Written by Eric Becker
It’s no secret Carroll Shelby loved horsepower. Performance was his business and, in the pursuit of performance, the team at Shelby Automotive explored some truly innovative and often prescient avenues of technology. Always with an eye on tomorrow, Shelby – building on his European racing successes – sought to leverage every avenue of technology to maintain his front-row position. The rare 1968 GT500 EFI prototype presented at the 2021 Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale is a such an example.
The Shelby team experimented broadly with superchargers, independent rear suspension and other technologies that coaxed speed and built performance. One of those technologies truly stood out: The most advanced electronic fuel-injection unit – a multi-port-style setup developed by engineer E. David Long of Consolidated Electric, known as Conelec. Here, the details and backstory matter.
Anticipating what would become standard a decade later, Shelby’s chief engineer, Fred Goodell, experimented with a variety of fuel-injection systems. Realizing the demand for increased performance and the looming requirements for more stringent emission control, Goodell tested both mechanical and electronic fuel-injection systems. To Goodell’s trained eye, the Conelec system stood above the rest. In correspondence with Shelby, Goodell referred to engineer E. David Long as “the greatest electronic engineer I have ever run into.” By 1968, Goodell managed at least four vehicles with this famed fuel-injection system. Three of the first four cars built were designated as fuel-injection test vehicles – and this is one of them.
On offer with No Reserve at the 2021 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction as Lot #1397 is one of the rarest and most unique Shelbys ever, a 1968 Shelby GT500 Factory Engineering car. Purpose-built engineering cars were assigned to the Shelby Engineering Department in Ionia, Michigan, where they were used to test innovative components and features not found on the regular production models. This particular car was used to test the 428 Cobra Jet with the Conelec fuel injection. That alone makes this car one of the most unique GT500s ever built by Shelby Engineering.
Known as Serial #101, this is one of the first 1968 Shelbys built, and features many handmade parts, including many pre-production fiberglass components. The car is believed to be the first GT500 to feature the Ram Air hood later found on KR models. More importantly, it is one of only two functioning Conelec fuel-injection Shelbys – the other being the famed “Green Hornet.’” This Shelby #101, however, is the only Conelec-equipped fastback in existence – a bit of Shelby Royalty, as well as an enduring statement of what was happening within Ford and Shelby American in the prime of the American muscle car.
Rare in provenance, design and execution, #101 can proudly sit as the centerpiece of any Shelby collection. This car was painstakingly restored over a five-year process and brought back to period-correct factory engineering specifications by Pete Disher, who is among the foremost experts on Shelby engineering cars and the Head Judge for 1968 models at the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC). Disher, like Shelby and Goodell before him, thought highly of the Conelec fuel-injection system and has used original blueprints and 3D technology to fabricate identical versions. In fact, Disher went so far as to work with E. David Long’s son, Chris Long, to make sure the system in this car is as period-correct as possible.
Finished in stunning Sunlit Gold over a black interior, the #101 GT500’s original equipment includes air conditioning, a C6 automatic transmission and an AM radio. Additional items tested in its day on #101 include the Sound Package and what Shelby called a “Torque Sensitive Rear Axle” or locking differential.
Shelby did not have a singular example of brilliance, of excellence, of performance – he had several. And without doubt, this is one member of that very royal lineage.
For up-to-date information about this vehicle, click HERE. For a look at all the vehicles headed to the 2021 Scottsdale Auction in March, click HERE.