In late May 1966, Charlie McHose’s boss told him “go West, young man” and he did. Destination? Los Angeles International Airport and the two huge aircraft hangers that Shelby American called home. McHose was a stylist, working in the special projects studio at Ford, and after a few years in England styling door handles and grilles for such cars as the Ford Cortina, and a few more in Dearborn doing the same for American Fords, he had finally gotten a solo gig: his mission was to assist Shelby American in the styling of the new 1967 Shelby. Andy Warhol was right: everybody gets their 15 minutes, and Charlie’s time had come. Armed with some design sketches from his colleagues, as well as a handful of his own, he intermingled some of their thoughts with his own creativity to design the new car.
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Unlike the 1966 Mustangs, which were a minor facelift from the debut 1965 models, the 1967 Mustang represented a major change from the pony car of the year before; it was all new, while still retaining a strong styling connection to the first-year pony. It was designed—or perhaps, it is more correct to say, redesigned—to address the one nagging criticism by muscle car enthusiasts of the early Mustang: the lack of room in the engine compartment for big-block power between the shock towers.
While the Mustang had fired the opening shot in the pony car wars, it was rapidly falling behind in the horsepower war with the Firebird and Camaro (GM’s direct competitors to the Mustang) as well as other pony cars, which all offered powerplants that were 400 cubic inches or larger. Until now, the Mustang’s big engine was the tried-and-true 289; 1967 saw it a become real player in the displacement duel, with Ford offering a big 390 V-8, which, though still smaller than GM’s 427 and 428 engines, was a lot closer than the 289 was. Shelby American went even further and “ponied up” with the Police Interceptor 428, in what eventually became known as the GT500.
Planning a Grander Grand Tourer
A few weeks before McHose’s arrival, Shelby American management sat down and, in a series of styling and design meetings, started laying out the basic “philosophy” of the 1967 model. Discussions centered on what should stay and what should be replaced to give the new Shelby even more visual distinctiveness from the Ford Mustang. Even though the Shelby was unquestionably based on the Mustang, Shelby American wanted it known that the final product was a much more exclusive automobile; their clientele demanded it, as did the car’s higherthan-the-Mustang price.
A sharp focus was maintained on utilizing standard Ford components that could be added on the Ford assembly line, and which provided nearly the same performance function as the Shelby add-on parts of years before, but at a much lower cost, allowing those cost savings to be redirected to the styling aspect of the project, where they were more visible to the consumer. This increased emphasis on appearance and styling at the expense of pure performance was a by-product of catering to the new Shelby buyer, who was more sophisticated than the pure “gearhead” buyers of the first-year GT350. There were, however, some aspects of the Shelby cars that had become synonymous with “Shelby” and should be retained. Hood pins were felt to be an integral part of the Shelby image and should stay, as should the additional engine compartment bracing. But 3-inch, racing-type seat belts, as used in 1965 and 1966 Shelbys,were deleted in favor of standard Ford seat belts with some sort of Cobra logo to distinguish them from plain-Jane Mustang belts. Thought had been given to offering the wide belts as an extra cost option, but they never reached production.
The large, cast-aluminum COBRA oil pan went, as well, and the clear Plexiglas quarter windows, a trademark of the 1966 Shelbys, also were deleted. The quick steering components of the 1965–1966 cars (a special longer Pitman and idler arm installed at Shelby American) was tossed, and a quickerratio steering box (another Ford production line item) was used instead, achieving the same result at a lower cost.
Steel tube tri-Y headers also went by the wayside, leaving the big- and small-block 1967 Shelby with their as-built, castiron Ford exhaust manifolds. This meant that Shelby could utilize the complete exhaust system as Ford installed it on the San Jose line and did not incur any additional costs in the swapping out of parts after the Mustangs got to Los Angeles. Another cost reduction target was controlling the windup of the Mustang rear semi-elliptical rear springs on hard acceleration. In 1965, this was accomplished by the time-consuming addition of torque control arms (traction bars) that necessitated removal of the entire rear axle.
In 1966, this procedure got a little better with bolt-on units that still required some work, but which could be installed without removing the axle. For 1967, though, even those simpler Shelby bolted-on units were replaced by a simple rubber snubber that was bolted to the frame just above the spring leaves, to limit spring windup; as the spring flexed on acceleration and hard braking, it contacted the rubber bumper and was prohibited from twisting any further.
Shelby also investigated having Ford install as many Shelbyunique components as possible on the San Jose line to further lower the cost of the vehicle. This was done in the case of the thick Shelby front stabilizer bar and, after San Jose was satisfied of the part’s crashworthiness, the wood steering wheels.
The increased cost efficiencies in the pure performance department meant more dollars were available to make the new Shelby look less like its Mustang roots and with a lower price than ever before. Criticism surrounding the Shelby’s similarity to the Mustang despite a significant price increase had been nagging Shelby American since the birth of the GT350, and 1967 saw the most concerted effort yet to address this complaint. One of the approaches to differentiating the Shelby from the Mustang upon which it was based focused on not what the car was, but, quite simply, what the car was called. Whereas the 1965 GT350 was a Mustang GT350 by Shelby American, the new creation bore the name Shelby, and only Shelby.
There was no Mustang “running horse” badging anywhere on the car. Instead, a stylized, fierce Cobra, ready to strike at the slightest provocation—especially at any vehicle bearing a Bow Tie—was designed and boldly emblazoned the new car’s fuel cap, fenders, steering wheel, and grille. The car’s identity was even carried over onto the owner’s manual, which was now a totally separate booklet on the Shelby GT, unlike earlier years in which the Shelby info was a supplement to the Ford Mustang manual. In fact, showroom literature listed Shelby American’s two-car product lineup as the Shelby Cobra and Shelby GT and gave the Shelby salesman brief talking points to enable him to tout the car’s many performance capabilities but especially its styling benefits over the Ford Mustang.
Research and Development
But while the 1967 Shelby definitely tipped the performance/styling scale in favor of the latter, performance wasn’t totally out of the picture: the nation’s largest rental car company, Hertz, still planned to purchase 1,000 cars to serve as the homologation quantity for the 1967 GT350 competition model that was being planned at the same time, as a backup in case the Trans-Am effort didn’t reach fruition. Included in the design meetings was the announcement that a partial 1967 Mustang body would be available for pickup from Ford in Dearborn in early June and could be transported by Shelby American back to its L.A. base of operations. It was specifically noted that transport of the 1967 body had to be via enclosed truck, a thinly-veiled reference to the extreme security that automobile manufacturers placed around their future releases.
Also available for pickup by enclosed truck were two 1967 fastback Mustang bodies, rendered in fiberglass by Dearborn Steel Tubing, for additional styling purposes. The final topic of the soon-to-be-weekly design progress meetings was the announcement that McHose was inbound from Dearborn to provide styling expertise.
But neither Charlie McHose’s trip West in late May nor Shelby’s meetings weeks before that were the first step of the 1967 Shelby design process. In the automotive world, for both a mega corporation like Ford and a small specialty manufacturer like Shelby American, one thing remains common: next year’s models are actually thought of and developed long before they hit the showroom floor. This work encompasses countless tasks, one of which is the development and construction of prototype vehicles.
There are several types of prototypes, each with its own unique job description and function. Some prototypes are mechanical prototypes, which are sometimes referred to as “mules.” These are rolling test beds used to evaluate everything from individual components to entire power trains. Whether testing small, single components or whole mechanical systems, these vehicles are almost always all about function and very little about form—prototypes for photographic or promotional purposes come along later and are different animals entirely, at least most of the time. Mechanical prototypes are often kludged-up contraptions, pulled together with aesthetics as their last concern, if at all. In the case of the new 1967 Shelby, one such mechanical prototype started out life in late 1965 as a GT350 competition model and in early 1966, the stillunsold 5R537 was pushed back into the shops where it began the transformation into one of the mechanical prototypes for the 1967 Shelby program.
To say the car was “stripped” is an understatement; “deconstructed” is perhaps a more descriptive term. Everything structural forward of the firewall was removed and new shock towers and subframes were hand-installed from recently-available 1967 Mustang stampings. The objective was the same as for the 1967 Mustang in general: provide more room for the installation of a big-block engine. And on this prototype, not just any big-block, but a full-race 427 side oiler of the same type that propelled Shelby’s Ford MKII GT40s to a win at LeMans in June 1966.
A drag car A/FX fiberglass reverse teardrop hood was needed to clear the high-rise, aluminum intake and carburetor. Huge race tires were fitted to racing wheels in order to transmit the massive amounts of horsepower to the ground, the R-Model’s already widened wheel openings were hacked open even more for clearance, and the crudely fashioned bodywork was covered in gray primer.
The car was anything but pretty, but it went like a rocket ship. During testing at Willow Springs in California and then at Ford’s test track in Dearborn, the car turned laps at speeds only bettered by Dan Gurney in a Ford MKII. True, the 1967 Mustang was a bit bigger and heavier than the gutted R-Model and the street 1967 Shelby didn’t have the “oomph” of a fullrace 427, but the cobbled-together mule showed that clearly, this “Mustang with big-block power” idea was definitely one of Ford’s better ones. Still unnamed at this point, the new model was being referred to as the “428 GT350.”
Designing the 1967 Shelby GTs
Charlie McHose arrived at Shelby American in the third week of May, beating the arrival of either the fiberglass or the steel 1967 Mustang bodies by two weeks, but he went right to work sketching aluminum wheels, artwork for the 1967 Shelby badging and even a new paint scheme for Shelby American’s DC-3 corporate plane, though it was never applied. To accomplish his work, a makeshift “design studio” was set up in the mezzanine offices of one of the aircraft hangers where Shelby American was quartered. He met all the key personnel, including Mr. Shelby and another Charles with whom he worked very closely: Shelby American’s GT350 Project Engineer Charles “Chuck” Cantwell. Basically, their working relationship was that as McHose created aesthetic components for the new Shelby, Cantwell figured out how to make them work on the car.
McHose soon discovered that one of the fun perks of working for World Manufacturer’s Champion Shelby American was his company loaner car, a well-used 1965 GT350 (serial 5S319) that had done prototype duty itself (for the upcoming 1966 GT350). It made a wonderful sound as he downshifted and stomped the throttle in the long tunnel under the airport runways on his way to and from work.
He also discovered that there were aspects of his makeshift design studio that should have been easy, yet required some planning to accomplish. A week or so later, in early June, the arrival of two fiberglass body shells and the steel prototype body at 6501 West Imperial Highway brought about a significant logistical design challenge: getting one of the fiberglass body shells and the steel bare body up into the design studio. At issue was the only pathway to the design studio: up a flight of stairs, through several interconnected offices, then down a narrow corridor to the very last room. The solution, which had a decidedly Laurel-and-Hardy-esque feel to it, was to stand each body on its side, forklift it up the stairs, then, still standing on end, slide it through all the offices until it was finally shoved all the way into the design studio.
Once there, both bodies had steel supporting frames constructed by personnel from Shelby’s race shop, including Shelby’s jack-of-all-trades, Phil Remington. The fiberglass body was supported at what was the car’s actual ride height, and a set of 1966 Shelby 10-spoke aluminum wheels were positioned to fit within the wheel wells; the wheels didn’t actually support the fiberglass car, but the arrangement gave the impression that the car was mounted on them. The plan was that the fiberglass body shell would be used for photography of the new 1967 Shelby, while the steel unibody would be used as a body buck onto which clay Shelby components could be sculpted.
This was the 1960s, a time when parts were painstakingly hand carved out of blobs of clay. Actually, this process is still in use today, however, laser scanners and milling machines now speed the process along and provide accuracy that is all but impossible to achieve by hand. But back then, due to the nature of the sculpting process, the only way for perfect symmetry to be achieved, every component was sculpted in halves: after the one half was carved out of clay, a detailed set of cardboard templates was cut, from which an identical mirror image opposite side was created. In the case of components such as air scoops, where there existed a right- and left-hand version of a part, a clay master of each side had to be sculpted. It was a process with which McHose was very familiar, but the true enormity of the task became apparent when those tasks were compared to the calendar: time was very tight—the molds needed to be complete by August, a mere three months distant—and McHose was only one person.
In order to meet the rigorous schedule, almost simultaneous design and sculpting had to occur. McHose then hit upon the perfect solution: not too far from Los Angeles International Airport was McHose’s alma mater, the Art Center College of Design, where his art instructor, Joe Farrer, worked. Farrer was extremely talented in many aspects of automotive design, particularly clay The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide 1965–1970 115 sculpting. McHose asked Shelby if Mr. Farrer could be hired to assist on the 1967 Shelby project, and Shelby agreed.
In short order, Farrer and McHose (once instructor and student, now employee and employer) got down to business, with McHose sketching and designing and Farrer sculpting. Here, another aspect of the makeshift design studio in which they were quartered reared its head, and it concerned the sunny Southern California weather and the associated temperatures: the clay process involved two distinct temperature extremes. The clay is heated in an oven to almost too-hot-to-handle temperatures to soften it, so that it can be easily smeared across the body framework. But the design studio is kept exceptionally cool—uncomfortably so—to allow the clay to harden, since it must be stiff to be sculpted properly on the buck. But in Los Angeles in late spring, the climate was far from cool, and it became something of a constant challenge to keep the clay stiff enough for sculpting and mold-pulling.
The design duo was joined a while later by someone who made it a true styling triumvirate: Carl Nasson from Ford in Dearborn. Carl’s expertise was in pulling molds from clay parts. The sculpted clay components had somewhat fragile plaster molds taken from them and, in a back-and-forth process, had fiberglass parts molded from the plaster casts. Then, more durable fiberglass molds made, from which the actual production parts were molded. Although there was some overlapping of the tasks being performed, the “batting order” was: McHose passed his sketches and drawings to Farrer, who carved the parts, from which Nasson then made the molds. McHose later recalled that Carl was an excellent addition to the team for another, unplanned reason: his keen sense of humor kept things light as the team pulled many all-nighters in order to accomplish the job; 80- to 120-hour weeks for the team were the rule, rather than the exception.
Sunday work was not unheard of either, and plant guards at Shelby American were instructed to let any of the trio in and out at any time of the day or night. Later, as work got intense and after McHose and Farrer had worked for more than two weeks straight, Shelby, himself, stopped by the design studio and told the pair to take a day off, for crying out loud. But there were less than three months in which to get the job done, and the clock was already ticking; there was definitely a gun, and they were all under it.
The LeMans Connection
While McHose was largely free to develop styling cues as he saw fit, he was guided by some overarching corporate design philosophies, one of which dictated that he and all Ford stylists in general, working on all performance-oriented products, incorporate the theme of LeMans and racing into his designs, as often as possible. In this department, McHose was situated perfectly, both figuratively and literally: as he sketched styling cues to be incorporated into the new Shelby, it was just a quick trip down a flight of stairs to the very heart of Ford’s LeMans program, as Shelby American race crews frantically toiled preparing the MKIIs for that race.
The sound of un-muffled full-race 427 engines echoing off the rafters of the huge hanger roof also added to the excitement, and McHose had all the LeMans inspiration he could possibly need. Another guiding design principle (unspoken and unwritten but nevertheless very real) mandated that any styling work must pass muster with the man whose name graced the new car’s body panels.
When you own the company that builds a car with your name on it, you obviously have quite a bit of say-so in what that car will look like, and the 1967 Shelby was no different. So, despite being intentionally dropped from the menu for the 1967 Shelby, when Shelby first asked that clear quarter windows (similar to the ones on the 1966 Shelby) be tried for appearance in the new model, the concept was explored. After all, it was a logical suggestion, since the side scoops and the clear quarter windows had become iconic Shelby styling features.
But Shelby’s otherwise good idea was thwarted by Ford engineering: the 1967’s roof openings (created when the car’s quarter panels were in the first stages of the metal stamping process) were significantly different from the prior year’s design, in order to incorporate redesigned vent louvers on the Mustang. Since the quarter windows were limited in size and shape to the pre-stamped roof opening, what Ford gave was what Shelby had to work with, and when the roof opening was filled with clear Plexiglas, the windows simply looked awkward. Shelby agreed with the stylist’s assertions that the windows did not work, and that the company should abandon the design.
But something still needed to be done to that space to differentiate the Shelby from the plain-Jane Mustang, and McHose came up with several ideas. One was a flat, sort of air outlet, which met the criteria and was different, but not much better. Then, after a few more ideas, and more trips down the stairs for inspirational peeks at the 200-mph racers, another idea began to take form. The Ford MKII was a car that made efficient use of air. It cheated it with its slick shape, it used it to adhere itself to the track, and it used the air flowing over and around its sleek body to cool parts of the machinery encased within. And perched atop the rear deck was a pair of snorkel-like air scoops that were designed to take cool outside air and blow it across the red-hot, rear disc brake rotors. While the air scoops were designed to be purely functional, they also just plain looked cool. And McHose realized that they were just the sort of feature that the new Shelby was calling for.
McHose started sketching and guiding Joe Farrer in the carving of an air scoop that was strongly influenced by the MKII rear deck scoop to occupy the vacant space on the new Shelby, where the old quarter windows formerly resided. But where the MKII scoops drew in air and directed it down to the brakes, McHose’s scoops actually draw air out of the passenger compartment. Recalling his fluid dynamics courses, Chuck Cantwell suggested making use of the venturi principle that states, in simple terms, that moving air squeezed into a smaller area will not only move faster but will also have a lower pressure.
After some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, he devised an internal necked-down section that increased the air’s speed within the scoop, lowering the pressure, thereby creating a vacuum effect to pull stale air out of the cockpit. In theory, it should work, but testing it would settle any doubts.
Engineer Cantwell, designer McHose, and Sculptor Farrer got together and made a quick fiberglass scoop, something McHose referred to as an “air extractor,” very similar in appearance to the MKII scoop, but with an air outlet in the rear. Designer McHose and Engineer Cantwell then attached the crude scoop to a 1966 GT350, believed to be 6S800, which had been allocated for use as a mechanical prototype for the 1967 Shelby program, in place of the quarter window for an unusual test, McHose climbed aboard the test car and into the back seat, where, he lit a cigarette. Cantwell slipped behind the wheel and they drove past a third accomplice who confirmed that, as 6S800 sped by, cigarette smoke was, indeed, being drawn out the rear of the “air extractor.” The air extractor was a double success: not only did it look great, but it was completely functional, too!
It had already been decided that the functional lower-side brake cooling scoops, like those of the 1966 GT350, would be carried over, and here again, McHose used the MKII’s scoops as an influence and designed a more complex scoop, one with more shape and depth than the simple fiberglass ones used in 1966. As on the 1966 car, it was mounted in the Mustang’s trademark sculpted body side cut-out and covered internal ducting that moved the air into the rear wheel well and over the car’s rear brake drum.
A final touch, also inspired by the GT40, was a ducktail rear spoiler. This was the feature that McHose felt gave the most distinctiveness to the new Shelby. New end caps to the car’s quarter panels were designed, and then carved out of clay on the steel body as was a new deck lid with an integral spoiler. In order to give the new Shelby a totally unique look, taillights from another Ford vehicle were added. Fairlane lights were Charlie’s first choice because of their integral backup light lenses, which alleviated fears of the Mustang’s add-on backup lights interfering with the car’s dual exhausts. But once 1967 Cougar taillights were fitted to the new taillight panel, the backup light issue never materialized and it became clear that this was the way to go. When the clay work was finished, McHose and Farrer stood back and admired the back end of the new Shelby, which bore scant resemblance to the pony on which it was based—and this was a very good thing.
Shelby’s Nose Job
Next, the design team moved on to the front of the car. Ford designer Pete Stacey’s close-together headlights mounted in the center of the radiator opening were integrated into a redesigned grille. A new, lower valance panel was developed, and together, the duo designed the car’s hood scoop, which was larger but sleeker and more smoothly integrated into the upper surface of the car’s hood than the year before. And like before, it was also functional, assisting the ingestion of cool air into the engine compartment. It was at this time that the designer/ sculptor team ran into their first design hiccup: the new nose was nearly done when, almost literally as he was heading toward an airliner for a flight to Paris (and then on to LeMans), Carroll Shelby stopped by the design studio and dropped something of a bombshell: he liked the overall concept for the nose, but wanted it stretched several inches to make the car longer and sleeker. This, as is the case with many upper management edicts, was far more easily said than done.
McHose and Farrer removed the clay work they had done so far and started almost anew, concentrating on recreating the same idea, but a few inches farther down the road. As they carved, simple geometry reared its head and threw another monkey wrench into the works: extending the Mustang’s gently tapering fender line further forward resulted in a smaller grille opening, which meant that the space available for the car’s headlights was also smaller. The dilemma was ultimately solved by a figurative trip to the Ford parts bin, where the headlights from the 1960 Galaxie were found to work perfectly. Smaller in diameter by the requisite inch and a little, the headlights filled the allocated space perfectly.
When Shelby returned from Ford’s first-ever LeMans victory, he gave a thumbs up to the longer and sleeker car that bore his name. It was the middle of August and with the sketching and drawing and clay work on the steel body done, McHose started packing up for his return to Dearborn.
A Broken Nose
Sometime after McHose had settled back into his Dearborn design studio, word filtered back from L.A. that there had been something of a disaster. The fiberglass parts didn’t fit. If things at Shelby American were hopping when the styling and design work was ongoing, it was nothing compared to the scrambling that was about to take place with ill-fitting parts on-hand.
Not that it mattered much, since the parts were there and somehow they had to be made usable, but the cause for the dilemma was finally figured out. McHose, Farrer, and Nasson were blameless, everything they had done was done to perfection. At fault was the prototype steel Mustang body that had been used for the styling base. The body was one of several partial bodies created during the planning and development cycle for Ford’s new Mustang. It had been built, literally by hand, at Ford’s Allen Park pilot plant, a little-known facility designed to develop the most expeditious means of mass producing new models. This particular body had been used to assess the adequacy of the seat belt shoulder harness anchor points in the new Mustang unibody.
The tests conducted were not necessarily a spectacularly destructive one, but they were apparently much more so than was thought: a load equal to the force exerted by a belted occupant experiencing a rapid deceleration was applied to the shoulder harness attaching point. Those tests were successful: the seat belt anchors were not yanked out of the body. But unknown to anyone, in the process, the entire body (and not just the structure in the vicinity of the seat belt anchor points) had been subtly twisted and distorted all over. When the fiberglass parts came in from the various vendors, they had been molded from molds taken of parts sculpted on a twisted body buck; the twist was translated through all phases of the styling, right up to the fabrication of production parts. Already at their maximum production capacity given their relatively small size, the staff was doomed to hours of hand-fitting the fiberglass parts to the production vehicles, in an attempt to make them fit properly, a goal that was never achieved throughout the entire 1967 Shelby build. The problem became one of the key reasons behind Shelby American’s eventual migration east to Michigan.
Success, by Design
On the outside, the new Shelby was vastly different from its Mustang base. Longer and sleeker, the car looked fast just sitting still. The use of substitute components (a whole new nose and tail, all done in fiberglass) gave the 1967 Shelby a unique look and made the Mustang upon which it was based look downright stodgy in some respects. But the new 1967 Shelby, while being known for its extensive use of fiberglass componentry, was a total package that encompassed much more than just the fiberglass parts; there were many other aspects of the styling and design that comprised the new Shelby.
In the cockpit, the 1967 Shelby was the first American production car to incorporate a roll bar, covered in soft rubber padding. And attached to that roll bar was another first, inertia reel shoulder harnesses that were inspired by those on the ejection seats of several contemporary jet fighters; it was the certification testing of the roll bar/shoulder harness that created the twisted bare Mustang body used by McHose/Farrer/Nasson as a body buck for the clay sculpting. The inverted Y-shaped harness assembly was attached to the roll bar at the top and two straps extended down to the seat belt anchor points in the floor. It was permanently attached and to use it, one slipped their arms behind it. The inertia reel feature allowed the harness to extend with gradual movement, such as when leaning forward to adjust the radio, but locked if the occupant pulled on it quickly, as if being thrown forward in the event of a sudden stop.
The year 1967 also saw the return of a real wood steering wheel to the Shelby Mustang, supplied by the Italian firm of EFFPI. Abandoned in 1966 because of 1965 quality problems and the lack of a horn button in the center, a real wood wheel was thought to be a necessary discriminator from the base Mustang. However, with the return of the wood wheel came the return of quality issues, and throughout production, many units were replaced under warranty, making 1967 the last-ever year Shelby to incorporate a real wood steering wheel.
The dash layout of the Mustang GT on which Shelbys were based already featured an integral tachometer, so there was no need for a 1966-like tach perched atop the dash, but other performance-oriented gauges, such as an ammeter and oil pressure gauge, were sacrificed in the process. A creative solution resulted from yet another trip to the Ford parts bin: a 1966 Mustang Rally-Pac, which was normally mounted astride the steering column to house a tachometer and clock, was instead hung bat-like, upside-down beneath the center of the dash, under the radio, and incorporated Stewart-Warner ammeter and oil pressure gauges. GT350 or GT500 badges replaced the Mustang logo on the car’s brushed aluminum dashboard appliqué.
Although standard Ford/Mustang seat belts were retained as a cost-saving measure, they carried a small COBRA decal on the release button; door sill strips carried small SHELBY AMERICAN snake logos on them, in place of the blue oval decals on Mustangs.
Besides the overall design goal of differentiating itself, stylistically, from the base Mustang, another goal of the 1967 Shelby was more softness, more luxury, and more maturity than the rough-and-ready Shelbys of years before. The cars’ interiors exhibited this trend with such appointments as brushed aluminum dashboard trim, molded plastic front seat backs (trimmed in stainless steel), and brushed aluminum trim on heavily-padded door panels. All of these were carryovers from the Mustang’s deluxe interior option, yet gave the cockpit an overall look of an interior that was much more luxuriously appointed than in earlier Shelbys and, for the first time, was available in a color other than black: Parchment, an off-white color. Like the softening of the car in general, the addition of Parchment was driven by feedback from buyers and dealers, in particular, mostly from the southwest, who complained that black was just too hot in the summer, although the availability of air conditioning had more effect, as relatively few of the white-interiored Shelbys were sold.
The softer, more luxurious aspect of the new Shelby was also carried over into the advertising for the car. Where 1965 ads touted the car’s Koni shocks and suspension features, one 1967 ad called the new Shelby a car any owner could feel totally comfortable letting their wife drive. Performance fanatics may have bemoaned the softening of the GT350 and GT500, but the process was simply good business practice: giving the customer what they wanted.
In the engine room, there were components both familiar and unfamiliar to Shelby enthusiasts. For the final time, the GT350 version of the Shelby relied on the same solid-liftered 289 HiPo as in years gone by, although the large, heavy, rivetedaluminum HiPo fan was replaced by the standard, stampedsteel device. The top of the engine, just as before, was capped off by a COBRA aluminum intake, Holley 715-cfm carburetor, and circular chrome air cleaner. Late-type 1966 solid-letter, black wrinkle-finish valve covers hid the rocker arms, but the familiar steel-tube tri-Y headers were no more, instead, the HiPo Mustang cast-iron exhaust manifolds were retained.
In the “number of ponies” department, an interesting phenomenon occurred: in 1965, the base Mustang’s High Performance 289 was rated at 271 hp. When Shelby added headers and the improved carburetion (a big Holley atop an aluminum intake, in lieu of a smaller Autolite on a cast-iron intake) it claimed the horsepower rose to 306. But now, reverting to the higher-restriction castiron exhaust manifold, horsepower was still claimed to be 306, illustrating one of the three types of automotive horsepower ratings: calculated horsepower, actual horsepower, and marketed horsepower. Missing also was the large-capacity COBRA oil pan; the standard stamped-steel Ford 5-quart unit remained instead. Unfamiliar items in the engine room included three previously heretofore unknown (for a Shelby American product) features: power steering, power brakes (both mandatory), and air conditioning.
Bigger numbers on the side stripe decal coincided with a bigger powerplant in the engine room: the new-for-1967 GT500 was propelled by Ford’s hydraulic-lifter equipped Police Interceptor 428. As in the case of the original GT350, for which the designation was essentially pulled out of thin air, the “GT500” I.D. wasn’t chosen to coincide with engine characteristics because it neither displaced 500 ci nor produced 500 hp or 500 ft-lbs of torque. The engine’s actual parameters were 428, 355, and 420, respectively. It was chosen simply because it was a larger number than either General Motors or Chrysler would likely bestow on any of their products’ side stripes.
Fuel for the 428 made its way into the cylinders via a pair of Holley 600-cfm carburetors, perched atop a large cast-aluminum intake manifold. Capping off the carbs was an oval cast-aluminum COBRA-lettered air cleaner; cast-aluminum was also used for the valve covers. There were two engine options listed in the factory literature. One was the availability of a Paxton supercharger; the same setup as was used on the 1966 GT350 and available only on the GT350. The other option was a full-race 427 side-oiler in the GT500.
Both were pricey options. The Paxton added nearly $700 and only 35 factory supercharged cars were built; the 427 sideoiler cost a whopping $2,000 extra (nearly as much as the price of a base Mustang), which explains why only three factory 427 cars were built. On both the GT500 and the GT350, a single piece “export brace” replaced the stock Mustang’s stamped sheet-metal shock tower braces used in years past, although the cross-engine-compartment Monte Carlo Bar was eliminated.
Three wheel choices were available: standard was the Ford station wagon wheel, this time in black, capped off by a Thunderbird full wheel cover, which was intended to simulate a mag-type wheel. Optional wheels could be either the five-spoke Kelsey-Hayes aluminum and chrome “Mag Star,” or the cast-aluminum Shelby American ten-spoke, a 15-inchdiameter version of 1966’s 14-inch item. Both wheels (and the wheel cover) incorporated the same gold-foil SHELBY COBRA snake logo in their center caps, although the design was slightly different for each type of wheel. Unlike the steering wheel center or the fender/ grille/dashboard badges, which were keyed to either GT350 or GT500 usage, the SHELBY COBRA wheel center cap decals were universal in application. All three wheels were 15 inches in diameter, a size that was used for the remainder of the Shelby Mustangs’ existence.
When Shelby American increased the color availability of the GT350 to five, that quantity was not a random number picked out of thin air; considerable thought went into the quantity, and five was settled upon as a compromise between consumer popularity and a quantity that wouldn’t make the “bookkeeping” of the colors overly cumbersome. For 1967, Shelby had decided that the color choices would consist of: dark blue, dark green, Lime Gold, white and medium blue. But with the promotional literature featuring the spiffy red V-738-2–based GT500, it was decided to make red available, albeit for a short time. It was then dropped in favor of a more popular color, but still maintaining the five-color mix. It is interesting to note that although records indicate a desire to include red as an available color right from the start, in actual fact, the only red cars delivered came very late in production.
Other colors were also planned to be cycled into and out of availability, based on buyer demand at the time, but while all the time maintaining five color choices. The result was that the 1967 Shelby was ultimately produced in nearly a dozen colors, but with only five or so being available at any one given time. The full color palette included: Burnt Amber, Acapulco Blue, Brittany Blue (a 1964 T-Bird color), Nightmist Blue, Lime Gold, Candy Apple Red, Raven Black, Charcoal Grey, Dark Moss Green and Wimbledon White. All colors were standard Mustang colors, with the exception of Charcoal Grey, which was pulled from the Lincoln color chart. Black was planned to be a Hertz-only color, and at the time the color selections were conveyed to San Jose, Hertz was still talking about buying a 1967 GT350H for its Sports Car Club. Sometime shortly thereafter, however, Hertz said “no, thanks” to a 1967 rent-a-racer, but that color was already scheduled for production, so a handful of early cars were delivered in black.
Very late in production, black returned to the mix with a small group of cars being built in that color and, additionally, a very few cars were special ordered in Springtime Yellow and Vintage Burgundy—colors that were not normally available on the 1967 Shelby except via special order. Acapulco Blue was introduced very late in production and lasted for the remainder of the Shelby Mustang’s existence. Lime Gold was the most prolific color, as nearly a quarter of the 1967 cars were so painted. Wimbledon White, Brittany Blue, Nightmist Blue and Dark Moss Green were also very popular and each accounted for about 15 percent of the total build.
All cars received the same tape side stripe as on the 1966 cars: white on all colors except Wimbledon White, which received blue stripes. But the wide, over-the-top LeMans stripes were not offered from the factory because painting the stripes created the biggest production bottleneck in the 1966 cycle. However, many owners had their dealers or local painters apply top stripes after purchasing what they thought were too-plain-looking 1967 cars.
The 1967 Shelby made a drastic styling departure from the Mustang, and was the first Shelby to deviate. In the production of anything, including cars, there is always learning involved and better ways are conceived of to streamline repetitive operations. The same holds true for components: as more efficient methods of manufacturing those parts are developed, they lead to differences—sometimes significant—in the parts.
The changes to both parts and process are implemented as they are devised and contributed to another quirk of the 1967 Shelby, something for which the cars have become somewhat notorious: a multitude of running production changes. With more such changes than were incorporated in any other year Shelby Mustang before or since, 1967 Shelbys rolled off the assembly line in a dizzying array of configurations. The number of running changes resulted not only from the magnitude of styling deviations from the base Mustang, but also from the fact that such a drastic styling deviation had never been tried before.
Generally classified as either “early” or “late” cars, the definition of those terms, and the dividing line between the two classifications, is as clear as the summertime view through Los Angeles smog. Major fiberglass components such as the hoods, deck lids, nose pieces, and tail panels went through an evolutionary process as it was decided that there were better ways to manufacture the parts. For example, complex steel and fiberglass hoods and deck lids were simplified when Shelby American found a vendor capable of producing all-fiberglass components. Minor components such as side scoops also went through a series of changes, mostly due to the vendor producing the item. The changes were not limited to plastic parts, either, as the steel grille mesh underwent an iterative evolution too.
How the cars were assembled changed as well. Roll bar installation was simplified from six- to four-point attachment to the unibody, and lower brake cooling scoops lost their functionality to accelerate installation. Other changes were driven not by production issues but by bureaucracy. Upper marker lights and close-together headlights were deemed to be in violation of some states’ motor vehicle laws.
In the end, the 1967 Shelby was the most varied of the whole Shelby family, with changes such as steel and fiberglass or all-fiberglass hoods and deck lids combined with functional and non-functional lower scoops, marker light or nonmarker light upper scoops, inboard or outboard headlights, flat or raised tail panels, four- or six-point roll bars, smooth or textured upholstery, flat or curved gas caps, and one- or two-piece grilles.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that not all of the production changes occurred at the same time, resulting in some cars with features associated with both early and late cars. To further and finally muddy the waters, some of these early or late-unique features were the product of changes having been implemented at Ford on the base Mustang and were simply carried over onto the Shelby. Although it is difficult to summarize the total 1967 production cycle with one word, it was anything but consistent.
Lessons Learned, Looking Ahead
Since its inception, the Shelby product had been criticized for not going far enough, visually, from the Mustang to justify the substantial price differential. When Shelby American set out to design the 1967 product, they strove to establish a greater disparity between the Shelby Mustang and the car from which it was derived, the Ford Mustang, and on that point, no one can argue that Shelby didn’t hit it out of the ballpark. Some argue that the 1967 Shelby Mustangs were the most handsome of the entire Shelby Mustang family, and while that may be a bit subjective, a much more objective observation was that, stylistically, the 1967 Shelby bit off more than it could chew: the car’s extensive design features exceeded Shelby’s vendors’ ability to produce them.
The small-run manufacturing houses with which Shelby American had been dealing for the past few years just didn’t have the capability to produce large quantities of consistent-quality fiberglass components. For that reason, as well as others, a move to bigger, more capable production facilities was in the works. Some period automobile magazines said that the Shelby Mustang was maturing from what it was in 1965. It was becoming more refined and more luxurious and was being purchased by a much different clientele than just a couple of years ago; hence the very reason for the evolution of the vehicle.
The new Shelby buyer was someone who wanted everyone to know that he was driving a special, limited-production automobile, but didn’t necessarily feel the need to experience the total package of such an automobile, themselves, with things like a harsh ride, tough steering, two-footed brakes, or a loud exhaust system. In other words, performance was secondary to the perception of performance.
No longer the quick, nimble sports car of 1965, the heavier, more plush 1967 models had become closer to the true definition of a grand touring automobile and had pushed Shelby’s appeal to its widest audience yet. And that appeal still hadn’t reached apogee.
1967 GT350 AND GT500 PRODUCTION STATISTICS
Body Style Available: 2-door fastback
Quantity Built: 1,175 GT350
3,225 Total Production
Colors Available*: Nightmist Blue (15.9% of total build) Brittany Blue (13.6% of total build) Dark Moss Green (16.4% of total build) Burnt Amber (.7% of total build) Raven Black (1.7% of total build) Lime Gold (24.7% of total build) Charcoal Gray (.9% of total build) Acapulco Blue (4.5% of total build) Wimbledon White (16.4% of total build) Candy Apple Red (5.3% of total build) *One car each believed to have been delivered in Vintage Burgundy and Springtime Yellow
Interior Colors Available: Black (92.2% of total build);
Parchment (7.8% of total build)
Base Price: GT350-$3995; GT500-$4195
Available Factory Options: Air Conditioning (with tinted windows), automatic transmission, Paxton supercharger (GT350 only), Kelsey-Hayes Mag-Star wheels; Shelby aluminum 10-spoke wheels; 427 medium-riser engine.
Running Production Changes: Early cars: steel-framed hood and deck lids with fiberglass skins; Falcon hood prop rod (some cars); angled one-piece radiator grille mesh; painted headlight trim rings; inboard grille high-beam lights: gas and brake lines routed in the drive shaft tunnel; soft windshield reservoir bag; smooth seat upholstery inserts; wrapped roll bar covering with six-point attachment; functional lower brake cooling scoops; turn/stop lights in upper air extractor scoops; flat taillight panel; flat-emblem fuel cap and trim rings around exhaust pipe cutouts in rear valance.
Late cars: all-fiberglass hoods and deck lids; straight two-piece radiator grille mesh; chrome headlight trim rings; outboard grille high-beam lights; gas and brake lines routed in along the left side rocker panel; hard plastic windshield reservoir tank; Comfort Weave seat upholstery inserts; dipped roll bar covering with four-point attachment; nonfunctional lower brake cooling scoops; no turn/stop lights in upper air extractor scoops; raised taillight panel; convex fuel cap and no bright trim around exhaust pipe cutouts in rear valance. There was no distinct dividing line between cars with early and late features and many cars were built with a mix of what have come to be considered “early” and “late” features. The first two-thirds of 1967 production cars were inboard headlight cars, while the last third had outboards.
Written by Greg Kolasa and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks