In 1967 Carroll Shelby not only partnered with Ford on the GT350 and GT500 he was also the West Coast distributor for Goodyear tires. During production of the GT500’s that year Shelby was approached by Goodyear to take part in a promotional event for its new Thunderbolt line of economy tires.
After throwing around ideas one thing led to another and Shelby agreed to use a GT500, number 544 off the assembly line to be exact. Instead of using the stock police interceptor 428 ci engine found in the GT500, Shelby instructed Fred Goodell, Shelby American’s chief engineer on loan from Ford to prepare a special engine for the GT500 which turned out to be the mother of all 427’s.
The engine of choice was a special lightweight all-aluminum 427, basically the same engine found in the GT40 Mk II that won Le Mans the year before. The engine produced something around 600 horsepower when it was all said and done. The GT500 also included special rear axle, special transmission, one-off Chrome inboard headlight surrounds, unique Le Mans blue hood striping and of course Goodyear Thunderbolt whitewall tires.
When the GT500 was completed with all its upgrades it was shipped to Goodyear’s high-speed test track near San Angelo, TX where a number of journalists were invited to see the 500-mile test run of the new Thunderbolt whitewall tires. Shelby took a few journalists for a few laps around the track and then Goodell drove the 500 mile test averaging 142 mph with a top speed of 172 mph. The test turned out to be a major success as the Thunderbolt tires performed spectacular retaining 97 percent of their original tread.
After the successful tire test run the Super Snake was shipped back to Mel Burns Ford in California where it was put on display. Initial ideas were a limited run of 50 Super Snakes identical to the test car were going to be produced but in the end the GT500’s were deemed to expensive so the idea was scraped. The car eventually was shipped to Dallas where it was purchased by a couple of airline pilots. After several more owners the Super Snake was purchased by current owner Richard Ellis out of Illinois who is a collector of rare Mustangs.
Taking possession of the Super Snake was a dream come true for Ellis who proceeded with what he describes as a “light restoration”, locating the correct wires and hoses for the engine compartment, a period-correct Rotunda fire extinguisher, NOS Shelby 10-spoke wheels and, amazingly, four brand-new Thunderbolt whitewall tires in the proper size.
As Ellis explained in a September, 2011 interview with Auto Enthusiast Magazine, “I wanted to own this piece of Shelby history worse than anything. It was well cared for by its previous owners, but I’ve put a lot of effort into returning it to the state it was in on the day of the tire test.”
The 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake test vehicle is now going up for auction at Mecum’s Indianapolis auction on May 14-19 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Enjoy a video below of the day the GT500 did the tire test.