Frame Up Restored 1968 Shelby GT500KR Convertible 428
- Fully restored
- Rare special-order color
- 1 of 7 with factory air conditioning
- 428 Cobra Jet V8
- SAAC verified
- Fully documented
People always wonder why the survival rate of even exceptional collector cars is so low. If these cars are so special, why didn't someone take better care of them? This special-order Speed Yellow 1968 Shelby GT500KR is unquestionably a spectacular car, but it was almost lost forever and presents an interesting case study in seeing the forest for the trees. Literally hours away from the crusher, it was rescued by someone who recognized its greatness where others saw nothing but a burned-out shell of an old Mustang.
In 1978, even a Shelby GT500KR convertible (with A/C!) was little more than a used car. Certain astute collectors at the time recognized that these were special cars, but they had not yet gathered the immense following they enjoy today. Even Carroll Shelby himself had turned his back on the Mustangs bearing his name years earlier, dismissing them as little more than interesting footnotes to the Mustang story. So when Shelby 03900 was stolen, stripped of its engine and transmission, and then set on fire, there was no public outcry, and the original owner probably happily cashed the check the insurance company gave him as compensation. The stripped, burned-out carcass is hauled away to a local scrap yard called Twin Service in Anderson, Indiana, where it was scheduled to be crushed just like any other stripped, burned-out theft recovery.
However, a sharp-eyed enthusiast spotted the body at the scrap yard and immediately made a move to purchase it. Noting the original Shelby fender tag was still intact and therefore knowing that it was a top-of-the-line GT500KR convertible, he arranged to purchase it for $500 just hours before it was slated to go into the crusher. He paid the wrecking service to drag the car to his home, where he began the restoration.
In 1978, you could still order Shelby parts directly from Ford, so all new fiberglass OEM pieces were purchased to replace those that were destroyed by the fire. Other missing parts were tracked down and added to the growing collection of NOS equipment that would restore 03900 to its original condition.
Sadly, that never happened, as even in 1978, the resources required to restore a Shelby Mustang, never mind one that was burned, were substantial. The car and all the associated parts were sold, and bounced around from collector to collector for almost 20 years. By the late 1990s, it was clear that the cost of restoring the car was insignificant compared to the actual value of the finished product, so at least one previous owner made a heroic effort to restore the car using a donor vehicle to supply items like the correct black interior and other irreplaceable parts. His workmanship must have been very, very good, because the pros at Custom Classics, who re-restored the car several years later, could find no trace of the fire damage.
When the car landed at Custom Classics, many of the NOS parts acquired by the first restorer were still on the car, and the remaining correct, authentic, and original components were assembled to create this stunning yellow GT500KR convertible. The interior remains the one transplanted by the previous restorer, and it is far more correct and accurate than any reproduction kit available today, and Custom Classics decided to leave it as-is.
The car itself is no less remarkable than its story. Originally delivered to Dallas, Texas, it carries special-order WT6066 yellow paint, factory A/C, C6 automatic transmission, and a tilt steering column. It is one of only 20 painted WT6066 yellow, and of those, one of only 7 with A/C. Custom Classics spectacular restoration incorporated all those original NOS parts, plus hundreds more that were painstakingly researched and date-coded properly to complete this incredibly rare, desirable Shelby.
The paint and bodywork are simply stunning in person. Any of the flaws carried by the original fiberglass have been thoroughly exorcised (even after Ford took over Shelby production, the 'glass wasn't all that great), and today it is in better than new condition. Panel alignment is exceptional, gaps are even all around, and the car fits together better than any Mustang ever built by the factory. The paint is 2-stage base/clear urethane that exactly duplicates the special order Bright Yellow finish, and correct black GT500KR stripes and call-outs have been installed on the rocker panels.
All the correct Shelby badges and lettering, including the 428 Cobra Jet emblems, have been replaced with NOS or exact reproduction pieces, and even the gas cap is an NOS unit. The tail panel, with correct Thunderbird sequential taillights, is beautifully finished in the original argent silver, and yes, those are real Lucas driving lights in the grille. Side marker lights, new for 1968, are beautiful reproduction pieces, and the bumpers show better chrome than was humanly possible in 1968. All the glass is new, the stainless is polished, and there is no detail on this car that has been overlooked during the restoration process. It is vastly nicer than new in every way.
The incredible detailing extends under the hood, where a freshly rebuilt, date-code correct 428 Cobra Jet has been installed. Painted the correct shade of Ford corporate blue, it features correct COBRA cast aluminum valve covers, functional ram-air air cleaner, and even a complete thermactor system. Dominating the engine bay is the massive compressor for the A/C system, which is fully functional and blows ice cold. Correct hoses, clamps, wiring, and clips were used throughout the engine compartment, resulting in a highly accurate, concours-ready piece. An original radiator is perched up front, with a reproduction Autolite battery cover doing a very good impersonation of the real thing. Rated at 335 horsepower, it's no secret that these engines made quite a bit more than that, with most experts settling on the idea of 410 horsepower and a monstrous 440 pounds of torque from a stock Cobra Jet. It rumbles to life easily and pulls with an endless well of torque that will absolutely incinerate those skinny vintage Goodyear tires.
The chassis looks exactly factory correct as well. Starting with red oxide primer on the floors, just like every Mustang built from Day One, the Bright Yellow paint has been blown in, just like on the assembly line. The C6 automatic has been rebuilt and, like the engine, is correct for a Shelby GT500KR. Out back, there's a bulletproof Ford 9-inch rear with 3.00 gears inside, fully detailed with a black housing and red oxide center section. Original factory markings have been reproduced, from the driveshaft balance stripes to the torque markings on the suspension bolts. The original factory convertible reinforcements are in place, an exact reproduction exhaust system has been installed, complete with correct tips. A new gas tank hangs out back, while the brakes and suspension have been fully rebuilt. Gorgeous 10-spoke Shelby alloy wheels carry Goodyear bias-ply tires, although it appears that the spare is an original NOS piece.
According to the experts at Custom Classics, the interior is original Ford, and not a reproduction kit. We already know it can't be original to this particular car, but that first restoration using a donor vehicle resulted in an absolutely spectacular black vinyl interior. The seats are deep and comfortable, and I'm inclined to agree with Custom Classics in their assessment—the reproduction seat covers don't have pleats that are as deep as those on an original car, and these sure look authentic. The Shelby Cobra logo on the center armrest is crisp and clear and not overstuffed-looking like the reproductions, and the woodgrain on the dash and center console is excellent. I have to believe the carpets are reproductions, and they are correct in material and pile, and are protected by a set of rubber floor mats. The rim-blow steering wheel must also be a restored piece, because it's just too nice. The gauges have clearly been rebuilt, with crisp markings, deep black backgrounds and brilliant orange pointers.
Documentation includes an original owner's manual, Deluxe Marti Report, as well as dozens of restoration photos provided by Custom Classics. The car is listed in the SAAC Registry with a known ownership history, and the original photos at the scrap yard include photos of the original Shelby fender tag, which matches the one currently on the car—there are no forgeries here.
We also have a letter from Jim Wicks, SAAC Regional Director and Event Chairman, who authenticated the car in January 2007, which says:
“…I have examined and inspected the above listed vehicle on several occasions in the process of the restoration. In a world of many “clones” and “recreations” I feel strongly that this car is XXXX-03900, the 3900th 1968 Shelby Mustang built for 1968. I feel this vehicle has received a high-quality restoration and could be considered for anyone's investment grade collection, display, or museum…”
In summary, this is a thoroughbred Shelby with a concours-quality restoration. The parts are correct in every way possible given the car's unique history. As far as investments go, it's awfully hard to beat a Shelby GT500KR convertible with a special-order color and a ton of options—our own Speed Yellow 1968 GT500KR fastback brought $175,000 at Barrett-Jackson in 2008, and that car had a custom paint scheme and modified suspension, so blue chip doesn't even begin to cover this convertible's status! To add your chapter to this car's fascinating history, all you need to do is call.
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