The 1968 Summer Sales Contest

April 1, 2013 / Updated 7/4/2020

Vinny Liska and Peter Disher

The 1968 Summer Sales Program was a way for Shelby to promote the new GT500 KR, sell existing inventory and reward their top salesmen. The top salesmen would be rewarded with trips to Playboy resorts. The top dealerships would receive promotional visits from Playboy's top Playmates. The Playmates attracted hundreds of potential buyers to Shelby's top dealerships across two countries.

This survey card was included in the April 1968 edition of Playboy magazine. Readers could fill out the "Reader Action Service" card to obtain more information from dozens of Playboy advertisers. "Shelby Cobra" was by far the top choice of the readers. These cards were sorted by location and sent to the nearest Shelby dealership. The survey cards would generate thousands of leads for eager Shelby salesmen around the country.

Starting in May of 1968, Shelby Dealers around the country competed to sell as many cars as possible. The winners of the contest would receive an all expense paid trip to the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The grand prize winner would recieve a trip to Playboy's Jamaican Resort. Dealerships that sold a lot of cars quickly were awarded visits by Playboy Playmates. This generated more customer traffic and even more sales leads. Shelby dealers were divided into six sales zones. Two dealerships in each zone were awarded the Playmate visits.

Northwestern Ford in Milwaukee received a visit from Dianne Chandler. Chandler was Playboy's Miss September, Playmate of 1966.

Sud Ford was located in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada. Sud sold a lot of cars. Reagan Wilson, Miss October 1967, would be on hand to assist in selling the new Shelbys.

The winners of the Playboy Playmate visits were Downey Ford (CA), Holiday Ford (CA), Courtesy Ford (CO), Meyers Ford (TX), Yates-Stevens (MO), Northwestern Ford (WI), Sud (Canada), Nagle (NY), Schmidt Ford (MD), Southside Ford (FL), Grillo Ford (MA) and Gotham Ford (NY).

Gotham Ford in New York City actually had an ace in the hole. Gotham is where the best Shelby salesman of all time worked. Bill Kolb was able to sell a new Shelby to pretty much anyone that wandered by the dealership. This full page advertisement appeared in the New York Times after Kolb won. Kolb would end up having almost twice as many points as the next highest salesman. Tish Howard visited Gotham Ford in the spring of 1968.

In September, the final totals were tallied and more than a dozen salesmen were notified they had won trips to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Playboy's newly opened resort feature over 900 acres for all types of outdoor activities. The club also featured Las Vegas style shows and comedians. Minar Ford and nearby Northwestern Ford had already supplied the resort with ten brand new 1968 Shelbys. These cars were used by special guests. Salesmen from these dealerships won the all expense paid trips: Northwestern (WI), Marv Tonkin (OR), Joe Meyers Ford (TX), Hemphill (TX), S & C Motors (CA), Downey (CA), Courtesy (CO), Schmidt Ford (MD), Yates Stevens (MO), Nagle (NY), Koons (VA) and Marshall Motor Company (OH).

Here is the original telegram sent to Dave Smith of Marshall Motors. He placed first in the midwest zone and was going to beautiful Lake Geneva.

Remarkably, most of the salesmen brought their wives as guests. The original plan was to have a cocktail when all the guests arrived. Only the two salesmen from Northwestern Ford ended up attending the party. The others were delayed at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Other problems with scheduling of events plagued the entire trip. Overall, Shelby personnel left less than satisfied.

The Playboy mansion in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was also a popular bunny hang out. The mansion had as many ten 1968 Shelbys assigned to it at one time. Two of the cars were actually sold to Playboy under a special agreement. This was where the Shelby salesmen enjoyed their time off. Today, the club is called "Grand Geneva" and it is not affiliated with Playboy.

Playboy Playmates could be scheduled at any time by Shelby dealerships. It did involve some expense for the dealer. They were required to pay for the Playmates expenses and salary. Many delaers took advantage of the promotions in an attempt to generate more sales and attract more customers.

"Hi! I'm, April Playmate, Gwen Wong and I'm taking time off from my job at the Playboy Club in Los Angeles to act as hostess for Phil Long tomorrow. When you come down and see those groovy Cobras be sure and say "Hello"!

The bunnies knew exactly how to get to Phil Long Ford in Colorado. This visit was by Connie Kreski in October of 1969. You may recall, she would later received a pink 1969 Shelby from Playboy.