1969 Shelby GT500 - Most Photogenic
Loy Luke's recently restored '69 Shelby GT500 convertible originally served as a promotional photo and dealer introduction show car.
'69 Shelby GT500In the fall of 1968, Ford needed to promote the redesigned '69 Shelby, built on the redesigned '69 Mustang as the most distinctive Shelby ever with fiberglass hood, front fenders, and rear deck. An order was placed in October 1968 for a red GT500 fastback, 9F02R480014, and an Acapulco Blue GT500 convertible, 9F03R480018, both of which were eventually delivered to Ford's styling studios for photography after their conversion into Shelbys. After the photo shoots, both outside on a turnstile and inside the Ford photo studio with a female model, the cars were shipped west for auto shows in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where they were once again photographed for the Shelby sales brochure, postcard, spec sheets, and other sales literature.
"It was January and you can still see leaves on the trees," says Ed Meyer, who researched the blue convertible and determined its promotional status after a customer brought it to him for a restoration. "It's definitely not Michigan in the winter."
In February 1969, the 428 Cobra Jet-powered convertible made its way south for Florida auto shows before being sold in Miami. The fastback wasn't as lucky; it was used for crash-testing.
Today, the promotional GT500 convertible is owned by collector Loy Luke from Edmonton, Canada. After a busy Ed Meyer turned the restoration over to Ken Bramlett Restorations, the car earned a division 2 Gold award in its concours debut at SAAC-36 over the Memorial Day weekend.
Meyer was quick to compare the convertible to the promotional photos, noting the black seats as opposed to the car's white interior. "An Intra-Company memo dated September 3, 1968, stated that all October and November Shelby convertibles should have white interiors," Meyer points out. "Over 600 Shelbys were built before another convertible came through with a black interior. However, Ford typically used dark interiors for promotional photos, so the white seats in the photo car were either replaced with black versions or airbrushed."
When photos were needed for '70 Shelbys, which were left-over '69s with hood stripes and front chin spoiler, the photos of the Acapulco Blue convertible were simply touched up with the updated items.
In some of the color factory photos, the car appears to have a green tint. Meyer attributes that to the studio lighting.
Although the vintage promo photos show an antenna on the driver-side rear quarter-panel, Meyer was unable to find evidence that the car ever had an antenna installed. He thinks a square-base antenna was simply glued in place for the photos. "An antenna hole was never drilled on this car," Meyer explains. "At that point, they were probably unsure of which antenna to use since the '69 Shelby was the first Mustang with fiberglass front fenders."
Original photos also show a chrome console insert, which Meyer attributes to a possible lack of woodgrain versions for the car's early production.
As one of the most knowledgeable '69-'70 Mustang experts on the planet, Meyer notes several other early production variances, like standard seatbelts (later Shelbys were equipped with Deluxe versions), black camera-case radio bezel (instead of the later woodgrain), and square, metal breather cap elbows on the valve covers. The special Shelby grille is also retained by hex-head screws; on later cars, the screws were eliminated by spot welding the grille in place from behind.
After its Florida marketing use in early 1969, the GT500 convertible was sold in Miami, where it remained through the 1980s. Meyer knew about the car, but wasn't aware of its early production status until shortly before it was delivered to his shop for a restoration. At that point, he felt the car was the original promotional convertible and started pulling together the evidence.
When the GT500 arrived at Meyer's shop, it was already painted but unassembled. Then Meyer got a call from the Ohio district attorney's office. "They were trying to confiscate the car because a previous owner owed back taxes," he says. "The guy eventually went to prison."