The History of the Coralsnake
The car that unraveled the special paint
What is the Coralsnake?
The Coralsnake is a
website. I have focused on this one year and marque for over twenty five years. The
website is only a small fraction of the material I have collected. It is my
pleasure to share the information with you, free of charge. The website is
devoted entirely to 1968 Shelbys and items related to the cars. You don't have
to wade through endless pages of advertisements and stories you have read
before. The website features original material and is updated quarterly. The
website has some extraordinary accomplishments:
> The first to
publish information on the first 1968 Shelbys built
> Researched the
history of a 428 supercharged factory engineering car
> Identified the
number of special paint cars and located 14/15 non yellow special paint
> Researched the history of the only 1968 HERTZ GT 350 convertible
> Exclusive history on the only Maroon convertible built
Discovered factory documents on Maroon cars
> Identified the
1968 Publicity/Press car
> Found Oliver North's original GT 350
Rediscovered the "lost" C8AE AF carburetor information
> Acknowledged by
the Shelby American Automobile Club and Kevin Marti in their books
> Identified the
1968 Paris Showing car
> The first to cover Shelby Triple Crown Winners
> The first to document 1968 Pilot Cars (Engineering Vehicles)
> The first to document 1968 Shelby Dealerships
The Coralsnake is a
car. More specifically, it is serial number 3206. One of three factory painted
dark orange cars. The car has been restored to original specifications and was
awarded the 2008 Shelby American Automobile Club Gold Award. It was awarded the
2009 Team Shelby Diamond Award and the 2010 Mustang Club of America Gold Award.
The car is
internationally recognized as one of the finest examples of a restored 1968
Shelby and was one of the first cars to win the Concours "Triple Crown".
Now the story . . .
The first Shelby GT500KRs were built in
April of 1968. A short time later, a small group of brightly colored cars were
built. According to an internal FORD memo only 15 of these "special paint" cars
would be built. The cars were not regular production colors. One of these, a
bright orange car, ended up at Schmidt Ford in Baltimore, Maryland. The
following page details the history of one of the most unique 1968 Shelbys built.
It also explains how this one car unraveled the "special paint" story and how
the website was born.
Technically, the color has no name. It is referred
to only as "WT 5185". Ford only sent three cars in this shade to Shelby. They
were part of Ford's summer sales promotion. How 15 of these cars ended up being
sent to AO Smith is still a mystery. In 1991, shortly after purchasing the car,
I did some research on the color code. After numerous calls and letters it
became clear there was little information available. I became the self appointed
"special paint expert". The color is actually the same as Poppy Red. That color
would later be called Calypso Coral and Competition Orange. In 1968, the color
was a special order color. I think it is pretty clear, Shelby took what Ford
gave him. Customers did not order colors, but rather selected colors from those
On December 18, 1969, the cars first owner, Larry
Stafford, strolled into Schmidt Ford and made a deal for the bright orange car.
Larry negotiated a price of $3750. No doubt, the dealership was anxious to get
rid of the 1968 car. 1970 models were already on the showroom floor. Larry
accepted delivery on January 5, 1970.
These two ads appeared in the
Baltimore Sun newspaper in July of 1968. Both ads say "MDs ONLY SHELBY DEALER -
GT350, GT500, COBRA ON DISPLAY FOR IMMEDIATE DELIVERY". The orange car was
already at the dealership when these ads ran. You can click on the ads above and
see them in a larger format.
I do know Larry was in the Army and most
likely resided in nearby North Carolina. I can also tell you Larry did not
pamper the big block. He drag raced the car and most likely retired the original
428 Cobra Jet engine. For a while the car actually sported four Lucas lamps in
The Shelby races a Mach 1 at Cumberland International Dragstrip.
Here's the car at
Lafayette Ford in North Carolina. Lafayette Ford was the dealership that
sponsored Fred Lorenzen, the NASCAR champion. Lorenzen's car was owned by Holman
Moody. I suspect the orange car had been repaired before the picture was taken.
The emblems are not in the correct locations. The car also has 1967 Magstar
wheels. The car in the background also appears to be a Shelby. It is lettered
Lafayette Drag Club. It has an American flag on the upper scoop.
We all have events that change and shape our lives. Larry was no
exception. The car was in and out of storage. Actually it was in dry storage for
almost 10 years. In 1984, the car reappeared with a new motor. Larry equipped
the car with a 427 medium riser. The motor was built in Fayetteville, North
Carolina. A short time later the car was roaming the Autobahn in Germany with
Larry at the wheel.
In 1986, after 16 years, Larry decided it was time
to sell the car. A young Captain in the Army spotted the car and quickly snapped
it up. Pat Carroll was also stationed in Germany. Pat told me the full blown
race engine had little problem going 140mph and pulling 7000 rpm. Pat would own
the car for two years.
Here's a picture of Pat in Germany with the car.
third owner, William Shockley purchased the car after seeing it advertised in
the Bamburg Post Exchange. The princely sum of $12,000 was handed over for the
car. In 1988, that was a good price even for a 427 race car. About this time
Shelbys in the states were reaching all time high prices. Shortly after buying
the car, Shockley returned it to the US. Well actually good, old Uncle Sam
returned the car for him. Military members who have a permanent change of
station are entitled to bring their personal property along. It would not be the
last time Uncle Sam would give a helping hand to the orange Shelby.
fourth owner, Tom Daniels, lived in Texas. Tom already owned one kick ass 1967
Shelby and was ready to unload the strangely colored beast at the Shelby Club's
16th annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Tom drove the car to and
from the show from his hotel.
That is where my part of the story
begins. I had been to a couple of the previous conventions. When I first saw the
car, I suspected it had been repainted. As a matter of fact, I was almost sure
of it. Upon closer inspection, it was very evident the car had never been any
other color than orange. Tom had a FOR SALE sign in the window. Also displayed
was the car's build sheet. A notation on the bottom read "SPECIAL PAINT WT
5185". I told my wife I was going to buy the car. It didn't take her long to
remind me of two very important points. One, I already had a GT500KR and two, I
didn't have the $24,000 asking price. I hate when reality gets in the way of
Oh well, at least I could say, I saw one. After the convention,
I wrote to Tom asking him for a photocopy of the build sheet. I was going to do
a little checking on these special paint cars. Tom sent back a copy along with a
note. The note read:
"I have attached a copy of the build sheet for the
car #3206. I have also sold the 427 medium riser engine which leaves the car
motor less and I am asking $13,000....If you know of an interested party please
advise them to call me...and good luck on your research"
Batman! Now the numbers were getting a little more in my ballpark. I really only
had to convince one person. Yes, my better half. Remember when I said Uncle Sam
was going to help out again? Coincidently, he offered me a reenlistment bonus
for the Wisconsin Air National Guard at this very moment. The loan would be
small. I got Tom's letter on a Monday and on Thursday evening the car was in my
garage. Not bad considering I had to drive 2500 miles round trip to get it. Oh
and the price came down a tad when Tom offered to keep a set of the original
From my point of view not having the wheels or the motor was
not a big deal. The original motor was long gone and so were the original
hubcaps. From the very start, the project was scheduled to be a 10 year labor of
love. That would allow me enough time to collect a matching engine and carefully
research the car. So, I told Tom to look for the car in 2001.
you have been around the website, you know that a lot of well made plans were
derailed in 2001. But, it was around this time I decided I had collected about
as much as I could on the special paint cars. I carefully studied the Shelby
American World Registry and contacted every special paint car owner I could
find. My final estimate was 160 special paint cars had been produced during
1968. The majority of these cars were bright yellow. I really didn't have a clue
how many were orange.
A short time later, my friend, Kevin Marti,
secured the rights to the Ford database of records. He corrected me, explaining
there were actually 159 special paint cars. Three batches of 53 cars were built.
About this time a memo from AO Smith appeared at the Shelby Club. It stated
there were 15 non-yellow special paint cars. I summarized the research on my
first website, It was a seldom visited free URL on Earthlink. I did find several
more special paint owners and "THE HOME OF SPECIAL PAINT CARS" was born. The
website later became 1968cobra.com and enjoyed even more success. I
expanded the pages to include some stories and detailing information. Finally,
in 2006 the name changed to thecoralsnake.com
2008 is the 40th anniversary of the Cobra Jet engine. Carroll Shelby is
busy building the new GT500KRs, among other things. It is hard to believe I have
owned the car for 17 years. That now makes me the longest owner of the car. A
few interesting items have turned up.
My friend, Lowell was able to
come up with a clear image of 1968 Mustangs arriving at AO Smith in 1968.
Interestingly, the photo appears to show two of the original orange cars. (Only
three dark orange cars were built) . Could the Coralsnake be aboard ? Several
people have asked for larger factory pictures. Click on the picture above to be
transported to 1968.
I also got an email from Gary. He stumbled
across the website while surfing the internet. Gary looked at the car while
stationed in Germany. His 1988 home video showed the car in great detail. The
special paint car had made a lasting impression on him. Gary now has another
1968 Shelby and we correspond.
The car was
finally "finished" in the summer of 2008.
I attended the Shelby annual
convention. The 2008 convention was held in Millville, New Jersey.
2008 Shelby American Automobile Club National Champion
KR Shelby Cobra
Serial Number 8T02R204798-03206 aka "The
I am very happy to announce that my car was awarded
one of the Shelby Club's most prestigious honors. The Coralsnake has won a Gold
Award in the Concours car show. The car is only the ninth 1968 Shelby to be
awarded Concours Gold since 1996. The award places the car among the very best
restored 1968 Shelbys in the country. Even more remarkable is the car won this
honor in its very first car show. This is almost unheard of in national show
There are so many people to thank, it would be impossible
to list them all. I would like to thank my wife, Kris, that tolerates my
obsession. Thanks to my parents, Ron and Karin, who labored on the trip. My
Uncle graciously loaned us a new Ford pickup truck. My friend, Bob, loaned me
his trailer. Thanks to Larry who sprays one super looking coat of enamel. I
think people were surprised that the car has no clear coats.
The car made its
second public appearance at the Mid America Ford Shelby Team Nationals in Tulsa,
Oklahoma. Overall things went very well. Granted there was some "behind the
The Tulsa show is one of the largest in the country.
The Saturday judging was very difficult. The car was able to achieve the
Heritage Diamond award. It was the only 1968 to collect the award this year.
After the judging, the problems began. A dead battery prevented the car from
moving. A quick jump and we were back on track. A few other problems almost
prevented the car from being shown on Sunday. I was determined to get the car to
the show field after traveling some 800 miles. I think the people I met and the
feedback I recieved was worth the extra effort.
In two shows, the car
has collected two of the highest awards in the country for Shelbys.
2010- The car wins the Mustang Club of America's Concours Gold Award. The show was held in Asheville, North Carolina.
The early North Carolina history must have been good luck. To date, only three 1968 Shelbys have won all three events.
The extraorinary accomplishment is referred to as the "Triple Crown".
2011- Although officially "retired" from Concours events, the Coralsnake did appear at the
Muscle Car Nationals in Chicago. The show is invitation only.