Jerry Heasley
November 1, 2004

The $280,800 sale price ($266,000 without commissions) got everybody's attention last January at the televised Barrett-Jackson collector car auction because it was for a 427-powered '67 Shelby GT500. But no, this Shelby was not the one-and-only historic Super Snake. It was a regular Shelby fastback, with a color change from black to red and modified with a new aluminum Shelby 427.

Curt Vogt from Cobra Automotive told us, "That would be Ted Diller. I sold Ted that car. It was originally a red Shelby with a 428 automatic. Ted bought an aluminum 427 from Shelby, put it in, painted the car black, detailed it out, put some aftermarket wheels on it, and specifically targeted it for the Barrett-Jackson auction, hoping to get a tall dollar for it."

Shelby, Boss, and Cobra Jet Mustangs have been leading the way upward in the '6411/42 to '73 Mustang market, but Ed Meyer says Mach 1s are bringing good money too.

"Anything that's performance, like Boss 302s and Shelbys," Meyer told us. In the course of his normal business of restoring and buying and selling parts, Ed puts big deals together on rare performance Mustangs. He was in the audience when the GT500 brought $280,000.

"I thought that was ridiculous," Ed says. "I thought it was a $90,000-$100,000 car. It would be different if it was a real 427 car. The owner bought the 427 from Shelby the summer before and installed it, and he got a signed letter from Shelby saying it was authentic. I'm thinking a lot of people thought the car was a real 427 Shelby. You can do that all day long, but if it wasn't done in 1967, what difference does that make? Buy a Shelby right now and put in a 427 just because you buy it from Shelby and he signs a letter-does that make it worth $200,000 more?"

Ed echoes the sentiments of tens of thousands of people who have been in the Mustang hobby for decades. The old rule of thumb was the original cars bring the most money. Historically, however, it's been the entrance of new collectors and investors into the hobby who change the old rules.

We've received many letters at Mustang Monthly about how the Eleanor cars are driving up the prices of '67-'68 fastbacks. Now Shelby and Unique Performance are coming out with the GT350SR, which is a modern-day re-creation of the original '65 GT350 R-Model, and once again the fears set in. Will the supply of '65-'66 fastbacks dry up? Now Dallas Mustang is building its Terlingua '65-'66 Trans Am coupe series, and enthusiasts are once again asking, "What's going to happen with the prices? Where's it all going?"

The fact is, ponycars are just flat popular. Everybody likes them. And the enthusiasm goes much further than Fords. Meyer dabbles in Chryslers and GM. When we asked him what has happened with those prices, he said, "The Chryslers have gone nuts more than the Fords. But, the Chevrolets-like the Yenko Camaros and ZL-1s-they're nuts, too."

At this year's Mid-America Ford Performance and Shelby Meet in Tulsa, we were astonished by a '67 GT500 fastback, painted Corvette Torch Red with white stripes. It really turned heads. But this car wasn't stock; it was a clone, modified from Shelby's original to look bolder and hotter (see last month's issue). The owner and builder, Ken Godsey, comes from the street-rod ranks. He told us he and his father built a couple of '47s and a '39 Mercury. The '67 was Ken's first Mustang project, and it won't be his last.

We wondered why a Mustang and not another street rod. Ken was frank, "The street-rod market seems to be fading a little. There are so many street rods and it's been going on so long. I mean, you can see the trend going toward the '60s cars. There's been a big push to upgrade them. A lot of the street-rod guys are coming over." Basically, the street-rod guys know the art of modification, and they're primed and ready to apply their talents to Mustangs.

Godsey added, "There are a lot of good ideas from the street-rod market you can incorporate into these '60s vehicles." Ken took a '67 fastback and "out-Shelby-ized" the original in terms of hot looks, similar to what Unique Performance did with the Eleanor GT500E. If enthusiasts are worried about supplies of early Mustangs drying up from the relatively few cars Unique Performance converts, they should be horrified at the thought of large numbers of street-rod enthusiasts moving into the Mustang camp. Apparently, this is already happening.

Extrapolating what we're seeing today with Shelby clones, it seems only a matter of time before we start seeing clones-with bigger and bolder looks and hotter engines-in the other series of hot Mustangs, including the Boss 302, Boss 429, Cobra Jet Mach 1, GT, and so on. Of course, we've already seen some of these cars. For example, lots of people take a Mach 1 and install bigger wheels and tires or slam it down to the ground, add a cool steering wheel, and so forth. They usually leave the 428 Cobra Jets stock and do the mods to a 351 Windsor Mach 1.

In the world of Boss clones, it makes sense not to start with an original Boss. Instead, cloners start with a '69-'70 fastback and build up from there. We've seen Boss 302 clones, but no Boss 429 clones yet. Shelbys are the rage now, especially the '67 GT500s, which got mass-market attention due to the movie exposure.

The $280,000 Shelby, which was a real Shelby but modified, was an anomaly, according to Vogt and "those among us with restoration shops who talk back and forth regularly." Funny thing is, before the weekend was over at the big auctions in Arizona, we had another Shelby anomaly. Drew Alcazar, owner and president of Russo & Steele, was just a kid when we met him in Albuquerque in 1986 to photograph his fully restored '69 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1. Russo & Steele sold a '66 Shelby GT350 fastback for a world-record $260,000. It was "6S001," described in the Shelby World Registry as "used as a prototype for the '66 model with a Pony interior."

Did lightning strike twice? Prices like these get major attention in the hobby. Maybe you wanted to buy a year ago and put it off. Or you sold last year and want back into a car. Vogt has such customers. "It's like an amusement-park ride. If you get off and sell your car, it's hard to get back on at a later date."

Maybe that's why the most recent Snakebite, a slick bulletin sent out to Shelby American Automobile Club members, had only one Shelby for sale: a '68 GT500 convertible for $80,000. There were no Cobras, referring to the aluminum-bodied 289 and 427 exotics. "Usually there's a dozen or so Shelbys for sale," Meyer said in a monotone, unable to hide his boredom at the lack of cars.

Meanwhile, at the SAAC convention this year, a dealer brought four '67 GT500s. Vogt checked them out. "A fellow named Mershon, a big dealer out of Ohio mainly known for dealing in Corvettes, brought four '67 Shelbys to the Shelby convention two weeks ago. They started at $120,000 and went to $150,000. I believe all four of those cars sold." Vogt warned against comparing such restored gems with unrestored cars. "It costs $50,000 to $100,000 to restore one of these cars. So a car that's been restored, and restored correctly, pulls a lot more value than a car sitting there in pieces."

As hot as the market seems, the year started off slowly for dealers. George Waydo owns K.A.R. in Columbus, Ohio, where he specializes in clean, rust-free Mustangs. First-generation models, original or restomod, are the staples of his business. George explained, "Actually, during the first part of this year, the business was kind of slow, but as we hit May it seemed to explode overnight."

There was a lot of interest, but buyers weren't "pulling the trigger." Then, about the first of May, they took aim and fired. "We're having a hard time keeping inventory. I've got empty spots in my showroom. I can't buy cars fast enough. So, May, June, and July were superb. And prices have gone up considerably."

Waydo said what we already know and have been seeing. The modifieds are far and away the strongest part of the market. He gave us an example. "To me, it's unbelievable. Recently I had a real nice '66 GT fastback on the showroom floor. It was an MCA Gold car, and I had $23,500 on it. Parked in the same showroom, I had a restomod that looked real nice, looked stock, but underneath was a 347 stroker, rack-and-pinion steering, and four-wheel power disc brakes. I put $29,900 on that car. It wasn't a factory GT, but it sold first and brought $6,000 more than the stock GT. So that segment is hot right now. People aren't afraid to buy a modified car as long as the modifications are done tastefully. Essentially, people are looking for performance and safety."

Plains, Wisconsin, population 688, is the home turf of Jim and Mike Ring. Their Classic Auto Body is nearby in Spring Green. Last year in Columbus, Ohio, they vied for Street Machine Of The Year at the Good Guys events with their '66 Mustang convertible, badged "GT-R." A Chevy always wins this award, as was the case in 2003. But the Ring brothers were besieged with offers to buy their car. Clearly, it was getting the major attention of the top-five finalist cars.

They sold their GT-R for $100,001. Although the car looks like a Mustang, the Rings did major surgery to the body, and underneath is an Art Morrison chassis, as much race-car stuff as street-rod.

If high-performance Mustangs are hot, what about a six-cylinder? Waydo offered insight. "I sold one last week, a real nice Candyapple Red car with a black interior. I thought I was being outrageous. We used to sell them for $13,500 to $14,500, so I put $17,900 on it and it sold in two weeks. The reason is, the same car with a V-8 would be mid-$20s. So people are looking at these Mustangs and saying, 'The wind still blows through my hair and it still looks like a Mustang, and $17,900 is my entry price versus $24,900.' "

Apparently, rising water is floating all boats. The question is, will prices remain high? Vogt has a broader perspective of collectibles than most of us. He collects guns and toys and other "investment-quality stuff."

"I think for some reason we're seeing the same strong push we did about 15 years ago in the late '80s, early '90s. It's come around again real strong. I have my own opinions. I guess when investors can't do well in the stock market or other places, they go after collectibles, the tangible items they can put their hands on and enjoy. Everything collectible is getting more expensive."

Longtime collectors will recall prices cycled down in the early '90s after there was such a large increase in prices. Whether or not the boom will turn to bust again is anybody's guess.

TOP-10 KNOWN PRICES FOR '6411/42-'73 MUSTANGS
PRICE MODEL NOTES
1. $280,800 '67 {{{Shelby GT500}}} Barrett-Jackson, 2004.
2. $260,000 '66 GT350 Russo & Steele, 2004
3. $225,000 '65 GT350 Competition Private sale, documented, buyer and seller
requested anonymity. This car was restored to
concours perfection.
4. $194,400 '67 GT500E No. 1 in series of Eleanor cars. Sale registered
at Barrett-Jackson in January 2003.
5. $151,{{{200}}} '65 GT350SR Built by Unique Performance as Shelby's
modern-day version of the '65 GT350
Competition. Sold at Barrett-Jackson, January 2004.
6. $151,000 '67 GT500E Super Snake Sold at Kruse Auction in Las Vegas, May 30,
2003, first of the Super Snake continuation
series Eleanor 427 big-blocks.
7. $129,{{{600}}} '70 "Lawman" Boss 429 Factory drag car for military-base tours,
supercharged, 750 actual miles. One of two
built, and only one to survive.
8. $126,{{{900}}} '70 Boss 429 Sold at Barrett-Jackson, January 2004. A '69
Boss 429, in a private sale brought $150,000.
Buyer requested name be kept confidential.
9. ${{{100}}},001 '66 restomod convertible Ring Brothers.
10. $95,400 '68 GT500KR convertible Barrett-Jackson, January 2004

Baby Boomer InheritancesBaby boomers are that large group of people born in the 18-year span between 1946 and 1964. The first of the boomers reached driving age about the time the first Mustangs appeared.

George Waydo deals with this age group almost daily. He told us, "I saw statistics that said the baby boomers would, in the next 10 years, inherit over 18 billion dollars from relatives passing on. Their children are grown, people are leaving them money, they want to relive their youth, and they are stepping into the collectible-car market."

Only Going UpHere's a list of Mustangs that should increase in value over the next five years.

Rust-Free '65-'66, '67-'68, '69-'70 Fastback "Shells"No drivetrain? No worry. These cars are zooming as restomodders hunt shells for builds. They don't even have to have a suspension, as they'll be replaced anyway.

'65 Shelby GT350 CompetitionThe rich get richer applies. In our opinion, the most undervalued of the above cars is the '65 GT350 Competition because it stands out as the only street-legal American car built for racing that was offered to the public.

'68-'70 Shelby ConvertiblesYou get to be seen when the top goes down in a Shelby with performance and style.

'71 Big-Block ConvertibleLast of the big-block convertibles makes this car special. Just 42 were built.

'72 Mustangs, all body styles with 351 H.O. engineJust 398 cars were built with what is essentially a detuned Boss 351. They're broken down into 19 hardtops, 366 fastbacks, and 13 convertibles. The convertible is a real sleeper.

Original-Paint MustangsAny first-generation Mustang with original paint has a special place in the hearts of collectors. Regardless of the production run of the model, the number of original-paint cars declines every year.

'69-'70 Mach 1The first Mach 1 has the great looks (all being fastbacks) that make it the quintessential Mustang musclecar. No car before or since has passed this one in musclecar looks.

'69-'70 Boss 302Ford built fewer than 9,000 of these cars, making them somewhat rare, but plentiful enough for a large following to be a force in the hobby.

'69-'70 Boss 429The 429 is still the boss of Bosses. Even GM people fall for this car.

'66-'68 Trans Am CoupesThe coupe body style has held back the prices. Few people realize these cars were a competition Shelby prepared for professional road racing. The '65 GT350 Competition was a flashier fastback prepared for amateur road racing.

'69-'70 Boss 302 Trans Am RacersThese cars have already brought six figures, enough to fit in our top 10. However, the sales have been kept private. If anybody has any reports, we'd love to hear about them.

'71-'73 ConvertiblesConvertibles have great eye appeal in the last of the first-generation "big" cars. The higher performance the engine, the better the potential for appreciation. Many of the '73s are low mileage because collectors put them up when they were new.

Special-Paint MustangsCars like the Playboy Pink Mustangs have a a lot of special interest. In 1967, Ford issued a set of special-paint Mustangs for the State of Colorado.

Dealer SpecialsCalifornia Specials, High Country Specials, Blue Bonnet Specials (and there are more) have unique looks and heritage.

Six-Cylinder Convertibles, All YearsThe top goes down and you get wind in your hair, so who needs a V-8? The later-model cars have received less attention-for example, the '69-'70 and '71-'73 sixes.

Rust-Free Barn CarsThere's something about a long-lost car that smacks of a lost treasure. Mustangs in storage for decades have a unique appeal to collectors.

Eleanor HysteriaRick Schmidt, Mustang collector and vice president, chief operating officer of National Parts Depot, has noted the controversy surrounding the Eleanor phenomenon and Carroll Shelby's continuation projects. After reading Jose Baro's letter in the August issue that forecasts "death to the Mustang hobby," Rick provided his perspective. His timing was perfect for this issue.

I've noticed the concern about the potential ill effects of Carroll Shelby's "continuation projects." These fears range from the depletion of existing reserves of original fastbacks, to pricing the hobby beyond the average person's reach, to the supposed blasphemy of attaching Shelby VIN plates to continuation cars. To all of these Chicken Littles, I say: Take a deep breath-the sky is not falling.