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One of Four Shelby G.T. 500 Prototypes Found and Restored
9F03Q102336: The story behind one pre-production/prototype G.T. 500 and its numerical siblings
As in any endeavor, one’s network of people is invaluable. This story proves that case, once again.
In October 2014, the French Lick Resort (IN) Concours d’Elegance included the Shelby marque in their field of cars. This white glove and sport jacket event drew top Shelby entries, along with many restorers, owners, enthusiasts, and business people. George Huisman (Michigan) and Ed Meyer (Indiana) were discussing a car that had surfaced in the Detroit area, a 1969 Shelby G.T. 500 convertible. Tony King (Montana) overheard that conversation and expressed some interest. Jason Billups (Oklahoma) was in attendance to help judge. Jason’s shop counts Tony as a good customer, plus Jason and Ed have collaborated on numerous restorations.
A few months went by and people kept in touch. While traveling in March 2015, Tony got word that this car was available. He immediately changed his plans, re-routed to pick up Jason, and then Ed, and proceeded to Detroit. By now, enough was known about this car that Ed would miss his 60th birthday party to be part of the acquisition. The trio conducted an inspection, which produced some factory paperwork, plus some very interesting features, and were satisfied. With the transaction concluded and an evening of celebration, the car was loaded into Tony’s horse trailer (no kidding). He dropped off Ed (now a year older) and drove on to deliver his new project to Jason’s shop, Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma.
When first inspected, 9F03Q102336 was a complete, running and driving black G.T. 500 convertible and the odometer showed 7,579 miles. Aspects of the car’s condition supported that as being possible, such as the original black convertible top with rear glass, plus original dash pad and interior components. On the other hand, the car had been repainted and mechanical work had obviously been performed. As was later learned, 2336 had been under a tarp in a storage building from around 1977 to 2014. It had recently been revived, but the long term storage showed some evidence. Additional research discloses that these few prototype, pre-production, engineering development cars were driven, and some were driven very hard. Not only that, they were taken apart and put back together multiple times while being used to determine what mechanical equipment and cosmetic features would become the 1969 Shelby production models offered to the public. When found, 2336 had functional front and rear power windows installed. There was clear evidence it had both white and black interiors installed in its past. Numerous unique, pre-production/prototype features became more and more distinct as 2336 was studied and disassembled, such as:
-quarter side scoops-left was functional; right was non-functional
-radio antenna is square-base style
-120 MPH speedometer dated August 2, 1968
-unique roll bar tubular shape dated September 23, 1968
-1968 style Stewart-Warner console gauges
-power windows-Cougar sourced components-front motors dated June 14, 1968 and rear motors dated July 27, 1968
-Unique rear interior quarter trim fiberglass panels-vinyl wrapped
-Front carpet with driver toe pad
-Seat belts-a mixture of suppliers & characteristics
-Mustang origin leaf springs-pre-Shelby production version
-1968 style Midland power brake booster & master cylinder
-early flat-top style solenoid
-pre-production sequential tail lamp wiring
Research through SAAC Registrar Vincent Liska, backed by the Marti Report, reveals 9F03Q102336 to be a Shelby Automotive Pre-Production (prototype) Engineering and Marketing Development car; one of four used for development of what would be offered to the public on production models. SAAC records identify this car in the 1987 Shelby American World Registry on page 568, and again (more accurately) in the 1997 edition on pages 1,124 and 1,221.
2336 is listed in the 1997 SAAC World Registry as the “first Mustang built at Dearborn assembly plant for conversion as a Shelby”. Important note: that would also mean it is the first 428CJ Mustang built at Dearborn, as well as the first convertible Mustang built at Dearborn. Number 2336 is further listed “Raven Black” (the only 1969-1970 painted this color).
Jason and Tony grasped the historical significance of this car, so each committed to a worthy restoration, which Jason and his brother, Scott, began planning. Jason recruited enthusiast Don Bell (nearby Arkansas) to assist with further research and documentation.
Although no build sheet was found during the initial inspection or tear down, two assembly plant inspection sheets were discovered by Ed, under the carpet. Immediately after arriving back in Oklahoma, Jason publicly announced the car’s purchase on the SAAC Forum. Peter Disher, who thrives on Shelby historical documentation, jumped into the discussion and provided a glimpse of a “Shelby Automotive Engineering Vehicle” listing, dated January 24, 1969, showing 9F03Q102336. This document added confirmation to the special history of this car, while also introducing some questions.
Vincent (Vinny) Liska, SAAC Registrar, actively joined in the pursuit of information supporting this car. A second SA internal document “Company Vehicles in Service”, dated September 30, 1969 was pulled from archives which included 102336 listed as a “Prototype assigned to Ray Geddes” for use as a “Dearborn Pool” car. A period photocopy of the Ford invoice was also provided by Vinny.
During the research and documentation it became obvious through the 1969 Shelby Program project minutes regarding planning target dates that all parties involved were required to produce within very short time spans. Just-in-time delivery seems to be the norm back then. Jason met with Tom McIntyre, the founder of ACSCO Products (an original Shelby supplier), who recalled that part revisions would be shipped via commercial passenger jet back and forth for same/next day progress. Further, the vehicle manufacturing plants appear to have been running practically 24/7. For example, the right-hand door shell is dated 8 04 W3, which was a Sunday. Power window motors show Saturday dates of July 27, 1968.
Shelby Automotive archives, dated January 24, 1969, indicate that 2336 was used to test the 351-4V engine, for a period. The same document shows it having a black interior installed, for a period. Interestingly, 2336 was used to test power windows as a potential option.
Kevin Marti confirmed the Marti Report, as well as the Ford invoice (thank you, Lois Eminger!). Additional research produced Marti Reports for three other 1969 Shelby prototypes.
The 1969 Shelby prototypes
According to Marti’s records searches, four Mustangs were ordered from the Dearborn plant by Shelby Automotive (SA) on July 21, 1968 (Sunday): two convertibles, delivered as GT models, and two SportsRoofs, delivered as Mach 1 models.
These GT convertibles were: one Raven Black with white deluxe interior, and the other Gulfstream Aqua with black deluxe interior; both came equipped with Q-code 428 Cobra Jet engines, C6 automatic transmissions, Traction-Lok differentials, and tilt column.
These Mach 1 SportsRoofs were: one Raven Black with black interior and one Gulfstream Aqua with white interior; both came equipped with Q-code 428 CJ, C6, Traction-Lok, and tilt.
Copies of actual SA “Operations Committee Minutes” were scoured to grasp the 1969 Shelby pre-production scheduling and decision process that occurred throughout 1968. While studying this and other SA documents from SAAC archives, the term “prototype” is used routinely in memos marked confidential, as well as other notations. The increasing influence by Ford on the Shelby program for 1969 is noticeable. The Shelby model year planning is more formalized than prior years. The “1969 Shelby Chronological Timing Plan” (product planning schedule) specifies that during the week of 4/29/68-5/4/68 to “Issue First Bill of Material”. The corresponding “1969 Shelby Program Timing Plan” (in a project chart/graphic form) shows styling to begin in early to mid-April 1968 on “surface base model” and then targets July 1 for styling approval of “surface convertible”. Further, this chart shows targets of: A) July 3 for “Final Engineering Prototype”; and B) July 21 to “Receive First Production Mustang” which coincides with the order dates of these four prototypes. Additionally, the target is December 1, 1968 to “Conclude Prototype Build & Test.”
Marti records show that 9F03Q102336 is DSO Item #0001; 2337 was DSO Item #0002; 2338 is DSO item #0003; and 2339 is DSO Item #0004. It is clear that these four cars were specifically ordered for the intent of prototype, pre-production engineering development.
One of the goals of this restoration project was to find out as much as possible about not only 2336, but these other prototype/development cars. In the process, Jason and Don have now had their hands on all four, with some surprising discoveries along the way.
Late in 2015, Jason and Don became aware of a past topic on the SAAC Forum from mid-December 2012, regarding a “1969 Shelby Barrier Test & Prototype Pilot car” as being found. Photographs included the door data plate with a VIN of 9F02Q102338. Since that VIN wasn’t published in SAAC Registries, the car raised both curiosity and skepticism. For Jason and Don, the prospect of another 1969 Shelby prototype to study for the 2336 restoration was intriguing. Jason identified, through his contacts, who posted that 2012 topic. Coincidentally, it was learned that 2338 had been offered for sale in 2014. Jason reached out by phone, leaving numerous messages over several weeks, before hearing from the owners of 2338. Because of the 2336 convertible project, the owners were receptive to Jason and Don examining 2338. On a cold Ohio day in February 2016, the two were welcomed and given unlimited access to study, photograph, and document 2338. The pair felt confident the car was genuine. Vital identification was shared with Vinny—who, along with a Marti Report, confirmed indeed it was.
Before Jason and Don left that day, a deal was struck for Tony to purchase 2338. In April 2016, 2338 was beside 2336 in Jason’s shop—two of the four 1969 Shelby prototype cars, not only found, but united—thus enabling valuable, further understanding of pre-production features.
SAAC records include mention of 2339, the aqua SportsRoof. The last known owner was listed in Ohio, but efforts to locate that owner lead nowhere. Evidence surfaced that 2339 was in Oklahoma back in the late 1980s and to Don’s surprise he knew the owner. Don persisted, chasing leads, and finally it was located. The owner invited Jason and Don to examine 2339 in July of 2016. The chain of ownership revealed another owner in the mid-1980s whom Don knew as well. There is evidence that this prototype was brought to both SAAC-15 and SAAC-24. Now, all three of the (likely) remaining 1969 Shelby pre-production development prototypes had been studied. NOTE: Following this photo shoot of 2336, contact continued with the owners of 2339. In late March 2017, 2339 was also purchased by Tony King. Interestingly, SA documents from SAAC archives show 2339 to be a rear disc brake development vehicle. So, all three of the prototypes are together again after almost 50 years.
An archive, or period, photograph of the 2336 black convertible has so far proved elusive. Some people thought the Shelby convertible used in the February 1970 Car & Driver article (black & white photo) was 2336. However, as a result of researching 2336, that car has been determined to actually be the maroon production convertible, 9F03M480001.
It was standard practice for prototypes to be donated to Michigan area technical school programs when they had finished serving their purposes within SA. That is where the history of some of these cars becomes sketchy. Despite ongoing efforts, how and when they found their way to the public may never be completely discovered. 2339 has the most complete chain of ownership.
Jason asks that if anyone has any information, or photographs, of 2336, 2338, or 2339 to please contact him. The research team continues to explore solid leads in their search for 2337 and its location.
Don photographed and documented every step of the disassembly. Any variation from production characteristics was scrutinized and recorded. Component dates, engineering numbers, fasteners, body panels, interior parts, paint coatings, etc.—everything was given attention. The fiberglass components on these pre-production cars are particularly unique because each piece was hand laid. Production fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) was a more sophisticated process. It was remarkable to be able to see actual hand-laid versions had survived, with their nuances. Chris Engemann, who was an A. O. Smith designer, suggests that probably no more than 10 sets (a typical batch) of the early hand-laid fiberglass were ever made. Chris loaned his original engineering blueprint of the 1969 Shelby hood for study and documentation. This drawing is a marvel at 42 inches wide by 17 feet long.
While studying the decklid of 2336, some unique characteristics were noticed about the corners of the weatherstrip. At the same time, it was quite surprising to discover aqua paint under the edge of that weatherstrip. Don took pictures of those details, plus a full view of the bottom of the 2336 lid which clearly showed the hand-laid fiberglass.
Around this same time in early 2015, Jason learned of Ford archive photographs that were on-line. Most of the 1969 Shelby photos were of a convertible with black interior. Peter Disher lent his keen eye to these photos, and believed along with Jason and Don that these pictures were of 9F03Q102337, the Gulfstream Aqua prototype convertible. Jason had confided to Pete about the aqua paint discovery on the 2336 black deck lid. Pete asked for an identical 2336 picture as the one of the rear view of the archive convertible, which showed its trunk deck lid open. By magnifying both photos, Pete concluded that it was the very same deck lid in each photo. The weatherstrip characteristics were the same, not really a surprise. However, Pete pointed out that the distinct “slop” pattern of the laid fiberglass was identical; much like a fingerprint. Since each deck lid was individually made, it is highly unlikely that any two would have the same slop pattern. Jason and Don agreed with Pete’s findings. Upon carefully removing two layers of black paint, the original base color was indeed Gulfstream Aqua. According to Ford archive evidence, 2336 actually had the trunk lid from 2337. This raised big questions: what would have happened for 2337 to give up its trunk lid? There were only two prototype convertibles, so does this mean that 2337 was parted out and if so, why? The other question of what happened to the 2336 original black decklid also loomed.
The availability of the Fordimages.com archive photographs of 2337 helped immensely to produce an accurate 2336 restoration. Take the engine bay for instance. When magnified, the dates of the spark plug wires were visible; the decals were legible; the 1968-style Midland brake booster was obvious; the air breather assembly had unique features; close examination of the early “snake” valve covers; various engine compartment components; unique fender design; unique grill design; unique hood design; the unexpected “dummy”/non-functional exhaust pod/port; the 1968 KR spare tire and wheel; and on and on. Numerous unique, pre-production features in those pictures confirmed what was found on 2336.
Surprisingly, the factory convertible vinyl top and 8D (August 1968 dated) folding window glass was still on 2336. One of the toughest decisions Jason had to make was to replace that top. It likely wouldn’t survive removal and re-installation and it certainly wouldn’t compliment fresh paint. Don carefully removed it from the top frame, documenting details. Jason had an exact new top custom made using the original as a pattern, incorporating the original folding rear window glass.
The interior is original: door panels, carpet, upholstery, dash pad, instrument cluster and dash trim. The steering wheel is restored. All of the glass is original with 8E and 8G dates. The tires are vintage Goodyear Rally GTs. Don determined from archive photos and promotional brochures that the wheel center caps were unique, not production style. They are the same cap used on the 1968 Cougar XR7-G (which A.O. Smith also produced) except with an early style Cobra emblem.
Jason’s brother, Scott, with assistance from Jerry Boone, performed the necessary metal work and the fiberglass work, plus body fitment. Jason, Skeeter White, and Tommy Guyll performed the painting. Casey Kelly handled much of the mechanical, wiring, and detailing work. Jason’s father, Gerald, built the 428CJ. As you can tell, most work is done in-house by the Billups restoration team.
With that said, many others contributed to this project: Don Bell, Vincent Liska, Peter Disher, Kevin Marti, and Lowell Otter contributed to the documentation process. Ed Meyer was instrumental throughout the entire project. Suppliers Steve Duke, Stewart Nolan, and Bob Nowicki, again, proved their expertise. Scott Fuller made the unusual “dummy” exhaust port happen. Various original parts were sourced and provided by Todd Hollar, Tim Lea, Kerry McMahon, Dave Riley, and Randy Sizemore.
Keith Schadoff is a walking history book regarding A.O. Smith-Inland Inc. On March 3 1969, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) awarded their annual Grand Design award to Shelby Automotive and A.O. Smith for the 1969 Shelby, for their “superlative design” utilizing fiberglass reinforced plastics (FRP). This past November 2016, Keith passed that actual award trophy from his possession to Tony King’s—so it could be with the very cars on which the design was developed.
Shelby G.T. 500 pre-production/prototype 9F03Q102336 was officially unveiled to the public at the 2016 Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals (MCACN) in Chicago, to a big crowd. Automotive spokesperson Courtney Hanson (middle) did the presentation. That’s car owner Tony King on the right, and TK on the left.