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Pre-production and prototype vehicles are virtually nonexistent. That’s because, without a proper VIN number, no state licensing agency will register them. Yes, a few have snuck out, and the rarest Ford Mustang presented here is one such vehicle. It is the only one to have been built and was easily mistaken as a completely different year model for a time. It is a 1967 Shelby GT500 convertible.

Why was only one 1967 Shelby Mustang convertible made?

1967 Shelby Mustang
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible | Mecum

In 1967, manufacturing slowdowns and issues with fiberglass parts fitting on Shelby Mustangs meant there was a backlog of orders. The only 1967 convertible was used by Carroll Shelby after his 1966 convertible was returned to Dearborn. Another GT500 coupe served a similar purpose. 

For whatever reason, the coupe received the majority of publicity exposure, while the convertible saw much less. Then, while being used by a Ford executive, the convertible was stolen. When found later in 1967, it was turned over to Ford. 

Why was this Shelby Mustang convertible turned into a 1968 model?

1967/1968 Shelby GT500
1967 as a 1968 Shelby GT500 convertible | Mecum

Around the same time, Ford made some slight changes to the production 1968 Mustang, and promotions for them were gearing up. It wanted to see those changes incorporated into this one convertible Shelby GT 500. Ford was surprisingly still using it.

The 1968 replacement parts did wind up on it, and with those additions, it became a 1968 Shelby GT500 Mustang. Once the promotional needs were fulfilled, the convertible ended up on a used car lot as a 1968 model. 

When did Carroll Shelby sign the dash and hood?

Shelby Mustang GT500
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible | Mecum

It ended up in the hands of the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois, which owned and displayed it until 2009. What confirms this is a 1967 and not 1968 is the one-year-only dual-quad 428 ci engine. After it was discovered what year it actually was, 1967 Shelby parts were reapplied. 

In 2004, Volo sent it to the Chicago Auto Show. When Carroll Shelby passed by, he autographed the dash and hood. But Shelby also wrote a letter to Volo.

1967 Shelby Mustang
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible | Mecum

He said he was surprised the car had escaped the crusher. Ford’s policy, of course, was and is to destroy prototypes after serving their corporate purposes, mentioning that the coupe used by Shelby saw this fate. Or, at least that is what he thought. He ended the note by saying, “I am without knowing how it is this GT500 convertible was not destroyed, other than speculating the theft of the vehicle may have disrupted the standard Ford Motor policy somehow.”

They don’t get any more collectible than this Mustang

1967 Shelby Mustang
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible | Mecum

So there it is, from the proverbial horse’s mouth. That is the big mystery. How could it have escaped the fate of the crusher, being the prototype that it was? For enthusiasts and collectors, it is one of those fortunate circumstances that rarely happens. It represents the pinnacle of 1967 Mustangs and the only one made. And to add some juice, it is verified by Carroll Shelby himself.

In 2009 Volo sold the car for $825,000 to a private collector. A second restoration was performed, and it now has a new owner. Such is the world of rarified collector cars.

Update: 6/27/2023


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