Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
Wow! 1967 Shelby GT500 Left for Dead?
Snake in the Grass: A road-trip to an upholstery shop leads us to a 1967 Lime Gold Shelby GT500 fastback
While on an assignment in Georgia, documenting the Phil Bonner Thunderbolt restoration, I was asked if I’d be interested in going to the upholstery shop to look at the headliner and trim material samples for the car. I’d also been told that there was something beyond belief on the way to the shop that I needed to see.
It was just before sunrise and as we got closer to the upholstery shop things started to lighten up a bit as the sun was on the rise. We turned right onto a gravel road, and I thought how tough it would be to get back into this rural country location without the Ford Excursion we were in. Heavy rain had settled in and soaked the area for days and it had taken a toll on the gravel road turning it into a washboard with divots, and potholes galore.
As we slowly made our way along the road, I was forewarned about an interesting piece of yard art in the distance. As we got closer, I had to strain for a closer look, then rocked back in my seat as the object threw me for a loop. In my wildest dreams, I could not have prepared myself for the sight before me. Parked in a front yard, was a lime green (well, it used to be anyway) 1967 Shelby G.T. 500, with a tree, shrubs, and foliage overtaking the engine bay. The Shelby was missing the hood only to be replaced by vibrant green plant life.
We turned into the driveway arriving at the upholstery shop and as we got out of the Excursion, I could see the “Snake in the grass” less than a football field away. One can imagine how the sight had my head spinning with curiosity, and questions about how a 1967 Shelby G.T. 500 could end up parked in a yard rotting away into the earth.
After making our way into the building, I was introduced to the upholstery shop owner and during our conversation he mentioned his brother owned the Shelby, and it had been parked in the exact spot for 20 years or more. He pointed to a picture hanging on the shop wall and stated, “Back in 1967 it was the Crazy Horse drag car raced by Wayne Blackwood and owned by Casey Paul Ford in Cumming, Georgia. They owned and sponsored the Shelby as it made the rounds at local drag ways throughout Georgia and the southern region.”
He went on to tell me that prior to the body changes and launch of the new 1968 G.T. 500, someone from the dealership with connections at Carroll Shelby Motors worked out a deal to get all of the updated 1968 parts sent to the dealership so the 1967 Shelby could be transformed into a cosmetically correct 1968 model. Once the work was completed, Casey Paul Ford had a head start on the competition with the “new” 1968 Shelby G.T. 500 in the showroom. With hundreds of Ford dealerships around the US, and Canada anticipating the new 1968 model Shelby, being a first to have one in their showroom put Casey Paul Ford in a unique position.
While discussing the picture on the wall with the upholstery shop owner, I asked if it would be okay to grab my Nikon and take pictures of the car. He thought for a minute and said, “go for it. I don’t have a problem with it—my brother has given me permission to allow certain people, to get a closer look”.
After getting a condensed photo shoot of the car, I made my way to the shop and assured the owner that he and his brothers’ identities would not be disclosed, and explained that I’d been driven to the location and never given an address. To this day, I do not know the address and going back to the exact location is totally out of the question.
His brother purchased the Shelby over 30 years ago from a storage yard where it had been taken by the local authorities. The car had been stolen, then recovered and taken to the storage yard while the owner was contacted to pick it up. Time passed, but no one showed up at the holding yard to make a claim and pay the storage bill. Working with the local authorities the car was purchased and transported to this private location.
Having sat idle for a long time, the new owner started out with a plan to restore the G.T. 500 back to way it looked when new. A closer look at the interior during the photo shoot revealed many genuine Ford Motor Company parts in their original wrappers sitting on the front and rear floorboards. The front and rear seats were gone as was the hood. The driver and passenger-side doors appeared to be repaired earlier at some time after the current owner had purchased it. I was further amazed to see a 427 cubic-inch engine block with a crank and camshaft resting on the driver’s side floorpan surrounded by a set of pistons and other engine parts for the Shelby.
Here’s where the story takes a turn and gets fascinating to say the least:
On September 8th, I’m at Allen Restorations in Clarkesville, Georgia as the Bonner Thunderbolt undergoes the final preparations for paint. Donald Allen gives me the news that Wayne Blackwood is on his way to the shop to see the Thunderbolt get painted. Back in 1964 he was in the body shop at Al Mean Ford with Phil Bonner when the “Little Car” was painted burgundy the first time. Since he was on hand to witness the car being painted the first time around Allen thought it would be special to have Blackwood on hand the second time around.
After introductions, I had an opportunity to spend quality time with Blackwood. We discussed the Bonner Thunderbolt in greater detail and then the Shelby came up. He went on to say it was indeed his Crazy Horse race car and backed up the story of how he’d driven it for Casey Paul Ford in Cumming, Georgia. He went onto to say the dealership received the necessary parts from Shelby Motors to convert the car into a 1968 model then placed in the showroom for promotional purposes. The car was a huge hit and drew people into the dealership to get a first-hand look at the changes for the new model year. It was a great marketing idea; the dealership had orders heading to Ford and Shelby Motors after customers had an opportunity to see the real thing in person, and not just a picture in a brochure.
It was an amazing opportunity to meet Wayne Blackwood. During our conversation he asked if I’d seen his “Shelby Race Car.” I told him yes I’d been taken to see it days before. He responded by simply saying, “I’d love to buy my race car” and we never discussed it the rest of the day. One has to wonder, what the future holds for the “Snake in the Grass” but for now it’s most definitely not for sale, and is still sitting right where it was when I took these pictures.