1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR 7.0 litre from Australia and New Zealand
Wonderfully stylish, smooth, muscular and powerful - and daily usable
Bear in mind that this is a fully rebuilt car from one year's ownership - absolutely nothing of any note.
This car is now quite firmly my favorite every other day.
The name GT500 here, really ought to stand for guaranteed to get you 500 miles without question.
Before we begin, this is no ordinary run of the mill 1968. This GT50 has been rebuilt to better than factory specs, with much love and careful consideration - with added subtle modifications to the original in various areas undertaken to make it perform better and to be daily drivable.
Number 1 rarity for this car has to be the stark polar white paint, as well the "stripe delete" option that precludes the use of bonnet, roof and twin tail stripes, but leaves the above sill ident stripes intact. They read GT500KR on BOTH sides of the car. This car has been subject of a fully hand rubbed, cut & prep, and has subsequently had a three coat hand applied enamel finish that is next to diamond hard. It is whiter than the original "Wimbledon White" applied to it.
The lower sill decals identify it as a CJ 428 engined Ford - one manufactured in mid 1968 to full KR spec. I firmly believe the 428 CJ to be one of Ford's better engines; it is totally untemperamental in traffic and feels notably torquey lowdown - from right down as low as 1900 revs, and is at its strongest at about 2600 RPM with most of its power made by just 4900-5100 revs with a redline of 5800. Very tractable, & almost "like a diesel" in this regard, and never ever has trouble at startup, even when hot. It is never so much as harsh, even in hard accelerations.
This car has been re-manufactured as air-condition delete to improve its response at the drag strip and out on the road. This car has been put together with watchmaker tolerances. The vehicle has a full set of hand fabricated 4 branch headers to improve its breathing, aided & abetted by a 3 inch exhaust with 2 low restriction sports mufflers per side. It is fairly "grand touring quiet" at moderate throttle openings.
As a C6 automatic car it has the 3.25 to 1 axle not a 3.50 to 1 and has a "Detroit locker" limited slip differential.
It is now fitted with a set of Bilstein gas pressure shocks.
Has the original 10 spoke aluminium Kelsey Hayes wheels polished to a high lustre - and locking lug nuts fitted. Those 15 by 7 inch alum rims have 235 /65 section Goodyears, and you do not want those wonderful wheels stolen.
The car has a "made for Ford" Pioneer brand HiFi, with provision for an original 8 track layout and four speakers. It retains its original power lift fender mounted aerial.
The front standard "disc brakes" have been uprated to "four pot" rotors from the original "two pot" rotors.
The bonnet is wholly in fibreglass, and is a repro panel with the original single per side louvres cut into it.
The carburetter has been changed from "Ford Autolite" to Holley the "cornering carb", and the engine is now ported and polished - wearing the authentic ribbed "Cobra LeMans" heads.
The car also has a slightly warmer Isky cam, as well as a slight timing advance on the original.
ALL the hoses are new, as well as most of the wiring, including the top hose, and these are SS braided.
The engine has recently posted figures of 347 bhp ON the dyno - these are true reading figures taken AT the rear wheels. Tapley torque readings are equally impressive here on this car at 452 lb/ft at just 2700 revs. The original car was rated 355 bhp SAE at the flywheel, and 440 lb/ft at 2600 revs.
The car wears a NON original but true to GT500 option for 1967, a Shelby sourced Nardi 14.5" wood rim steering wheel.
This car recently wears a thicker front anti roll bar, and the revised steering ratio gives just 2.6 turns L to L instead of the original cars 3.5 turns - it retains its power assist.
All new front coil springs are fitted, as are a set of new rear leaf springs; additionally to this, it has some new traction bars to the rear - these traction bars are painted in Hammerite.
The entire exhaust system, headers to tail, is painted in heat resistant engine paint and shows two 3 & 1/2 inch oval outlets.
SB headlamp bulbs are now replaced by brighter 160 watt per side "halogen bulbs" than the original 115 watt on beam.
The entire underside of the car is zinc plated to be impervious to rust.
Under bonnet, there is a new alternator by MSD and the car now has electronic ignition. It runs noticeably smoother than the original, although with the new exhaust, a deeper note than stock.
The petrol tank is an all new item; a 16.8 gallon in stainless.
The wiper blades have been replaced & the wipers now have 3 speeds instead of 2.
The radiator has been replaced by a larger capacity heat resistant aluminium unit, and the jackshaft driven fan removed in preference of a thermo controlled large diameter Kenlowe style 7 blade fan of 17.8 inches in diameter.
Between the exhaust, the newer Isky cam & the jackshaft relieved of the fan to drive, we have released up to 25 hp from this engine - with the result it feels far crisper. The car only runs a single spread bore 735 CFM 4 bbl carb, and not the twin 4bbl setup of the previous year's PI 428. It still runs the self same 10.5 to 1 compression of the original Cobrajet OHV 428 and requires super fuel.
Ford's 500 performance is quite adequate. It comes less gradually than stock, yet never feels overpowering. 0-60 mph is at a crisp 6.3 seconds, even with the C6 automatic and the longer gearing, while the max velocity is now a true 140. The standing quarter disappears at 13.9 secs with "a consistency" and 100 mph comes up in 15.0 secs exactly, with 120 mph coming by in 17.0 secs exactly. This compares favorably to 14.6 seconds and 17.3 to 100 stock. In a word, this car feels STRONG accelerating through the gears.
It also handles in a more balanced fashion F to R than stock, with less understeer, and is more neutral and steady in a turn.
The newer 4 rotor disc brakes are now more fully "up to the job" for longer on the steeper mountain passes of the south island. The headlamps as well now, with 380 watts combined on beam compared to just 230 watts for the original setup.
All of the body shutlines, including the boot and bonnet, are better than it emerged from the factory with, and so is the paint - mail envelope thin, and far more evenly spaced panel to panel than could be normally expected from a mass produced '68, and the finish has a sheen that under lights becomes apparent (even in white) - where you can read your watch in it.
The whole engine feels as if it were rebuilt by hand, with stronger acceleration by a full half second than original. This, despite the automatic and the longer FD gear set.
These cars are quite far from light at about 3560 lb std fueled. This one weighed in at just on 3700 at 3680lb with the stainless tank with its full quota of 17 gallons aboard.
The modded steering now feels sharper and more communicative than your "power assist recirculating ball" setup should, and with the new springs & thicker front anti roll bar, the car sits flatter through bends than the original. The gas pressure shocks help in this, by more quickly returning the car to a "level equilibrium" after a turn. The initial "turn in" is also better than the stock car owing to both the gas shocks, anti-sway, and new springs.
In short this car drives as well as & even better than new, and it was entirely achieved with Ford supplied parts. It now fills its 140 speedo to the brim & delivers exactly as it says on the can - a consummate, stylish, long distance grand tourer.
The comfort weave front seats also have new foam toppers in, and are recovered now in genuine leather & not in Vynide, as is the headlining and the dash top panel.
The spare is a full size aluminium Kelsey Hayes as well.
With a light foot (hard to do) you can even get as high as 16 MPG, allowing up to 160 miles from a 16 gallon tank at 65 mph, though more generally at 90 mph it's about 13 MPG.
Values for these mint 500s have soared over recent years, and we predict the value of this car at about 172,000 NZD or higher, with a 67 GT350 Paxton recently listed at 149,500 NZD. To drive THIS is to experience a 1968 GT500 KR like no other.
In summary then -
I cannot more highly recommend a car like this to those interested in motoring (particularly long distance drives), & only if you know "when and where" to apply the subtle mods to make it even one better! Will it become a near true GREAT to you rather than merely a "very good" driving example of its era? There's no doubt this is a "very well sorted example" of its breed, & you will go a LONG way to find another like it.
In closing -
I will highly recommend the underrated 69 model GT500 as well, although as I have said, and emphasized, both the 67 and 68s are quite my favorite FORD GT500s of this era, & I think Carrol Shelby himself would be well proud of this example, were he alive today to experience it firsthand, both on road, the drag strip, and out on the handling road course, & you cannot say much fairer than that.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 31st October, 2018