This book is a guide. It was conceived and written to be a reference guide to explain, in detail, each one of the unique features incorporated by Carroll Shelby’s companies in the production of the Shelby Mustangs. One-by-one, each unique Shelby feature has been discussed, to chronicle why each feature was chosen and how the process of making that choice occurred. But as a guidebook, it may have a derivative use, that being as a checklist of sorts to determine whether a certain Shelby Mustang is what it appears to be, based on its physical appearance.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book, THE DEFINITIVE SHELBY MUSTANG GUIDE: 1965-1970. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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The logical conclusion is that if a Mustang appears to be a Shelby Mustang, then it must be a Shelby Mustang. But there is a pitfall to drawing this conclusion: just because something looks like a duck, doesn’t mean that it’s actually a duck. While there are surely things in life that are what they appear, unfortunately Shelby Mustangs aren’t always so.
The Shelby Mustang was a modified, upscale, exclusive version of a mass-produced car. In other words, it was a sports car for the elite derived from a sporty car for the masses. To reach that objective, a set of carefully engineered changes (nearly all comprised of bolt-on accessories and styling cues) were added to the Mustang. These changes, which were developed by Shelby American (and later Shelby Automotive), were carefully thought out in order to yield maximum visual and performance impact for the given effort of installing them.
The nature of these add-on components was driven almost exclusively by the capabilities of Shelby’s companies and the changes allowed to the base pony, given the constraints of cost and time. While it may have been deemed beneficial to replace a major, integral Mustang component (say, the welded-on quarter panel) the amount of effort and cost involved in this task would have made consideration of such surgery a non-starter. As a result, in order to alter the appearance of a Mustang to create the Shelby product, changes were more or less limited to parts that could be swapped by removing a bolted-on component and replacing it with one similar in function but different in form. Perhaps the single most important aspect of this add-on componentry was forefront in the minds of Shelby’s engineers and stylists: ease of installation. It is that very ease of installation, and subsequently, ease of removal, that is at the heart of this issue.
With much of the physical appearance of a Shelby Mustang created by bolt-on accessory components, you can begin to see how it’s entirely possible that one of these cars can may no longer have a large percentage of its original appearance intact, as illustrated in this guidebook. Parts replacement may have occurred due to accidents or because of individual personal tastes of multiple owners through the years, some of whom may have deleted some of Shelby’s added features in an attempt to personalize their car. All of this can result in a GT350 or GT500 that bears little resemblance today to what is pictured as being representative of the type, yet it is totally legitimate.
The passage of time has resulted, in this particular instance, in some of the car’s original unique identity being lost. In this case, it might be a duck, but it doesn’t look like one.
But every coin has a reverse, and in the case of a Shelby Mustang it’s likely you’ll come across a car that has all of the visual features of a Shelby Mustang, but is not one. In this instance, altering a car’s appearance is not a function of the passage of time, as in the previous example, but is a result of considerably more sinister and nefarious circumstances. This is the case of the fake, or illegitimate, Shelby Mustang.
To be sure, not every replica or reproduction Shelby was constructed for evil purposes. In fact, many clones have been constructed by owners of legitimate Shelby Mustangs for the totally understandble reason that they don’t want to put their investment at risk on the street. But their existence gets “fuzzy” as the creation is passed from one owner to the next.
In recent years, values of the Shelby-modified Mustangs have climbed through the stratosphere, and this meteoric rise in values is one of, if not the driving factors that lead to the creation of a fake or fraudulent car. The rise in the values of the original GT350s and GT500s is, surprisingly, a relatively recent trend. In the 1970s and 1980s, the value of any Shelby Mustang wasn’t any higher than any other V-8 Mustang. In fact, it was not uncommon for the value of a 1965 GT350 to be topped by a fully-optioned Mustang GT convertible, despite a thousand fold difference in the production quantities of the two machines.
But given that today the value of a totally restored 1966 GT350H can far exceed the $150,000 mark, it becomes painfully apparent that there is now considerable benefit to creating a car that looks for all the world like a genuine, original Shelby Mustang, but in fact is nothing of the kind. It is a total fabrication, something that looks exactly like a duck, but isn’t.
The irony is fully recognized that a guidebook such as this, created with the intent of educating the enthusiast on the subject, can be of considerable benefit to someone wishing to replicate an original Shelby Mustang.
The use of this book as a tool to determine the authenticity of a given Shelby Mustang based solely on its features can create the mistaken impression that the car is authentic, just because it appears to be. No real harm is done, other than to the education of that individual car enthusiast, who walks away with little more than a mistaken impression. But in the case of an enthusiast reaching that same mistaken impression in the process of purchasing one of these limited-production automobiles, that mistaken impression can have severe financial consequences; in short, it could be a disaster.
The Registry Doesn’t Lie
Basing a potential purchase decision on only the appearance of a given automobile could lead to a very empty wallet. The question now becomes one of how the potential Shelby owner can purchase a dream ride without being taken for a ride. The answer lies in the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) Registry.
SAAC was formed in 1975 as an enthusiast organization dedicated to the history, preservation, and enjoyment of the cars produced by Carroll Shelby in the 1960s and if that sounds a bit like the club’s mission statement, it is. A major aspect of SAAC is a collection of data, massive in scale and completeness, known as the SAAC Shelby Registry. But like the history of the cars themselves in the early days, the Registry is also a somewhat misunderstood entity. The Registry is a collection of information on the cars. It is structured around a core of experts known as Registrars, each one an expert on the subject of a certain Shelby vehicle: 1965, 1966, 1966 Hertz, 1967, 1968, and 1969/1970.
Beginning in the early 1980s, SAAC, in a gradual process that took many years and is still ongoing, became the repository of file cabinets literally full of original factory documentation, discarded by the various organizations involved with the manufacture of the Shelby Mustangs. Some of these documents were literally obtained through dumpster dives. A large part of this treasure trove of paperwork is comprised of the all-important Ford Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). These are concealed by the Shelby American ID tags on the first three years’ Shelby Mustangs and are as closely guarded as the initiation rituals of the Masons. The correlation between the Ford and Shelby numbers is nearly a foolproof means of determining the legitimacy of a Mustang masquerading as a Shelby and one can only imagine the plethora of fake Shelbys that would be perpetuated on the muscle car hobby if everyone knew this magical combination.
Also included in the Registry files are factory correspondence, memos, and production documentation, all forming the true tale of the production of the Shelby GT350s and GT500s. This cache of original factory documentation is coupled with a cadre of experts such as concours judges, restoration professionals, and parts manufacturers that have enabled SAAC and its Registrars to be the authority on the subject that they are today. The SAAC Registry is a continually-updated database that contains the chronological history of every Shelby Mustang (and Cobra) ever produced, from the car’s inception to the present day.
The benefit to a potential purchaser of such a trail of documentation on a given car is obvious, as the entire history of each and every Shelby Mustang can be documented. And that includes instances—both in the distant past, as well as more recently—of twin vehicles with the same serial number existing in different parts of the country. While the Registry database doesn’t completely eliminate fraud and deceit, it drastically reduces it.
Periodically, SAAC publishes a Registry that represents a snapshot taken at that point in time of the ever-changing Registry database. The fact that both the published work and the databases are referred to as Registries may be somewhat confusing, in that it leads to the (thankfully erroneous) conclusion that the Registry is only as up-todate as the last published version. Such is not the case, as entries and updates are made to the Registry database on an almost daily basis.
This book was produced in full cooperation and consultation with the SAAC Registrars (and, of course, the Registry database). What this means is that, quite simply, the information contained in this publication originates with what is internationally recognized as the most complete, accurate, and up-todate collection of historical data on the GT350s and GT500s produced by Carroll Shelby’s companies.
Written by Greg Kolasa and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks