Is this the first 1969 GT500 ?

April 1, 2023
by Peter Disher

I will admit, I am a little strange. When I see a picture of a Shelby my first thought is often, "What number is that car?" This picture is from the Ford archives. It shows an early 1969, GT500 at the Ford design studios in Michigan. Or does it?

Sometimes looks can be deceiving. This car was actually built as a Mustang at Ford's pilot plant. You will notice a few items on this car that did not make production. The hubcaps are borrowed from the full sized Fords. The front marker light is higher on the front fenders and there is an emblem on the rear quarter panel scoop.

In May of 1968, the GT500 KR had just been introduced and dealers were trying to sell them. That is the date when this car was ordered. It was actually built at the end of September 1968. Ford records indicate 9S02S100026 was one of two "pilot" cars built for Shelby. Both were red fastbacks. This car was originally equipped with a 390 engine, 4 speed, air conditioning, AM/FM, tilt steering wheel and headrests for the seats. In this picture, you can see the heater hose actually runs through the carburetor spacer. That indicates its the 390. They have changed the valve covers to the 428 Cobra Jet style.

By October 1969, the car was in the possession of Shelby engineering. You can see the marker lights have moved and the extra emblem on the scoop is now gone.

This picture is from the Ford archives. It shows the interior roll bar. One way to identify these early cars is to look for things that are unique or special. There are no screws on the cover for the roll bar.

This contemporary picture shows the same car. You can see the visible drips in the rubber coating on the roll bar match the vintage photos. The seats with head rests have been replaced with the Mach 1 seats.

This special car survives today and is in Australia. I'm not sure why, but it seems like a disproportional amount of these unique cars have found their way overseas.

I am not sure if these are original to the car, but the certainly are the same style.

One of the more unique parts in the car is this "luggage bar". It is referenced in some of the meeting minutes. Its a chrome bar mounted to the folding seat that keeps items from sliding forward. This is the only one I have ever seen and it never made it into production.

While researching this car, I found some pictures in the Petersen Publishing Archive. These gauges are clearly visible in the Petersen pictures. It looks the Faria gauges were not ready when the car was built, so they modified the Stewart Warner green circle gauges with some black paint.

I have seen several variations on the exhaust port. This version is still with the car today.

When I found this picture online, I knew it was taken at the same time as the pictures in the Petersen archives. Here Carroll Shelby has his hand on the first Shelby. The picture was taken at Orange County Raceway Park during the introduction of the 1969 Shelby. 9S02S100026 was designated as a "west coast show car". It may not have a "Shelby number", but it is the first 1969 built.

I encourage you to start looking for these early Shelbys.