If you pay under $100,000 for an authentic 1967 Shelby G.T. 500 these days, you’re doing pretty well. It’s not at all uncommon for nice examples to tickle the quarter-million mark at auction. Rare and exclusive to begin with, Shelbys have only gone up in value as the young men and women who wanted one when they were new have now reached the peak of their disposable income and free time. A Shelby like this was the dream of every Fordophile teen in the late ’60s, but they only built 2,050 of them, so they’ve always been an exclusive car.
Not every 17-year-old in 1967 could own a new Shelby G.T. 500, either, but John Briggs could. That’s because his mother, Mitzi Stauffer Briggs, was an heir to the Stauffer Chemical fortune and could easily afford the $4,714.67 sticker price. His father, also named John, had flown fighter planes during World War II. Perhaps unsurprising, then, that the big-block pony car seemed a perfect fit for the teenager with both money and a taste for high performance. Maybe it was, as that teen went on to become an adult who regularly competed in the Formula 2, Formula 5000, Formula Atlantic, and Can-Am racing series before his untimely death from leukemia at age 46 in 1996.
A G.T. 500 was a lot of car for any driver, thanks in large part to the 355-hp, 428-cu.in. “Cobra Le Mans” V-8 — an FE-series big-block topped with two four-barrel carburetors. The ’500 only became possible for the 1967 model year because Ford had widened the engine bay in the Mustang to accommodate the FE-series 390 in its GT models. Shelby recognized immediately that where a 390 fit, so would go a 427 or 428. The milder, more streetable 428 got the nod for all but three special 427 powered 1967 GT500s that left Shelby American.
As a part of the package, Shelby also included additional cooling, a suspension beefed up for handling, a special steering wheel, a deluxe interior, an integrated roll bar, a remote mirror, a tach, and additional gauges to monitor oil pressure and amps. The G.T. 500 also included power steering, power disc brakes, shoulder belts, a radio, and a fold-down rear seat. The four-speed was a no-cost option and California emissions equipment was mandatory.
Right off the lot, Car and Driver discovered a G.T. 500 was capable of 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and a quarter-mile run in just 15 seconds at 95 mph. Box stock, it was a highly capable machine and a flourishing aftermarket existed to make any muscle car even more muscular.
Despite its impressive equipment list and the current desirability of all things Shelby, young John didn’t keep his G.T. 500 long, selling it to the family gardener, Joe Tanouye, for $1,500 in August 1969. In the two years he owned it, however, John made extensive use of the car, road racing it at Laguna Seca (now WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) and drag racing it. He also took advantage of many aftermarket parts for his Shelbyized pony car
A “For Sale” sign discovered in the Shelby during disassembly boasted that the car was capable of accelerating from 0 to 120 mph in 12.5 seconds, thanks to over $6,000 in modifications, including Traction Master bars, an Isky Racing camshaft kit, headers by Doug [Thorley], 4.11 gears, Super-Duty Monroe load-leveler rear shocks, a Hurst shifter, American Racing mag wheels, Goodyear tires (inside rear-wheel arches radiused to accommodate slicks), and a magneto with dual coils. The sign also suggested that the interior had been gutted, though it was included in the sale.
What was missing was the entirety of the California emissions equipment, which prevented Tanouye from ever registering the car for road use during his ownership. Instead, it sat on a paved slab behind his house in Redwood City, California, until 2014. Joe Tanouye had died in 2012 and his son, Nick, put the car up for sale. It was spotted by Ward Gappa, of Quality Muscle Car Restorations LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Ward was impressed with the completeness and low mileage of the old Shelby and acquired it to restore, although it had been “beat to death in its first two years.” That decision was bolstered by the lack of rust and early ownership history, making it what Ward felt was a “good investment.”