Rarest Mustang Ever
I have covered a couple of rare cars lately – the rarest Plymouth ever, a super rare Camaro ZL1, and a few others. Today, we are going to cover the Rarest Mustang ever, and it is one that will leave you wishing there were more of them out there to buy. This particular monster is one that is legendary, even today. I think if more of these had been offered for sale, the course of automotive history may have been forever changed.
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As we have discussed before, during the 1960s the car makers were all fighting for dominance at the race track. The way to do that was to create production cars that could be used in NASCAR and NHRA drag racing. Custom builders like Carroll Shelby made a living by customizing these cars to make them even better. In 1967, Ford redesigned the Mustang to allow the big block 390 V8 as an engine option, which was a smart move from a racing perspective. However, racing teams and consumers wanted more, which is where Shelby came into the picture. Shelby partnered with Ford to provide the racers what they wanted, which was a street car that was track ready.
Time In The Spotlight
In addition to his partnership with Ford, Shelby also had the honor of being the West Coast distributor for Goodyear tires. In February 1967, Goodyear asked Shelby to be a part of their promotional event. This event would introduce the World to the new “Goodyear Thunderbolt” line of car tires. The event involved racing a car around a circle track at high speeds for an extended time. This was done to show the durability of the new line of tires.
Carroll Shelby thought the Shelby Mustang GT500 would be a great choice for this promotion, as this car would be capable of the extended high speed demonstration Goodyear wanted to do. A former employee of Shelby American, the company Carroll Shelby owned, brought another idea to the table.
Built Ford Tough
The idea was to make an even BETTER version of the GT500. Carroll Shelby loved the idea, and quickly signed off to get the project started. The team at Shelby went into the lab and created an entirely new monster. The plan was to run the tests at the circle track in San Angelo, Texas later that year for the publicitiy event. Shelby and Ford could then build 50 more for sale to the public.
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Making 50 of these cars would qualify it as ‘production’ and allow it to be sold to race teams. This would be profitable for everyone involved, so the idea seemed logical enough. Shelby had to come up with a name for this new monster. He wanted to name it something to let everyone know it was different from the other Shelby Mustangs. Shelby also signed the dash and had a custom embroidered logo designed, which was emblazoned on the center console and floor mats. Check out the photo of the interior below. This was to ensure everyone knew this monster was different. He chose to call it “The Super Snake”.
Time To Get To Work
The engineers at Shelby agreed – the GT500 would be the perfect starting point for this new beast . They took a GT500 with serial number 544 off the lot and went to work. They stripped it down to the bare bones, and started replacing parts. Shelby developed a new configuration consisting of a special racing rear axle, special transmission, and Thunderbolt tires. Since the test track was an oval track, the Super Snake had stiffer shocks and springs on the passenger side of the vehicle. This was done to counteract the lateral forces that come with high speed cornering.
A Legend Is Born
The power for this new monster was a 427 racing engine, with the block, heads, and water pump being made of aluminum. All the parts inside were made for racing. The engine was built to sustain 6.000 RPMs for long duration runs. Next, they added an external oil cooler, braided lines, and a remote oil filter. This configuration produced 600 horsepower, and had the additions needed to let it run at high speeds for long periods of time.
The car was completed with special one of a kind chrome inboard headlight surrounds and a special LeMans paint job. This paint was Wimbledon white with two narrow blue stripes surrounding a wider blue center stripe. This was to signify that this car was different…which was an understatement! Once the car was complete, it was time to test it out.
Time To Test It
After the car arrived at the track in San Angelo, Texas, the team installed Shelby 10 spoke aluminum 15 inch wheels with 7 3/4 inch wide Thunderbolt White wall tires. These were the skinniest tires ever mounted on a Shelby. To put this into perspective, this 600 horsepower car was blazing around the track on 7 3/4 inch wide tires, whereas the modern Corvette comes from the factory with 12 1/2 inch wide tires! The tires were overinflated and filled with nitrogen instead of oxygen. This was done to prevent the tires from getting overheated on the long run. The only question that remained was one that worried the engineers. Would these skinny little family sedan tires hold up under the strain of 600 horsepower of American muscle for 500 miles on an oval track?
Rarest Mustang Ever Gets Its Day In The Spotlight
Carroll Shelby figured he would be the first to find out if the tires would work, so he personally took the car out for a few laps on the track, He thought it was the best GT500 ever made, and loved every minute of it. Goodyear was able to film their Thunderbolt promotion after all the testing was done, which was a success story for all involved. The public loved the tires, and people started buying them for their own family cars. Ford noticed an uptick in new orders for Shelby Mustangs, which meant Shelby would be busy building new cars. Ford, Shelby, and Goodyear saw the profits from this effort quickly.
The Shelby Mustang Super Snake averaged 142 MPH for 500 miles, reaching 172 MPH in the straights. Even more amazing was the fact that these skinny little tires performed flawlessly, and retained 97 percent of their tread after the 500 mile run! The fact that he went 172 MPH on 7 1/2 inch wide Bias Ply tires was phenomenal…and scary! This was a fact that Goodyear promoted heavily, of course.
15 Minute Of Fame
After all this track action, the Super Snake was shipped to California where it was made into a display piece at a Ford dealership. It had lived its time in the spotlight, and was officially retired. Meanwhile, the Shelby team worked on making a limited run of 50 Super Snakes so it would qualify as production. With all the extra equipment added to the car, making it a production car proved to be more difficult than anyone expected. The racing parts were not really street friendly, and building 50 of them presented challenges.
There were also concerns about meeting the requirements for NASCAR. Any car racing in NASCAR races had to retain a factory 5 year, 50,000 mile warranty, The special racing equipment made it impossible to honor any type of warranty. At over twice the price of the already expensive GT500, the Super Snake was also deemed way too expensive. It would be a major gamble to hope people paid the premium price for the car. This was a gamble neither Ford nor Shelby was willing to take. The project was dropped, and the other 50 Super Snakes were never made.
Since it was no longer a prototype, the Super Snake you see here was bought by a man in Dallas after he saw it on display at the dealership. He replaced the original 2.73 oval track rear gears with 4.10 drag racing rear gears and started drag racing the car. After living a life in the fast lane as both an oval track and drag strip star, the Super Snake was sold again. It was subsequently sold a few more times over the years. The Super Snake was not street friendly, nor was it fuel efficient. It was a bare bones race car, not a daily driver. Ironically, these features made it difficult to sell. As such, it sat for years in various garages under a car cover. The rarest Mustang ever had been basically forgotten about.
Long Lost Legend
It could very well have remained forgotten about, had it not been for a twist of fate. In 2011, the legendary and elusive Super Snake was found in a near perfect state of preservation. A collector figured out what it was and bought it with the intention of preserving it. A light restoration was performed at that time to rectify some minor things needed to make it correct. It only needed a couple of period correct wires and hoses, an original fire extinguisher, Shelby 10 spoke rims, and Thunderbolt White wall tires.
The biggest challenge was finding original Thunderbolt tires, as they hadn’t been made in over 30 years. No one reproduces them either, so this was a problem. An exhaustive nationwide search to find these tires took place. Finally, an antique “picker” was looking through an old repair shop and found 10 of these Thunderbolt original tires, with the original stickers, in a tire rack in the back corner of an old warehouse. A deal was struck, and the tires were shipped. The car was now complete. Aside from these minor details, it was a virtual time capsule and had not been modified. The car had 26,000 miles on it, and was basically perfect. Feast your eyes on the ONLY 1967 Shelby Super Snake ever to exist!
A Pedigree Like No Other
Carroll Shelby himself signed the dash, customized it with Super Snake logos inside, and participated in building this car. He even drove it on the track a few times to test it out. After a publicity demonstration on a race track for Goodyear, a career as a drag racer, acting as a display piece at a dealership, and years of sitting around, the old Pony car finally has a new home.
Granted, it was never a ‘production’ car, but it is still a unique piece of automotive history! It has been rescued and is in great condition to this day. I still believe if there had been more of these built, racing history may have been changed forever. The Rarest Mustang Ever, shown here today, was sold at auction for $900.000 in 2013. It remains in a private collection, retired from its wild days as a young star.
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