Additional photography: Courtesy of Mecum Auto Auctions and the Shelby American Automobile Club
In 1967, $7,500 was a lot of money for a Mustang, even a Shelby G.T. 500 powered by an aluminum-headed 427 from the racing GT40s. So the idea of a special 427-powered "Super Snake" G.T. 500, as proposed by Mel Burns Ford salesman Don McCain, was deemed too expensive and shelved.
Of course, no one, not even Carroll Shelby, could have imagined that the only Super Snake, with its special 427 for a Goodyear tire test, would one day sell for $1.3 million.
That's what happened at Mecum Auction's Spring Classic last May in Indianapolis, setting a new auction sales record for a production-based Mustang. In fact, a second Mustang also topped the previous record of $990,000 (for a '65 Shelby R-Model) when the original Eleanor hero car, driven by actor Nicolas Cage in the 2000 movie Gone in 60 Seconds, brought a cool $1 million.
In all, it was a $2.3 million dollar day for two special Mustangs.
So what's going on? Are Mustang values headed back to their pre-recession levels?
Perhaps, but only for unique and special cars. According to Mecum marketing director Sam Murtough, "The market is doing very well right now. But the true collectors are paying for documented, investment grade cars, and they are paying according to quality."
It's interesting that both record-setting cars were '67 fastbacks, one a historic, one-off Shelby and the other a pop culture icon that spawned one of the most popular replica crazes in automotive history. We'd have to say that the '67 fastback, and the '68 fastback by association, remains the most popular of all vintage Mustang body styles.
In all, the Mecum auction generated $49.2 million in sales, with 1,142 of 1,706 cars topping their reserves and going to new owners. Other notable Mustang sales included a pair of '69 Boss 429s at $255,000 and $225,000—about right for today's market—along with a '65 K-GT fastback that hammered for a surprising $91,000.
427 G.T. 500
Shelby’s ’67 G.T. 500 Super Snake remains in very good survivor condition with 26,000 mile
After its use for a Goodyear tire test in early 1967 (see "The Super Snake Story" sidebar), the G.T. 500 Super Snake, Shelby VIN 67402F4A00544, was sold to a pair of Braniff Airways pilots who drag raced the car before selling it to Texan Bobby Pierce in 1970. Pierce owned the historic Shelby for 25 years, including when it was featured in Mustang Monthly in the early 1980s. The Super Snake passed through several other owners before being purchased by collector Richard Ellis in 2008. Ellis made the effort to return the 26,000-mile Super Snake to its tire test condition, even locating what is likely the only existing set of Goodyear Thunderbolt 7.75x15 skinny whitewall tires.
During his time as caretaker for the Super Snake, Richard Ellis located a set of thin whit
"The Thunderbolts were made for … well, boring family cars in the 1960s," Ellis said for Mecum's press release, "which is why nobody reproduces them or has even heard of them. I found what has to be the only surviving set in a warehouse in Akron, Ohio. I'm sure Shelby pulled the original Thunderbolts and threw them away. Now, when you see a picture of the Super Snake and it's got skinny whitewall tires, you know it is either from the Goodyear test or from the time it spent in my collection."
Mecum was not at liberty to reveal the identity of the buyer, other than to state that he's a Canadian who traveled to the Mecum auction in Indianapolis specifically to purchase the '67 G.T. 500 Super Snake. According to eyewitnesses, he arrived just before the car crossed the block.
"He's on Cloud Nine," stated Murtough. "He's a die-hard Shelby collector."