The collector’s market for vintage Ford Mustangs received an unexpected jolt over the weekend when a one-off 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake went for $2.2 million at a Florida auction, doubling pre-show estimates to become the most expensive Mustang ever sold.
As its price and rarity would indicate, the Super Snake is no ordinary pony car. Carroll Shelby originally built it for Goodyear to use in a high-speed test the company arranged to promote its new line of Thunderbolt tires. The event would involve hours of sustained, high-speed driving on a track—so what better to power the Mustang than a 427 racing engine from the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40?
That 427 V-8 was rebuilt with additional aluminum parts and tuned to 520 horsepower, a number that still holds up over a half-century later. It was specifically designed to run at 6,000 rpm for long periods of time. A 2.73 rear axle, strengthened transmission, stiffer shocks and springs, and upgraded cooling round out the changes from a stock Shelby Mustang.
What did all that do for performance? Running on its overinflated-yet-skinny Thunderbolt tires, the Shelby GT500 Super Snake topped 170 mph in Carroll Shelby’s hands and went on to average an astounding 142 mph during the official 500-mile test at Goodyear’s oval track in Texas without a hiccup.
For what it’s worth, the tires held up fine, too. But Shelby was already thinking bigger, trying to figure out how to turn the one-off test car into a limited production run of world-beating Mustangs. Unfortunately, the cost of building each model proved prohibitive in the end, and the single ’67 Super Snake was sold into private hands shortly thereafter.
The car passed through several owners over the years; used for drag racing, it eventually racked up 26,000 miles before undergoing what’s described as a “light restoration” at the hands of Mustang collector Richard Ellis in the mid-2000s. In 2013, the car set the previous record for most expensive Mustang when it sold for $1.3 million.
Reproductions exist—and now, so does the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500—but as Mecum notes in the listing, there is only one Super Snake. The fact that it’s nearly doubled in value in the last six years suggests the market for vintage American cars is still surprisingly hot amid an industry-wide cooldown. Then again, snake bites can have strange effects.