Now Showing at the Corvette Museum: A 1968 Shelby GT 500

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by Patrick Rall

1968_Shelby_GT500.jpgThe National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky is currently showing a little love to other great American performance cars from the 1960s and 1970s, with Ron Kinberger’s 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 representing the Mustang crowd in fine fashion.

The 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 was the second year for the GT500 name, with few changes coming from the original offering in 1967 to the one displayed at the Corvette Museum from 1968.  The key changes were along the front end, with a new grille design featuring rectangular fog lights rather than the round lights used in 1967 and the openings in the Shelby-specific hood were enlarged and moved closer to the leading edge of the hood.  Where the 1967 models had a low profile dual-opening setup similar to that seen on the GT500 in 1968, the ?68s had openings that ran nearly the entire width of the hood ? allowing for more airflow to feed the hungry engine underneath.

Powering the 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 was a 428 cubic inch big block V8 that offered an advertised 335 horsepower, although the GT500 was believed to have had its power ratings grossly understated by Ford.  The 1968 GT500 was intended to be a street legal race car and to support that cause, this classic muscle car came with a padded roll bar and racing style harnesses rather than seatbelts.

1968_Shelby_GT500_engine.jpgShelby wanted the GT500 to stand out from non-Shelby Mustangs in more than just power output, so the 1968 GT500 features a unique duckbill spoiler along the back end with six-segment tail lights from the Ford Thunderbird running along the back panel rather than the traditional three-bar Mustang tail lights of the day. These tail lights were unique to 1968, as Shelby used the rear lights from a Mercury Cougar in the original 1967 GT500.  Not only did the ?68 GT500 tail lights look different from the non-Shelby Mustangs, but they also functioned in their own unique way with the bulbs blinking sequentially from the inside-out ? a feature that has been mimicked by the current 2011 Ford Mustang.

Ford sold just 1,044 examples of the 1968 Shelby GT500 similar to the one displayed at the National Corvette Museum as the GT500 became the GT500 King of the Road (GT500KR) midway through 1968.  With a sales price of nearly double that of the standard 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, the right to own one of these amazing muscle cars came with a big price ? furthering the fairly low sales numbers for a car that has gone on to become one of the most sought after Mustangs from the muscle car era.

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