The 1967 Shelby Mustang
If a 390 Mustang wasn't exciting enough, you could always count on Carroll Shelby, who offered two ways to go-go for '67. Typical of the man, he again one-upped Dearborn by stuffing in a bigger big-block, the 428 "Police Interceptor," for what he called the GT-500. The GT-350 returned with a Shelby-tuned 289 minus the steel-tube headers and straight-through mufflers, which reduced horsepower even though horsepower was still advertised at 306. Though stock '67 Mustangs were little heavier than previous models -- base curb weight rose only 140 pounds -- power steering and brakes were now mandatory Shelby options (you still paid extra, but couldn't get a car without them). This was prompted by comments from existing owners that Shelby Mustangs were tiring to drive.
Customer feedback led to other chassis changes. A 15/16-inch front sway bar and stiffer-than-stock springs continued, but Koni shocks gave way to cheaper Gabriel adjustables, and the rear traction bars and limited-slip differential were eliminated in the interest of ride comfort. Tires were upsized to E70315 Goodyears on steel wheels with wheel covers or, at extra cost, 1537-inch Kelsey-Hayes MagStars or Shelby-made cast-aluminum 10-spokes.
Styling was even more "more Mustang," announced by a shark-like fiberglass nose with larger-than-stock grille and a matching hood with a bigger scoop and racing-style tiedowns. A pair of high-intensity driving lamps mounted either dead-center of the grille or at its outboard ends, depending on local laws. Functional scoops adorned the sides (for rear brake cooling) and the roof (for interior air extraction). A special trunklid (also fiberglass) sported a molded-in "lip" spoiler, and wide taillight clusters were borrowed from the Mercury Cougar. In all, it was a busy but arresting package. Inside was a new racing-style padded roll bar with integral inertia-reel shoulder harnesses, plus Shelby-brand wood-rimmed steering wheel, 8000-rpm tachometer, 140-mph speedometer, and Stewart-Warner oil and amp gauges. Tellingly, factory air conditioning arrived as first-time option.
Big Inches, Big Performance
Less muscle inevitably made the GT-350 a bit slower for '67, but the GT-500 more than made up for it. Shelby's big-block employed a cast-aluminum "427" medium-riser intake manifold and two high-flow Holley four-barrel carbs, plus a unique oval-finned, open-element aluminum air cleaner and cast-aluminum valve covers. Like the GT-350, the 500 was available with a "Top Loader" four-speed manual or SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic and axle ratios ranging from 3.50:1 to 4.11:1.
Carmakers were now deliberately understating power figures to avoid the ire of insurance companies, so the GT-500 doubtless packed far more horsepower than its claimed 355. Car and Driver, which timed 6.5 seconds 0-60 mph, said that while the 428 "isn't the Le Mans winner," the GT-500 "does with ease what the old [GT-350] took brute force to accomplish." Motor Trend's four-speed tester did better at 6.2 seconds and blitzed the standing quarter-mile in 15.42 seconds at 101.35 mph. But Road & Track, which reported 7.2 seconds 0-60, said the GT-500 "simply doesn't have anything sensational to offer..." As if to answer that, Shelby built 36 GT-500s with the 427 engine -- which was the Le Mans winner -- cautiously street-rated at 390 horsepower.
Though Shelby Mustangs were still the hairiest pony cars around, performance was now starting to take a back seat to style and luxury because that's what customers wanted and Ford wanted higher sales and profits. Indeed, Dearborn was exerting ever-more control over Shelby operations. Then, too, Carroll himself was increasingly occupied with various Ford racing programs, including development of the GT40s that won LeMans in 1966 and again in '67.
Happily, Ford's heavier hand did produce friendlier Shelby-Mustang prices. The GT-350 dropped more than $600 to $3995. The GT-500 bowed at $4195, about $150 less than 327 Corvette. All this helped boost total production to 3225 for the model year. Significantly, the big-inch version outsold its small-block sister by nearly 2 to 1 (2048 vs. 1175).
Though Shelby-American didn't race its '67s and offered no new R-model for those who might want to, Carroll's crew did prep the Mustang hardtops that gave Ford a second consecutive championship in SCCA's Trans-Am series for pony cars. The issue wasn't decided until the season closer, where Jerry Titus and Ronnie Buckman fended off a factory-backed pack of Mercury Cougars to win the title by a mere two points.
Torrid Sales Pace Cools
Among regular '67 Mustangs, model-year sales dropped some 25 percent from the previous year's level, which was no surprise. The torrid pace of 1965-66 had to end sometime. Besides, Mustang now faced its first real competition. Not only did Chevy have the Camaro, but Pontiac introduced a midyear clone as the 1967 Pontiac Firebird, and Plymouth trotted out a handsome all-new 1967 Plymouth Barracuda that presented a far more serious sales threat than the previous "glassback." There was also doubtless some intramural interference from the 1967 Mercury Cougar. The top-selling hardtop took the biggest year-to-year hit, tumbling to just over 356,000. The convertible and fastback exchanged places on the popularity chart, the former dropping to only about 45,000 units, the latter moving up to over 70,000.
Still, Mustang's model-year sales tally of 472,121 units was hardly bad. In fact, the new styling and more available power allowed the original pony car to way outpace its new imitators -- more than 2 to 1 over Camaro, the closest challenger. lnterestingly, '67 volume was more than double the most optimistic Ford estimates for Mustang's first year.
Ford responded to the new competitive onslaught by advertising Mustang with an even more "hard sell" tone than in '66. Some pitches took a swipe at the ponies-come-lately with Mustang was "Bred First...To Be First!" and "still the original and lowest-priced car of its kind with bucket seats." Other ads urged buyers to "Take the Mustang Pledge!" or "Answer The Call of Mustang" and "Strike a blow for Originality!"
Want to find out more about the Mustang legacy? Follow these links to learn all about the original pony car:
- Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
- America's youth was looking for a car to call its own, and the Mustang delivered. Learn why the sporty, practical, and affordable 1965-1966 Ford Mustang was such a runaway success.
- Sales were lagging, but performance and style were piled on high. Learn how rocky times for the 1969-1970 Ford Mustang resulted in two of the greatest cars in performance history.
- The 1968 Shelby Cobra GT-500KR was no mere Mustang. Check out this muscle car profile, which includes photos and specifications.