Shelby G.T. 500 Prototypes Found and Restored

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In October 2014, the French Lick Resort (IN) Concours d'Elegance included the Shelby marque in their field of cars. This white glove and sport jacket event drew top Shelby entries, along with many restorers, owners, enthusiasts, and business people. George Huisman (Michigan) and Ed Meyer (Indiana) were discussing a car that had surfaced in the Detroit area, a 1969 Shelby G.T. 500 convertible. Tony King (Montana) overheard that conversation and expressed some interest. Jason Billups (Oklahoma) was in attendance to help judge. Jason's shop counts Tony as a good customer, plus Jason and Ed have collaborated on numerous restorations.

A few months went by and people kept in touch. While traveling in March 2015, Tony got word that this car was available. He immediately changed his plans, re-routed to pick up Jason, and then Ed, and proceeded to Detroit. By now, enough was known about this car that Ed would miss his 60th birthday party to be part of the acquisition. The trio conducted an inspection, which produced some factory paperwork, plus some very interesting features, and were satisfied. With the transaction concluded and an evening of celebration, the car was loaded into Tony's horse trailer (no kidding). He dropped off Ed (now a year older) and drove on to deliver his new project to Jason's shop, Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma.

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-quarter side scoops-left was functional; right was non-functional
-radio antenna is square-base style
-120 MPH speedometer dated August 2, 1968
-unique roll bar tubular shape dated September 23, 1968
-1968 style Stewart-Warner console gauges
-power windows-Cougar sourced components-front motors dated June 14, 1968 and rear motors dated July 27, 1968
-Unique rear interior quarter trim fiberglass panels-vinyl wrapped
-Front carpet with driver toe pad

-Mustang origin leaf springs-pre-Shelby production version

-early flat-top style solenoid
-pre-production sequential tail lamp wiring

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The 1969 Shelby prototypes

According to Marti's records searches, four Mustangs were ordered from the Dearborn plant by Shelby Automotive (SA) on July 21, 1968 (Sunday): two convertibles, delivered as GT models, and two SportsRoofs, delivered as Mach 1 models.

These GT convertibles were: one Raven Black with white deluxe interior, and the other Gulfstream Aqua with black deluxe interior; both came equipped with Q-code 428 Cobra Jet engines, C6 automatic transmissions, Traction-Lok differentials, and tilt column.

These Mach 1 SportsRoofs were: one Raven Black with black interior and one Gulfstream Aqua with white interior; both came equipped with Q-code 428 CJ, C6, Traction-.
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One of the goals of this restoration project was to find out as much as possible about not only 2336, but these other prototype/development cars. In the process, Jason and Don have now had their hands on all four, with some surprising discoveries along the way.
Before Jason and Don left that day, a deal was struck for Tony to purchase 2338. In April 2016, 2338 was beside 2336 in Jason's shop—two of the four 1969 Shelby prototype cars, not only found, but united—thus enabling valuable, further understanding of pre-production features.

SAAC records include mention of 2339, the aqua SportsRoof. The last known owner was listed in Ohio, but efforts to locate that owner lead nowhere. Evidence surfaced that 2339 was in Oklahoma back in the late 1980s and to Don's surprise he knew the owner. Don persisted, chasing leads, and finally it was located. The owner invited Jason and Don to examine 2339 in July of 2016. The chain of ownership revealed another owner in the mid-1980s whom Don knew as well. There is evidence that this prototype was brought to both SAAC-15 and SAAC-24. Now, all three of the (likely) remaining 1969 Shelby pre-production development prototypes had been studied. NOTE: Following this photo shoot of 2336, contact continued with the owners of 2339. In late March 2017, 2339 was also purchased by Tony King. Interestingly, SA documents from SAAC archives show 2339 to be a rear disc brake development vehicle. So, all three of the prototypes are together again after almost 50 years

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Don photographed and documented every step of the disassembly. Any variation from production characteristics was scrutinized and recorded. Component dates, engineering numbers, fasteners, body panels, interior parts, paint coatings, etc.—everything was given attention. The fiberglass components on these pre-production cars are particularly unique because each piece was hand laid. Production fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) was a more sophisticated process. It was remarkable to be able to see actual hand-laid versions had survived, with their nuances. Chris Engemann, who was an A. O. Smith designer, suggests that probably no more than 10 sets (a typical batch) of the early hand-laid fiberglass were ever made. Chris loaned his original engineering blueprint of the 1969 Shelby hood for study and documentation. This drawing is a marvel at 42 inches wide by 17 feet long.

While studying the decklid of 2336, some unique characteristics were noticed about the corners of the weatherstrip. At the same time, it was quite surprising to discover aqua paint under the edge of that weatherstrip. Don took pictures of those details, plus a full view of the bottom of the 2336 lid which clearly showed tDon photographed and documented every step of the disassembly. Any variation from production characteristics was scrutinized and recorded. Component dates, engineering numbers, fasteners, body panels, interior parts, paint coatings, etc.—everything was given attention. The fiberglass components on these pre-production cars are particularly unique because each piece was hand laid. Production fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) was a more sophisticated process. It was remarkable to be able to see actual hand-laid versions had survived, with their nuances. Chris Engemann, who was an A. O. Smith designer, suggests that probably no more than 10 sets (a typical batch) of the early hand-laid fiberglass were ever made. Chris loaned his originalhe hand-laid fiberglass.

Around this same time in early 2015, Jason learned of Ford archive photographs that were on-line. Most of the 1969 Shelby photos were of a convertible with black interior. Peter Disher lent his keen eye to these photos, and believed along with Jason and Don that these pictures were of 9F03Q102337, the Gulfstream Aqua prototype convertible. Jason had confided to Pete about the aqua paint discovery on the 2336 black deck lid. Pete asked for an identical 2336 picture as the one of the rear view of the archive convertible, which showed its trunk deck lid open. By magnifying both photos, Pete concluded that it was the very same deck lid in each photo. The weatherstrip characteristics were the same, not really a surprise. However, Pete pointed out that the distinct "slop" pattern of the laid fiberglass was identical; much like a fingerprint. Since each deck lid was individually made, it is highly unlikely that any two would have the same slop pattern. Jason and Don agreed with Pete's findings. Upon carefully removing two layers of black paint, the original base color was indeed Gulfstream Aqua. According to Ford archive evidence, 2336 actually had the trunk lid from 2337. This raised big questions: what would have happened for 2337 to give up its trunk lid? There were only two prototype convertibles, so does this mean that 2337 was parted out and if so, why? The other question of what happened to the 2336 original black decklid also loomed.

The availability of the Fordimages.com archive photographs of 2337 helped immensely to produce an accurate 2336 restoration. Take the engine bay for instance. When magnified, the dates of the spark plug wires were visible; the decals were legible; the 1968-style Midland brake booster was obvious; the air breather assembly had unique features; close examination of the early "snake" valve covers; various engine compartment components; unique fender design; unique grill design; unique hood design; the unexpected "dummy"/non-functional exhaust pod/port; the 1968 KR spare tire and wheel; and on and on. Numerous unique, pre-production features in those pictures confirmed what was found on 2336.

Surprisingly, the factory convertible vinyl top and 8D (August 1968 dated) folding window glass was still on 2336. One of the toughest decisions Jason had to make was to replace that top. It likely wouldn't survive removal and re-installation and it certainly wouldn't compliment fresh paint. Don carefully removed it from the top frame, documenting details. Jason had an exact new top custom made using the original as a pattern, incorporating the original folding rear window glass.

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