The First GT500 Convertible #56
July 4, 2021
The first GT500 ordered and built was actually Shelby # 56. This is documented by the Ford records. This car, along with three other gold painted cars, appeared at AO Smith in September of 1967. They were converted to Shelby specifications. The build tag for the car is rather interesting. It shows a projected build date of August 31, 1967 (at Ford). It also has the SHELBY notation. Apparently, the engine codes had not been finalized, when this car was built, because the 428 is represented by a "Q" code here.
These cars had many unique features on them, because the parts used to the build the cars were often "pre-production parts". I was lucky enough to be involved in the early part of the restoration of this car. These tail light cups were made from aluminum. Production cars would use a steel cup. This feature is common to cars built before the Ford strike. There were only a handful of these cars and all were assigned to the engineering department. This may be the reason the cars received serial numbers later.
Here is the back of the original fiberglass, headlight bucket. It has a greenish-tint. The reddish brown glue holds the square mounting stud blocks. This same bonding agent would later be used to hold the ram air plenums to hoods. This fiberglass was sometimes referred ti as "hand laid". Some very early cars hand laid fiberglass valences installed by AO Smith.
This dash emblem was one of the cooler features on the car. It was the original version of the Cobra Jet dash emblem. The background is red. I have included a production part for comparison. You will also note the raised snake is a different shape.
After the car was assigned to the Shelby engineering department, they began experimenting. The 428 Police Interceptor engine was replaced with a 428 Cobra Jet engine. Here is my original mock up of what that engine looked like. I had to fabricate the blower bracket.
One of the early Shelby World Registries makes reference to the car possibly having Electronic Fuel Injection. I was not able to find any indication the car ever had fuel injection. It is most likely an error of transcription. The supercharger is documented in an engineering inventory sheet. This invoice is dated May of 1970. The car was sold used for $1400.
I was really fortunate to find the first owner wrote his name inside one of the rear, interior panels. The car only had a couple of owners prior to the restoration. You don't get that lucky very often. That makes the car really well documented. Car # 56 is an important piece of 1968 Shelby history. Its pre-production status and engineering features make it truly unique.
I did not complete the restoration of the car. The car went to another shop to be completed. Tri-City Mustang in Saint Charles, Michigan did an excellent job. The car won a SAAC Concours Gold.