Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
June 8, 2012
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Every Mustang has a story. But no other Mustang has a story like 67413C9A00139, the only '67 convertible delivered to Shelby American. Or should we say stories, because 0139 was built as an early production '67 Mustang for the intended use as a styling prototype for the upcoming '68 Shelby convertible. As such, it was photographed in two different exterior colors for a number of Shelby promotional and advertising materials, likely making it the most photographed Shelby of all time.

If you appreciate rarity and historical significance, then consider these facts as well. In addition to being a one-of-one '67 Shelby convertible, 0139 was the only big-block convertible ever built at the Shelby American facilities in Los Angeles (subsequent '68 G.T. 500s were assembled at the A.O. Smith Company in Michigan). It was also the third G.T. 500 built (behind a fastback and hardtop, which became the "Little Red prototype). At one point, the convertible was assigned to Carroll Shelby as his personal driver. After its conversion into a red '68 Shelby for promotional photography, 0139 was repainted in white for additional photos. There's even some intrigue with a strange tale about a theft, a woman, and Carroll Shelby.

And then there's the most recent saga about 0139's restoration. Current owners Samantha and Brian Styles, who acquired the convertible in 2009, put together a dream team of Shelby experts to assure an accurate restoration by R&A Motorsports. Thanks to the Styles and their efforts to uncover photography and study paperwork, including archival Shelby American documents, the convertible is one of the most researched, well-documented Shelbys in existence.

C-code, S-code, Q-code

On August 16, 1966, just two days before '67 Mustang production began at the San Jose assembly plant, Shelby American placed an order for three '67 Mustangs--a fastback, hardtop, and convertible. Other than body styles, the three cars were identically well-equipped--C6 automatic, Candyapple Red paint, Deluxe black interior, air conditioning, power steering, power front disc brakes, and other options.

The convertible was originally scheduled as a C-code Mustang with a 289 2V small-block, but the VIN was changed to an S-code for a 390 big-block. It left San Jose in November 1966 with the Competition Suspension package and the Shelby-specific, dual-quad 428 Police Interceptor engine, although the Ford VIN was not changed to reflect the Q-code status.

Upon arrival at Shelby American, the '67 convertible was designated as a "company car/engineering prototype for use as the styling vehicle for the following year's '68 Shelby convertible. Like the fastback and hardtop, the convertible's Shelby serial plate was stamped "ENG in front of the Shelby number. It is not known if the convertible ever received '67 Shelby fiberglass, but by April 1967, it had been converted into a red '68 Shelby G.T. 500 convertible with handbuilt fiberglass body panels, rollbar (a first for an American performance car), and other prototype '68 pieces.

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Stolen! Or Maybe Not

According to a Vehicle Information Report obtained by SAAC, the convertible was assigned as a personal vehicle for Carroll Shelby, who reportedly loaned it out to various people, including employees and visitors from Ford. But just a few days after its conversion into a '68 Shelby, the convertible went missing.

As one version of the story goes, the car was reported stolen from an apartment building parking lot while loaned to a Ford employee. According to a SAAC interview with former Shelby chief engineer Fred Goodell, who had reported the theft to the Los Angeles Police Department, the convertible was found several days later at the top of the Palos Verdes hills. Stripped of its "shiny components, Goodell noted that the thieves were very careful, disconnecting radio wires instead of cutting them and placing the lug nuts back on the studs after making off with the wheels.

If that seems odd, Carroll Shelby implied during a 2003 SAAC interview that something else may have been going on. He laughed about the "stolen car" story, saying that was simply the "public version." He stopped short of an explanation, wrapping up his comments with, "It's better to let a sleeping dog lie."

An invoice from Shelby American to Zurich American Insurance, dated June 20, 1967, confirms that a $506 insurance claim was submitted for "repairs of engineering '68 prototype convertible," including the replacement costs for carburetors, air cleaner assembly, taillight bezel, AM radio, steering wheel, and other components. Additional information implies that some form of compensation was tendered to the person who found the car.

What's the real story? According to Styles, there is speculation that a woman was involved, perhaps a girlfriend who "borrowed" the convertible from either Carroll Shelby or the Ford employee, and the "story" about the car being stolen was likely a cover-up. Styles says, "I suspect there are only three people who may know the truth--a Ford executive, a beautiful lady, and Carroll Shelby. I suspect we'll never know what really happened in April 1967."

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Vintage Photos

Photo Model

April 1967 was a busy month for 0139. In addition to its "theft," the convertible was used for a photo shoot on a southern California beach with a female model. Photos from the session (the only time the convertible was seen with 10-spoke wheels) eventually appeared on the cover of the tri-fold '68 Shelby dealer brochure, the "Specifications and Features" sheet, and the first color print ads.

Over the next two months, 0139 was involved in at least two additional photo shoots in its original red color (but with hub caps), including the well-known shots of Carroll Shelby standing between the "new" '68 Shelby convertible and fastback.

Styles notes that close examination of photos confirms that the convertible still had many of its '67 components, including the steering wheel, instrument cluster, rear view mirror, and vent windows. The side reflectors, which were scheduled to become government-mandated safety items for '68, were simply decals stuck onto the rear quarter-panels. The Shelby parts were obviously prototype. For example, the nose was one-piece fiberglass, unlike the three-piece used for production. The tie-down clasps were missing on the rollbar and the hood used earlier-style hoodpins with cables as opposed to the twist-locks found on production '68 Shelbys.

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At that early stage, the '68 stripes, emblems, and gas cap had not been finalized. Based on original versions of the photos, the convertible was fitted with prototype "GT 500 Cobra" metal emblems, one on the passenger-side instrument panel and larger versions on the doors within the side stripes. It was even possible that the convertible wore two different emblem treatments, one on each side of the car. By the time the photos were used for promotional material, they had been retouched with the production-style gas cap and "GT500" lettering within the stripes on the fenders.

Sometime in June 1967, the convertible prototype was repainted in Wimbledon White, possibly for better contrast in the predominantly black-and-white publications of the time. At least three additional photo shoots took place--at Shelby American, the Hollywood Park horse track, and Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills. Photos from the various sessions were used throughout the '68 model year for advertising and promotional purposes.

The G.T. 500 convertible and fastback were also part of Ford's '68 model press long-lead event at Riverside Raceway in early July 1967. Photos from the Motor Trend archives show that Carroll Shelby was there to describe his restyled Mustangs to the press.

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Promotional Materials

At Your Disposal

By August 1967, Shelby American was shutting down its facility at LAX in preparation to move '68 Shelby Mustang production to A.O. Smith in Ionia, Michigan. With 0139's purpose as a prototype and promotional car completed, Shelby paperwork indicates that the convertible was scheduled for "disposal." While the "Little Red" hardtop, with its twin-supercharged engine, was destroyed, 0139 was shipped to Michigan along with other Shelby vehicles. As a styling prototype with no mechanical modifications, it was deemed saleable to the general public. So in early 1968, the convertible was updated with production '68 Shelby trim and safety items, then sold, possibly through Ford's resale lot in Dearborn.

The convertible disappeared for the next 10 years, resurfacing as an Acapulco Blue '68 G.T. 500 convertible in 1977 when it was purchased by Jamie Ventrella in Illinois. Ventrella's excitement soon turned to alarm when he discovered that his '68 Shelby was actually a '67 that had been painted several different colors. Looking for answers, he brought the car to SAAC-5 in 1980. In those days before Marti Reports and SAAC's discovery of Shelby American paperwork, no one knew anything about a '67 Shelby convertible. Some thought it was a fake.

Discouraged, Ventrella eventually sold the convertible to a friend, who lost the car in a divorce. In 2001, the former wife sold 0139 to the Volo Auto Museum, where it was displayed in '67 Shelby trim (see "Rare Ragtop" in the March 2005 Mustang Monthly). In 2009, Volo ran the Shelby convertible through a Mecum auto auction, where it caught the attention of Samantha and Brian Styles, who maintain a south Florida collection of rare 1960s musclecars.

"I was attracted to the rarity,' Brian explains. "And Samantha liked the Hollywood mystique surrounding the car's supposed theft, so we couldn't pass it up."

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Research and Restoration

For the Styles, whose collection consists mostly of Mopars, it was time to emerge themselves into Shelbys. "I didn't even know the differences between a '67 and a '68," Brian admits. That changed quickly.

With appreciation for the prototype's history, photo documentation, and one-of-one status, the Styles decided to restore the convertible. The question was, how should it be restored? As it came off the production line? As a red '68 Shelby convertible? Or in its later reincarnation as a white '68 Shelby convertible?

"We decided that our goal was to restore the car to its earliest known state as a Shelby," Brian says. "That meant an early '67 Shelby with prototype '68 fiberglass, stripes, badges, and interior."

In other words, the restoration would bring the car back to its condition as the red '68 Shelby convertible in the well-known beach photos taken in April 1967.

But first, the Styles needed to find a restoration shop that specialized in Shelbys. As Brian's research led him to discussions with "everyone in the Shelby community," the name Jeff Yergovich kept popping up. By early 2010, the convertible was disassembled in Yergovich's R&A Motorsports' facility in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

If you think restoring a regular production Mustang is challenging, consider the restoration of a Shelby that was equipped with prototype pieces. Making the task even tougher was the fact that, although many photographs existed, most had been retouched with production emblems, stripes, and other equipment that had not been finalized at the time of the photography.

That's when Styles put together what he calls a "dream team" of Shelby technical experts: Yergovich, Bob Gaines, Peter Disher, Jeff Speegle, Ed Meyer, Dave Mathews, Phil Murphy, Austin Craig, Lowell Otter, Kevin Marti, and Chris Simon. Through a private website forum, the group was able to discuss the various issues to help Styles and Yergovich determine the correct equipment, right down to the console stitching.

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During the teardown, Yergovich found many clues about the convertible's past. The identification tag on the C6 transmission was numbered 000001, indicating that it could be the first C6 automatic. According to tags found on the seat frames, the convertible got different front buckets in March of 1967. When Yergovich removed the '68 Shelby rear taillight panel, he discovered that the original sheetmetal had been cut out to accept '67 Shelby (Cougar) sequential taillights. Perhaps the car was originally outfitted as a '67 Shelby after all.

Yergovich restored the convertible just like it was originally built--as a '67 Mustang convertible that was later converted into a '68 Shelby with prototype pieces. He pieced together a production '68 Shelby nose to create a mold for a one-piece, handbuilt front end. By studying photos, he determined that the lower grille trim was actually made from door edge guards, so he located 1960s vintage guards and bent them to match the photos. Woodgrain was applied over deluxe '67 aluminum trim.

After its two-year restoration at R&A, the '68 Shelby convertible prototype debuted last November at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, where Styles and Yergovich recreated the beach scene, complete with sand and bikini model. The car is scheduled as a featured vehicle at the Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on June 1-3.

Even though the convertible has made its show debut, Brian Styles admits that the car is not finished. As additional photos and documentation surface, Styles and Yergovich continue to update the car. For example, the side badges were completely redone when the original engineering drawings turned up, and Yergovich revised the console stitching and Thermactor pump mounting based on recently discovered high-res photos from the Motor Trend archives.

Samantha and Brian Styles consider themselves as caretakers for the historic '67/'68 Shelby convertible prototype. They have created a website devoted to the car, located at www.67shelbyconvertible.com, where you can view additional vintage photos, promotional material, and documentation.

The prototype '68 Shelby convertible appeared in numerous magazine ads and Shelby promotional materials, including the "Specifications and Features" sheet. The first ads appeared on the inside front covers of the Nov. '67 Playboy, Road & Track, and Car Life.

Prototype Pieces

  • Hand-formed fiberglass hood with hood pins and cables
  • Single-piece front-end (three-piece for production)
  • Front fenders hand-cut to accept side turn signal lights
  • Single chrome trim around front grille (two-piece for production)
  • Hand-formed fiberglass rear panel
  • Hand-formed fiberglass trunk lid
  • Decal rectangular quarter panel reflectors
  • 15-inch wide header panel SHELBY lettering (22-inch for production)
  • Mustang convertible top trim with visible snaps
  • Side stripes, emblems, and fuel filler cap with "GT 500 Cobra"
  • No taillight sequencing (not available)
  • 10-spoke wheels (early); prototype hub caps (later)
  • Seats recovered in black leather
  • '67 Mustang deluxe steering wheel with Shelby horn button
  • Woodgrain applied over '67 brushed aluminum dash inserts
  • Prototype instrument panel emblem
  • No embossed Cobra emblem on console armrest
  • Prototype roll bar
  • Vinyl-wrapped fiberglass seat rear panels

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