In the collector car world of classic Shelby Mustangs, a '67 GT500 fastback is a high-water mark for performance and style. Chris Brown's '67 warrants more attention than most with its original Candyapple Red paint, optional 5-spoke Mag Star wheels, 3.89:1 Traction-Lok rearend, and louvered hood. He has narrowed production down to nine units in this color with automatic and air-conditioning.
The big deal for 1967 was the styling that separated the Shelby Mustangs, both GT350 and GT500, from the regular production Mustang by a much wider margin than the first GT350s of '65-'66. The styling created a hotter look without going overboard.
Ford Motor Company took a larger role with the styling of the '67 Shelby. Designers at Ford worked with Shelby-American to create those cool air scoops on the roof and rear quarters, the flip-up rear decklid spoiler, Cougar taillights, pop-open gas cap, and the four-inch longer fiberglass hood split in the center by a scoop.
Initially, they inserted a pair of high-beam headlights, positioned together, in the center of the blackout grille. Today, this "inboard" look drives collectors wild with car lust. However, Shelby soon learned that some states required a minimum distance between headlights, so cars destined for those states, including Chris Brown's GT500, came with "outboard" lights.
The '67 hood pins are another hot styling feature. For 1968, Shelby switched to round lock buttons to secure the lightweight fiberglass hoods. Most enthusiasts today favor the pins because the securing wires just look so cool streaming down over the grille.
Inside, designers worked even harder. For the first time in history, a production car came with a roll bar in 1967. Shelby didn't stop the innovations there. Shoulder harnesses fed through the roll bar and were actuated by "inertia reels." No other production car in the world had this feature. The real wood steering wheel is a glowing throwback to sporty two-seaters of a bygone era and an artistic appendage to the low-volume output of California-built Shelby Mustangs. That era ended after 1967 production. For 1968, Shelby production moved to Michigan.
The '67 GT500 could not wait another year and a half for the awesome 428 Cobra Jet. So Shelby tuned the 428 Police Interceptor with dual four-barrel carburetors, requiring a large Cobra oval air cleaner that has become de rigueur on big-block Mustang performance cars.
But is the CJ hotter than the P.I.? Chris Brown has 14 other Shelbys, including a '68 GT500KR with the 428 Cobra Jet. I asked him if his '68 KR is hotter than the '67.
"It's very close," he said. "I think the '67 may feel stronger because of the two fours. When you open up the secondary four-barrels, it's almost like dropping into passing gear. It really throws you back in the seat."
Brown likes all classic Shelbys. He hated to favor one model over the other. Collectors with 14 Shelbys tend to be that way. We've all heard about the guy who still has the first nickel he ever made. Chris Brown still has the first Shelby he ever bought-a '68 GT350 fastback.
This wasn't his first Mustang. At 14, Chris bought and fixed up a '68 fastback for high school. At 16, in 1983, he found a Shelby for sale. Chris's father liked to work on vintage Mustangs, so he figured Dad might bite on the '68 GT350 at four grand. He said no. So Chris had to wait eight years and responsible adulthood for his first Shelby purchase.
Perhaps this pent-up longing for a Shelby is what got him on the path to collecting and restoring. Today, Chris owns a body shop in Missouri. When one of his five employees runs out of work on a late-model collision repair, he switches to one of Chris's classic Shelbys. When the bodywork and painting is finished, Chris finishes the assembly and other work at night or on the weekends.
He just finished, then sold, a '66 GT350. "Every once in a while I sell one. I don't like selling them after putting all that hard work into them."
Chris also likes Mustangs and has a couple of Boss 302s. But he favors Shelby Mustangs. His reasoning is simple. "I feel it takes the same amount of time to do a Mustang as it takes to do a Shelby. The initial investment might be a little bit more, but look at the return on what you get. I've found that the return on a Shelby is so much more."