Ford and Shelby built many special-edition Mustangs back in the day, but none is as menacing as the GT500 Super Snake. Based on the already potent GT500 with 355 horsepower and numerous performance upgrades, the Super Snake went on to become the quickest and most powerful Mustang built by Carroll Shelby before he parted ways with FoMoCo in the late 1960s.
Much like the Cobra Super Snake, the Mustang Super Snake was designed as the “GT500 to end all GT500s” and it’s arguably the rarest Mustang you can buy nowadays. And that’s because Shelby built only one due to limited interest on the market.
The story of the Super Snake began with the big-block, 427 cubic-inch V8 that Ford developed for racing purposes. Having seen great success on NASCAR tracks and at Le Mans under the hood of the Ford GT, Dearborn started to see potential for a road-going version of the FE-series powerplant.
Don McCain, Shelby’s West Coast sales representative and the man responsible for the GT350’s drag car program, drafted a GT500 project with the race-spec 427 instead of the 428 “Interceptor” engine. Shelby nodded his approval and McCain selected a white 1967 GT500 as a prototype.
The mule was immediately given a unique appearance by means of distinctive racing stripes (triple instead of double) and a redesigned grille for improved air cooling. The 427 V8 was also altered for the Super Snake, gaining lightweight, aluminum-made heads, a single-carb intake, front cover, water pump, and forged pistons.
Valvetrain gear included a bespoke 7,000-rpm kit featuring lighter valves, a larger crank, and heavy-duty connecting rods, while a large-capacity oil pan with a remote oil filter and cooler was added for increased high-rpm durability. The engine was fed by a massive 780-cfm Holley four-barrel and cranked out 520 horsepower, a significant 165-horsepower increase over the “standard” GT500.
Most other components remained stock, being sourced off Ford and Shelby shelves, including the front brake discs, Top Loader four-speed transmission, and the Detroit Locker differential with 4.11:1 gears.
Exceptions included the Traction-Master traction bars in the back and the special Goodyear Thunderbolt tires. Specially made for this car, the rubber was tested by Carroll Shelby himself at Goodyear’s test track in San Angelo, Texas.
During testing on the five-mile high-bank, the Super Snake averaged 142 miles per hour for 500 miles and reportedly hit a top speed of 170 miles per hour, the highest of any Mustang back then.
But despite these impressive results, the first Shelby to use the 427 V8 engine didn’t draw the attention McCain had hoped for. Although he planned a 50-unit run of the Super Snakes through Mel Burns Ford, the idea was abandoned after the prototype sat unsold on the lot for a year, mainly due to its hefty $7,500 price tag.
The Super Snake was eventually purchased by two airline pilots in 1968. Although a few Shelby GT500s did receive 427 engines through dealer installations, McCain’s chassis no. 544 was the only authentic Super Snake built until Shelby revived the nameplate in 2007.
The revival cars had 605-horsepower, supercharged engines standard and upgrades with “over 725” horses were available. Shelby also launched a Prudhomme Edition Super Snake package for 2007-2010 Shelby GT500 cars. The Super Snake was upgraded to 750 horsepower standard and 800 horsepower optional in 2011, before a limited-edition, 50th Anniversary model was launched in 2012.
The final Super Snake package for the fifth-generation Mustang had 850 horsepower in 2013 and 2014. The Super Snake returned once again in 2015 on the fully redesigned, sixth-generation Mustang. Unlike its predecessors, which were based on higher-performance version of the Mustang, the latest Super Snake is built around the standard GT model.
The original 1967 GT500 Super Snake has survived to this day and it is part of a private collection after changing owners for a whopping $1.3 million in 2013.
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