Sure, the winning bidder would have to wait a while to claim his or her car, but they’d get to do it right at the assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich. Oh, and there might also be some other perks of winning the bid.
Amazingly, neither Ford nor Barrett-Jackson would make any money off this car. Ford was donating the car, and Barrett-Jackson was forgoing its usual fees because the car was being auctioned to raise money for charity, in this case, for the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation.
This new 2007 Shelby GT500 was a modern interpretation of the legendary GT500, a car Shelby launched in 1967. As a prototype for the production car rolled into position on the block in early 2006, Shelby himself was there along with Edsel Ford II — the great-grandson of Henry Ford, the grandson of Edsel Ford and the son of Henry Ford II. The two had first met at LeMans when Edsel II was 16 and traveling with his father, sometimes called Hank the Deuce.
Back in the 1960s, Shelby and Hank the Deuce were both more than ticked off at Enzo Ferrari. But with his Ford-powered Cobras, Shelby would beat not only Ferrari’s best but also Chevrolet’s heralded Corvette in production sports car racing. With the Ford GT40 program, he also helped Ford beat Ferrari at LeMans. Shelby and Ford also worked together to soup-up Ford’s Mustang and turn it into a winner on the race track and on the street.
At the North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit in January 2003, Ford had unveiled the Mustang GT concept car, a car that immediately reminded everyone who saw it of the famed Mustangs of the past, the fastback cars Shelby and his team had turned into a national racing champion.
This new Mustang concept was retro done right, just enough heritage styling cues in a thoroughly contemporary package.
As it turned out, the Mustang GT concept car was not only a precursor to a new-generation Mustang, but with a supercharged V8 engine under its hood, it was actually a preview of what Ford would roll out for the 2007 model year as the Shelby GT500.
In 2003, the Ford Motor Company celebrated its centennial by launching the Ford GT, a GT40-inspired, street legal and modern Supercar. Once the car was on the road, several of the engineers who had worked on the Supercar turned their attention to a supercharged Mustang.
Ford had consulted with Shelby while developing the GT and sought his expertise as well for the souped-up Mustang that would bear his name.
Shelby was sent early design sketches for the car and later was invited into the design studio to see clay models. He helped make sure that design elements weren’t done merely for aesthetics, but for dynamic function.
“Carroll can look at a car and tell if it’s fake,” said one design studio staffer. “He validated that we were giving the customer the total package, both in function and in the aesthetically pleasing look.”
“Carroll was really involved from early on,” said one Ford engineer, who noted that Shelby participated in test drives and convinced the Ford team that the suspension needed even more stiffening and larger rear wheels and tires than called for in early designs.
Not only did Shelby suggest those changes, the engineer said, “but Shelby was really instrumental in pushing [the changes] within the Ford Motor Company’s management. He’s very well respected. That respect gives him more influence.”
Both the vehicle engineer and the design staffer also said it meant a lot to the team to have its work validated by none other than Shelby, the living legend.
When the Shelby GT500 was introduced as a 2007 model, it was the most powerful factory-built Mustang in history. Like the Ford GT, the GT500 was powered by a 5.4-Liter V8 engine.
The original Shelby GT500 Mustang in 1968 drew its energy from a normally aspired 7.0-Liter (428cid) V8 that pumped out 360 horsepower and 420 ft/lb of torque.
The engine in the 2007 Shelby GT500 displaced only 5.4 liters (330cid) but was supercharged to 500 horsepower and 480 ft/lb of torque.
The first one of those new GT500s would be sold, not by a Ford dealer, but at Barrett-Jackson, with proceeds going to Shelby’s foundation to benefit children, especially children who needed organ transplants. Shelby himself had been a transplant recipient as an adult and had a special affection for others who needed such drastic medical treatment, especially the youngest of patients.
The bidding for that first GT500 was not only spirited, but the numbers grew substantially. Finally, the hammer fell — at an astounding $648,000.
Ford was so thrilled with that bid that it invited the winning bidder — Ron Pratte, a Barrett-Jackson customer known for his high bids on vehicles to support worthy charities — to tour the Flat Rock assembly plant and get his car. Ford also told Pratte he could bring along Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis and Vice President of Consignment Gary Bennett, who could each buy a low-VIN GT500 at Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, and Pratte could also buy two more at the MSRP — a coupe and a convertible.
“When Ron bought the first GT500, he paid a zillion dollars for it,” Bennett said. “It was an amazing thing he did for charity, and Ford ponied up and said, ‘You did so much for us, we’ll let you buy the others for sticker.’”
While Pratte is keeping the car with VIN No. 1, he is selling the orange coupe and convertible as a set.
“The cars were specially serialized sequentially,” Bennett said. “In the past, when they did a new run, the first 50 or so cars were consumed by the Ford family and senior executives or by other people on a selective list.”
For the GT500, not only would Pratte, Davis and Bennett be on that selective list, but right up at the front.
“We made a tour of the factory and there they were, our cars, lined up at the end of the assembly line,” Bennett recalled. “Carroll signed the cars and presented us with the keys. He got his GT500 at the same time.”
— By Larry Edsall