Mathieu Heurtault, courtesy of Gooding & Company
  • Well-optioned example of the GT500 KR
  • Finely preserved and largely original
  • Finished in era-evoking Lime Gold
  • Recently serviced and collector owned
  • Documented by Marti Report, maintenance records and copies of factory build sheets

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 Shelby GT500 KR Convertible
Years Produced:1968
Number Produced:517 (KR)
Original List Price:$4,594
SCM Valuation:$160,800
Tune Up Cost:$350
Distributor Caps:$295 (NOS)
Chassis Number Location:Tag riveted to driver’s side inner fender
Engine Number Location:Pad on the back of the block, driver’s side
Club Info:Shelby American Automobile Club
Alternatives:1968 Yenko Camaro 427, 1968 Ford Mustang GT 428 CJ, 1968 Mercury Cougar GT-E 427
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 8, sold for $116,600, including buyer’s premium, at the Gooding & Company auction on Amelia Island, FL, on March 10, 2017. It was offered without reserve.

The cover of the October 1968 issue of Car Life magazine asked the question: “Shelby’s GT500 KR — was it worth stealing?” It seems the car promised them by Ford was stolen just before delivery. It was recovered but so badly damaged that another Shelby had to be brought in.

The 1968 Shelbys looked worth stealing, with new fiberglass front fenders, hood, and grille surround bringing the Mustang’s appearance up a big notch. There were new convertible versions of the GT350 and GT500, too, with a stylish integral roll bar. Then there was the GT500 KR, or “King of the Road,” which replaced the GT500 when the 428 Cobra Jet engine became available on the Mustang. Shelby still designed the upgrades and specified the equipment, but the reviewers noted “every year the Shelby Mustang is a little less Shelby and a little more Mustang.”

Part of the problem was Shelby no longer built the cars. In 1965, Shelby built just 521 street GT350 Mustangs and 36 GT350 R racers in the car’s first year, but in 1966, that jumped to 2,378 units. Keeping up with the demand was challenging Shelby American, and they had quality issues with the fiberglass parts, with much hand reworking required.

When the spectacular 1967 GT350 and new 428-powered GT500 were unveiled, sales soared even more. Then in late 1967, Shelby American lost the lease on their two large buildings at Los Angeles International Airport due to runway expansion. “Even if our lease hadn’t expired, we did not have the capacity at the airport to build the number of Shelbys that Ford wanted to sell,” said Shelby American’s General Manager at the time, Peyton Cramer.

For 1968, the Shelby Mustangs would be built at A.O. Smith, a large automotive supplier in Ionia, MI (ironically, they supplied Corvette bodies at one time). From here on, Shelby Mustangs were built by Ford. Carroll Shelby was too busy running Ford’s Le Mans-winning endurance-racing operation to care much, and Shelby American was expanding into the Trans-Am and Can-Am series for Ford.

King of the Road

The original 428 engine was nothing great, but the Cobra Jet benefited from heads and intake derived from the Le Mans-champion 427 “Side Oiler.” Ford still rated it at 335 hp (wink, wink), but with a street-friendly 3.50:1 rear gear, Car Life saw 0–60 in 6.9 seconds and tamed the quarter-mile in 14.57 at 99.55 mph. Handling was good, but with that big lump of cast iron under the hood, it was a difficult proposition to manage without bone-jarring suspension. Unlike previous Shelby Mustangs, this year they chose a softer ride.

Owning a Shelby GT350 or GT500 put you in an exclusive class. Only select Ford dealers sold them, and the price put them out of the reach of most prospective buyers — $4,472 for the GT500 KR fastback, $4,594 for the companion convertible. Still, was it worth stealing? Car Life responded, “The King of the Road will wow the neighbors, cover ground and make drivers of ordinary Mustangs eat their hearts out. Well worth stealing.”

Shelby’s magazine ad described the KR as “for the man who wants everything in one car.” This really was truth in advertising. Previous Shelbys chose raw performance over creature comfort. Then the KR model disappeared in 1969 and the cars had almost no input from Carroll Shelby. The ‘69 sold so poorly that many were converted into 1970 models to finally get rid of them.

That’s precisely why the 1968 GT500 KRs are among the most valuable Shelby Mustangs on the market — they hit that sweet spot of performance, comfort and style.

The rare and historically significant 1965 GT350 models command top dollar, especially the 36 GT350 R racers built for SCCA competition. But good GT500 KR Shelbys, especially the rare convertibles (517 built), have broken $300k at sale time. The current median price, as listed in the 2017 ACC Pocket Price Guide, is a much lower $160,800.

Not all that glitters is Lime Gold

Considering all that, why did our feature GT500 KR ragtop sell for $116,600? It has good credentials throughout, but there are any number of issues that can pop up that might limit value on a car like this. It’s an automatic, and it is lacking some options such as 10-spoke wheels and air conditioning. But here, one factor stood out above the others — color.

The Code I “Lime Gold Metallic” paint is truly polarizing. Personally, I really like it and wouldn’t mind this car in my garage one bit. But I can understand many potential buyers holding out for a different color such as Acapulco Blue or red.

Still, is a Lime Gold Shelby GT500 KR worth that much less than one of another color? At least on this day, it looked that way. At almost $200k below the best of the best and well under the current market median, I’d call this Shelby a steal of a deal for what it was — and well worth the price paid.

(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)