My 1968 Shelby Mustang Cobra Jet GT 500 KR Convertible - An American Icon!

In the early spring of 2009 I was looking for a '68 Shelby, and I remembered that I had seen a very good one at the 2007 World of Wheels Show in Chicago. I found my notes on the car and contacted Dennis Neva, the owner. I told him my story and disire to buy a Shelby. He then tells me that he had just decided to sell his, and if I was interested to come and see it. Well I went to see the car and yep, I bought it. The two and a half year frame off restoration was of the highest quality. The attention given to detail and the NOS Parts that were used made this a car to behold. I'm very proud to have this car in my collection.

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1968 Shelby Cobra GT 500 KR Convertible

1968 Shelby Mustang Cobra Jet GT 500 KR Convertible

Scheduled to be built at the Ford plant in Metuchen NJ on May 21, 1968 Kens Shelby KR actually rolled off the line two days late on May 23, 1968.  After a trip to Ionia MI to get the Shelby treatment it was shipped to Jim Aikey Ford in Des Planes IL. (the dealership closed many years ago)

Beginning with that journey from Ionia MI to Chicagoland the virtually flawless KR convertible featured in Kens collection became a rare ONE OF A KIND treasure.

In 1968
4,451 Shelbys were produced 
Of the total GT-500 KRs produced
318 were convertibles
267 were fitted with 4-speed manual transmissions
43 were finished in Candyapple Red paint
38 had Black Décor Bucket Seat Interiors 
25 had white convertible tops
6 came with air conditioners, all 6 were identical.
One (1) of the six was shipped to a dealer in the Midwestern United States. 
THIS IS THE ONE.   

The story of Kens KR convertible could very well begin with the words “once upon a time”.  A time when brute horse power, straight ahead speed and muscle ruled the roads.  This is a glimpse back to that brief 5 year moment time when a legendary racer/car builder joined with Ford to create this 1968 Shelby Cobra Jet GT 500 KR Convertible.

After serving in as a flight instructor during WW II and going bankrupt in the chicken ranching business Carroll Shelby turned to automobile racing and his Legend began.

In August 1964 Ford asked Shelby, the now famous race car driver, to develop a high-performance Mustang fastback to compete in the pony car wars.  The high water mark of this collaboration was reached with the production of the 1968 Shelby Cobra Jet GT 500 KR.  1968 was the only year the KR was produced as a convertible.  From both Shelby's and Ford's standpoint the GT500 KR represented the Mustang's ultimate evolution. The Shelby KR Mustang Legend was born. 

Ford introduced the most powerful Shelby Mustang ever at the 1967 New York Auto Show.  In a way 1967 was the beginning of the end for the Shelbys, at least for the time being.

The 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR was a mid-year introduction, based on the 1968 Shelby GT500. Ford added 'Cobra' to the Shelby's moniker to help usher in the beginning of a new performance era at the company. The Cobra name referred to the new 428 Cobra Jet V-8 that was fitted under the KR's snake like custom fiberglass hood. It was the engine that would once again vault the Mustang to the head of the pack.

The name 'KR' meaning 'King of the Road' was a shrewd marketing move by Carroll Shelby who had learned that Chevrolet was about to unleash a marketing campaign that highlighted the 1968 Corvette as the 'King of the Road.' After a quick copyright search, they found that the 'KR' and 'King of the Road' had not been copyrighted. Stickers, photos, and decals were quickly made by Shelby and his crew and placed on the new GT500. 

This was the first and only year for a Shelby KR convertible. It dressed up the stock Mustang with its unique fiberglass nose panels, fiberglass hood with working scoops, air-extraction vents, decorative bodyside intakes, and a spoilered tail with sequential turn signals borrowed from the T-Bird.

One of the most powerful and famous Shelby Ford Mustangs of all time, the GT500 KR  is probably one of the most desirable of the breed ever and definitely one of the heavyweights of the American muscle car scene. With a massive 7L supercharged V8 engine (the GT500 KR used the new Ford Cobra Jet GT engine) the GT 500 KR embodied the essence of the American muscle car - straight-line, foot to the floor, pedal to the medal power and plenty of it. It is claimed that the 335bhp power figure quoted by Shelby was actually an understatement made to lower insurance costs and that the real power figure is closer to 400bhp. The GT 500 KR has also appeared in the movie Gone In 60 Seconds, where it was modified with a new, chunkier front spoiler and nitrous oxide and was affectionately known as Eleanor.

With its fat tires and suspension tweaks, the GT 500-KR out handled all but pure sports cars. But it weighed more than a Cobra Jet Mustang, and as a drag racer, it was no Hemi-hunter. To most street rivals, however, one look was all it took. "Oddly, the KR's vincibility doesn't matter," observed Car Life. "The car is so impressive, so intimidating to challengers, that there are no challengers. The KR breeds confidence bordering on arrogance."

For the 1969 model year the GT 500 received an extensive face lift, the body alone increasing in length by 4 inches (100 mm). Ford was heavily involved with design and style decisions, with Shelby having very little input.  By this time the government and insurance industry was beginning to “legislate” muscle cars out of existence.  It was all but impossible for manufactures to meet stiff safety and pollution regulations in high performance cars.  Therefore, in September 1969 Shelby terminated his agreement with Ford and The Shelby Mustang project ended and with it the end of an era of automotive history.  Production continued until the parts ran out and 286 leftover '69 models were updated to '70 specifications. 

**


1968 Ford Shelby Cobra

Production Numbers: 
GT350 Fastback: 1,253
GT350 Convertible: 404
GT500 Fastback: 1,140
GT500 Convertible: 402
GT500KR Fastback: 933
GT500KR Convertible: 318
Total:
 4,451
GT500 Notchback Prototype: 1

Retail Prices
GT350 Fastback: $4,116.62 
GT350 Convertible: $4,238.14 
GT500 Fastback: $4,317.39 
GT500 Convertible: $4,438.91 
GT500KR Fastback: $4,472.57 
GT500KR Convertible: $4,594.09 
Power disc brakes: $64.77 
Power steering: $84.47 
Shoulder harness: $50.76 
Fold-down rear seat (Fastbacks only): $64.78 
Radio, AM push-button: $57.59 
Select-O-Matic transmission: $50.08 
Tinted glass (air conditioned cars only-required): $30.25 
Tilt-away steering wheel: $62.18






 

 




Available Exterior Colors

Code

Raven Black

A

Lime Green Metallic

I

Wimbeldon White

M

Medium Blue Metallic

Q

Dark Green Metallic

R

Candyapple Red

T

Meadowlark Yellow

W

Dark Blue Metallic

X

Gold Metallic

Y

Orange

 



 

 

 


Available Interior Trim

Code

Black

6A

Saddle

6F




 

 


Convertible Top Colors
Black
White



 

 


Vehicle Identification Numbers - Shelby 
8 - Last digit of model year 
T - Assembly plant (T-Metuchen) 
02 - Body code (02-fastback, 03-convertible) 
J - Engine code (J-302, S-428, R-428CJ-R) 
000001 - Consecutive unit number 
0001 - Consecutive Shelby production number, 00001 to 04450 
Example: 8T02J000001-00001 

Location
Stamped on plate which is pop-riveted on driver's side inner front fender panel over Ford VIN.

Vehicle Identification Numbers - Ford
Exactly the same as the Shelby VIN but without the consecutive Shelby production number.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mustangspecs.com

 

Convertible Coupe
Chassis Num: 8T03R216159-04390
 

At the 2006 Russo & Steele Auction in Monterey, Ca a 1968 Shelby GT500KR Convertible finished in yellow was offered for sale where it found a new home at the price of $275,000. It is an original car with 54,000 miles on the odometer. It is one of only 318 convertibles constructed and bears the Shelby serial number 4390. It is one of 21 built with special paint and the white convertible top.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006

Convertible Coupe
Chassis Num: 8T03R21331104037
 

Sold for $225,500 at 2007 RM Auctions.

This 1968 Shelby Mustang GT 500KR Convertible was offered for sale at the 2007 RM Auctions held in Amelia Island, Florida where it was estimated to sell between $180,000 - $200,000. The car is powered by a Cobra-Jet 428 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine capable of producing 335 horsepower. There is a Top Loader four-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel power disc brakes. 

The 335 horsepower rating was modest, at best. The engine rating was meant to fool the competition and the insurance agencies. In reality, the engine produced at least 400 horsepower and 440 foot-pounds of torque. This was good enough to combat the Chevelle's on the drag strips. 

Included with the 'KR' were bigger brakes, under-hood suspension bracing, and staggered rear shocks which aided in preventing wheel hop.

There were only 517 examples of the King of the Road constructed. This example is finished in Acapulco Blue with a black interior and white top. Since new, it has been treated to a nut-and-bolt restoration which was done to high standards. Since that time, it has traveled only 2,535 miles. 

The car has been judged 699 points out of a possible 700. It has received the Mustang Club of America Gold Award in the Thoroughbred Class five times. It has won the Premiere Division Concours at Watkins Glen in 1993. It has received many other awards and its one of the greatest examples of the KR in existence.

At auction, the car was popular. Bidding exceeded the estimated value, and a new owner was found for the price of $225,500.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2007

Convertible Coupe
Chassis Num: 8T03R21599104222
 

High bid of $140,000 at 2008 RM Auctions. (did not sell)

This matching numbers car was shipped new on November 31st of 1968 to Gotham Ford in Manhattan. There were only 318 convertibles produced for 1968. It is painted in Lime Gold and features ten-spoke Shelby wheels with proper Firestone tires. The white power convertible top is new and much of the exterior chrome has been replaced. It is equipped with a C-6 automatic gearbox, GT equipment group, Visibility Group, Interior Decor Group power steering, power front disc brakes, and air conditioning. There is also Tilt-Away steering, AM Ford radio, and a tachometer and trip odometer. 

In 2004 it was treated to a restoration that brought it back to its original condition. The car has traveled 89,000 miles since new. In 2008 this 2001 Bentley Azure was brought to the Automobiles of Amelia presented by RM Auctions where it had an estimated value of $175,000 - $225,000. Bidding reached $140,000 but was not enough to satisfy the reserve; the lot was left unsold.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008

During 1968, 4451 examples were produced. 1253 fastbacks and 404 convertibles made up the GT350 model line. The GT500 was available as a fastback or convertible. There were 1140 GT500 fastbacks and 402 GT500 convertibles produced in 1968. 1968 also saw the production of 933 GT500KR fastbacks and 318 GT500KR convertibles. Only one GT500 Notchback Prototype was produced.

In 1969 Ford ended his agreement with the Ford Motor Company. The GT350 and GT500 continued to be sold into 1970 though little was changed. The 1970 models were actually left-overs from the prior year. 

In 2005 at the New York International Auto Show, Ford and Shelby announced their plans for the production of a Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 with sales beginning in 2007. The car will be equipped with a 5.4 liter supercharged eight-cylinder engine with horsepower in the neighborhood of 475. In 2006 the rights to own the first modern Shelby Mustang produced sold at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction for 648,000 with the proceeds benefiting the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006

1968 SHELBY MUSTANG


TYPE

TOTAL PRODUCED

GT350 FASTBACK

1,253

GT350 CONVERTIBLE

404

GT500 FASTBACK

1,140

GT500 CONVERTIBLE

402

GT500KR FASTBACK

933

GT500KR CONVERTIBLE

318

GRAND TOTAL

4,450

 

The total production run was actually 4,451.  The above statistic does not include ONE GT 500 notch back prototype that never went into full production.  (Mario)

It appears that the production numbers for the 1968 KR were revised sometime in the recent past.  The total production of the 1968 Shelby Mustang KR stands at 4,450 (less one prototype notch back that never went into production)

The difference in the production of the KR convertible from 318 to 518 seems to come from the downward revision of the production numbers of the GT 350 Fastback and the GT 500 Fastback and the addition of those production numbers to the GT 500 KR Fastback and Convertible.  This revision accounts for the 200 car production variance of the GT 500 KR convertible.

One account sources the revision to a Mustang Judge named Johnson about 10 years ago.  The reason for the revision from the original Shelby figures was not given.

Since the original production number cited is 318 GT 500 KR convertibles we believe this to be the accurate production number.
Mario 10-5-11

1968 Shelby Mustang Cobra 428 GT 500 KR Convertible

Built at Metuchen
428-4V CJ Engine GT-500KR
Candyapple Red Paint Ford # 2008-A
Black Decor Bucket Seats
3.00 Traction-Lok Aode Ratio
Four-Speed Manual Transmission

Options:

White Power Convertible Top with Glass Backlite
GT Equipment Group
Power Steering
Power Front Brakes
Tilt-Away Steering Column
Air Conditioning
AM Radio
Interior Decor Group
Tinted Glass
   
This car was actually produced on May 23, 1968 - 2 Days Behind Schedule.