planning: Shelby dealers weren’t happy about receiving additional 1969 models, when the 1970 cars were about to debut, especially since an economic downturn at the end of 1968 (a precursor to the 1970 recession) had already left dealers with a good quantity of still-unsold 1968 model-year Shelbys. The last thing they wanted (or needed) was another infusion of year-old cars for their inventory.
It was decided that even though Carroll Shelby’s contract had been terminated, Ford, Smith, and Shelby proceeded with introducing a 1970 model year Shelby. The approach was a novel one: the unfinished/unsold cars had their VINs modified (a felony act) to reflect that they were now 1970 models. Since VIN tampering fell under the jurisdiction of the F.B.I., they were notified of Shelby/Smith’s intent to do so, and agreed that the numbers could be legally altered, provided that the F.B.I. oversaw the changeover of the numbers and the destruction of the old number tags. The details of the plan were thus: the unfinished cars would have their windshields removed and the dashboard VIN tag would be replaced with one identical in all respects, save for the first digit, which would now have a “0” (for 1970) instead of a “9” (for 1969) in the first character space; the remainder of the VIN would remain the same. The car’s door ID plate would be removed and replaced in similar fashion. However, the fender VIN stamping, which is invisible with the fenders installed, would remain as-is.
The result was that these “1970” cars were effectively dualserial-number cars, with existing, unaltered 1969 numbers in some places and new 1970 numbers in others. Literally, one minute a car was a 1969 Shelby, the next it was a 1970 model. It is generally correct to say that the cars receiving the altered serial numbers were later cars, but there were many instances of “non-sequentiality” to the numbers: as an example, car serial number 3093 was a 1969 model. Numbers 3094 through 3097 were renumbered to 1970 models, but 3098 and 3099 remained as 1969 Shelbys, while 3100 became a 1970.
Altering the VIN plates satisfied the legal aspects of converting the 1969 models into 1970 models, but there were issues of consumer psychology to be dealt with: the “1970” cars had to have some distinguishing features to differentiate them from the 1969 models, even though the cars were mechanically identical. The solution was to install a Boss 302-like plastic front spoiler under the chin of the “new” 1970 models. In addition, the 1970 cars had two parallel black stripes painted on the hoods, between the two outboard NACA ducts. With this approach, Shelby dealers received legitimate 1970 models, rather than year-old 1969s.
But even with the issue of the unsold cars dealt with, Smith, Ford, and Shelby still weren’t done because there were still some nagging financial issues to be untangled. In 1967, when A.O. Smith bid the Shelby project, it was a fairly straightforward task: Smith would fabricate Shelby-unique components, paint and install them on partially-completed Mustangs, then Smith would complete the trim work, with badging, striping, and other trim pieces. But it didn’t work out that way.
There were quality issues with the unfinished Mustangs that Smith had to correct. The cars were received at Ionia with missing components that Smith had to install. The cars arrived with various forms of damage from railcar shipment that Smith had to correct. Smith had to blend special batches of paint for its components because the Ford-applied paint jobs were done with out-of-spec paint. And all of these unforeseen problems cost A.O. Smith. To its credit, in order to keep the production line running, it didn’t shut the line down while each and every one of these additional tasks was renegotiated into its contract; Smith kept working and asked Ford and Shelby to fund them as the additional costs were incurred. There were also additional tasks, like the preparation of show cars for Hertz, that Smith didn’t bid originally, but was asked to perform. And the California Special program, which was run by Shelby Automotive with A.O. Smith performing the fabrication exactly like the Shelby Mustangs, ran into constant increases in Smith’s scope of work.
So, when Ford and Shelby pulled the plug, Smith had a lengthy list of outstanding costs that it simply wanted to get paid for. The settlement of said costs dragged on for nearly another year after the Shelby program closed down. Shelby blamed Ford for the cost increases; Ford blamed Smith. There was finger pointing in all directions. In the final analysis, A.O. Smith took something of a hit, as it was forced to make cost concessions to simply get paid for anything. It is not as if A.O. Smith was driven to bankruptcy, but in all likelihood, it received quite a bit less than its fair share of what it was due. In the end, though it was very likely not to everyone’s satisfaction, the project was well and truly over.
Carroll Shelby’s wild ride atop Ford’s hearty little pony car lasted a little more than 60 months. In those five years, Carroll Shelby’s companies did some remarkable things to the Mustang. On the track, its three dozen factory competition GT350s legitimized the pony car as a true sports car, and in doing so, handed Ford three consecutive Sports Car Club of America B/Production championship titles, in 1965, 1966, and 1967. Shelby gave the Mustang fangs and turned it into a true Corvette-beater. On the street, nearly 15,000 GT350s, GT500s, and GT500 KRs set the standard for performance, then later, for luxury with a keen performance edge. A sporty car for the masses was turned into a sports car for the elite.
Life is all about timing and Carroll Shelby’s was impeccable: he pitched his idea for a small, American-engined sports car to Ford just when Ford wanted and needed such a creation, and the Cobra was born. He knew when to get in, when the getting-in was best. But he also knew when it was best to get out, and he did just that with the Mustang program: He quit when the quitting was best, before the Shelby Mustangs had become mere shadows of their former selves. By leaving when he did, Shelby ensured that the Mustangs with which he and his companies were associated have attained a permanent place of distinction in the dictionary of the American muscle car.
1969/1970 GT350 AND GT500 PRODUCTION STATISTICS
Body Style Available: 2-door fastback, 2-door convertible
Quantity Built: 3150: GT350-1282 (1086 fastback/196 convertible); GT500-1868 (1535 fastback/333 convertible
Note: 788 cars converted/completed with 1970 VINs and sold as 1970 models.
Colors Available*: Acapulco Blue (8.6% of total build)
Gulfstream Aqua (10.5% of total build)
Grabber Orange†† (4.8% of total build)
Calypso Coral† (5.6% of total build)
Pastel Gray (6.3% of total build)
Grabber Green (4.5% of total build)
Shelby Grabber Yellow** (3.6% of total build)
Grabber Blue (5.8% of total build)
Candy Apple Red (17.5% of total build)
Silver Jade (6.8% of total build)
Black Jade (13.7% of total build)
Royal Maroon (6.9% of total build)
Wimbledon White (5.3% of total build) *One car was ordered in Midnight Orchid to match the owner’s similarly-painted T-Bird, one car ordered on WT 9083 Purple.
**Special paint from Ford fleet color catalog, WT 6173 Yellow.
† Used on three 1968 Shelbys, known as WT 5185 Orange
†† Used on three 1968 Shelbys, known as WT 5014 Orange
Interior Colors Available: Black (68.6%)
Red (76 cars only)
Base Prices: GT350: $4,434 fastback; $4,753 convertible GT500: $4,709 fastback; $5,027 convertible
Available Factory Options: Air conditioning; tinted windows (mandatory with AC); automatic transmission; F60x15 Goodyear Polyglas tires; Sport Deck (fold down) rear seat; Power Ventilation; intermittent wipers; Traction-Lok rear end; heavy duty battery
Running Production Changes: Early cars: Press-assembled Shelby five-spoke mag wheels; standard front wheel spindles and rear springs (optional F60 x 15 tires only); unmodified fuel cap venting (GT500s only)
Late cars: Riveted Shelby five-spoke mag wheels; Boss 302 front wheel spindles and rear springs (optional F60 x 15 tires only); modified fuel cap venting (GT500s only).
Written by Greg Kolasa and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks