The GT500 KR “King of the Road” was the Shelby for the street and strip
Shelby’s most famous Mustang-based racers are the GT350s. The high-revving, small-block-powered fastbacks were road-race champions (and Rent-a-Racers!), nearly as fun to watch and hear as they were to drive. However, Shelby knew that there was more to racing and selling cars than simply carving corners on road courses.
Enter the GT500, the more musclebound Shelby, which packed Ford FE V-8 power and 428 cubic inches of displacement that could only come from a larger engine family. If you were a drag racer or just wanted a street car that could hang with the big-blocks on the boulevard, the GT500 was your Shelby-shaped ticket.
For 1968, Shelby beefed up the GT500 with the top-of-the-line Mustang suspension as well as power steering and brakes, improving the latter with larger rear drums and shoes. The instrument cluster was upgraded with an 8000-rpm tachometer, and, of course, there were a host of cosmetic changes. A reshaped face created a new grille opening and it was matched with a fiberglass hood and decklid. Scoops on the hood were joined by the scoops on the C-pillar and quarter panel. The tail panel received lights from a 1965 Thunderbird and they looked like a natural fit.
Under the hood, Shelby added a strut brace, but the real magic was in the big dose of horsepower and torque. The standard GT500 came with a 428 rated at 360 hp while the GT500 KR, for King of the Road, packed a 428 Cobra Jet with high-flow heads that are immediately recognized by their four manifold bolts per exhaust port. The Cobra Jet was rated at 335 hp, but that wasn’t fooling anyone, the King of the Road was a serious performer and its output was likely in the low 400-hp range, on par with the high-performance 7.0-liter V-8s of competitors. Its valve covers proclaimed “COBRA LE MANS” to highlight Ford’s triumph over Ferrari, just in case anyone had forgotten the back-to-back wins in 1966 and 1967 with the FE-powered GT40.
This candy apple red GT500 from Hagerty member Billy Espich is a great example of the more muscular Shelby. It has its original engine, suspension, and interior, and is a virtual time machine with original assembly markings on the undercarriage. It’s equipped with a four-speed manual transmission and has a limited-slip differential to help make the best use of its tire-frying torque. The unrestored car has just a few traces of rust under the carpet and is missing its air conditioning system, although is almost totally complete otherwise. Espich has done some work to undo a few modifications, including a return of the correct 1968 intake manifold, but the original carburetor has been replaced with a functionally identical Holley.
Espich is asking $175,000 for his GT500 KR, which puts the price between #1 (Concours) and #2 (Excellent) value. This could be a great weekend driver for the Shelby fan looking for the right muscle car to prowl the streets for 427 Corvettes or Hemi E-bodies.
Beautiful car! I always wanted one.
Well, Mega-Millions is tonight…
A lot of period-correct restorations are dynoing the standard 428 CJ at over 400 at the wheels. I’d have to assume the high-flow 428 CJ KR version there, if not higher.