1969 Shelby Mustang

1969 Shelby Mustang

Story and photos by Cam Hutchins

If you went to any car shows or cruise nights over the past decade, it would seem that Muscle Cars certainly are King! They had their day and made a huge impression on Carnuts everywhere, but their time in the sun was actually very short in the history of performance cars. By 1969, after only a little more than half a decade, the pressure from the government and the insurance companies certainly made it harder for the younger set to buy new Muscle Cars.

Trying to appeal to the older more refined buyer, with money, meant the muscle cars were becoming more comfortable, with many offering automatic transmissions and air conditioning. The era of “personal luxury cars” was just around the corner; emissions controls weakened the power of the muscle car, and sales were dwindling.

The cars offered by Shelby were getting more and more luxurious and much less suited for the track, and sales were slowing. Carroll Shelby was so disappointed in what was going on, he washed his hands of his involvement in car building, and headed to Africa. This 1969 Shelby GT 350 was an amazing car that unfortunately had very little to do with Carroll Shelby’s desires. Built by Ford and A.O. Smith Corporation of Ionia, Michigan, production had moved from Shelby’s operation in California in

August 1967.  

For 1969, Ford took the design of the new-for-’69 body style in-house and the Shelby’s were now GT-350s but without the word Cobra attached to them, except on the glovebox. The new 1969 Mustangs were dramatically different from the 1967-68 Mustangs and the new Shelby got an incredibly extensive facelift. Not just a fibreglass hood and Shelby-styled grille, the 1969 Shelby’s were lengthened 4 inches (100mm), with new headlight buckets, fibreglass front fenders and the ever-growing hood with five  functioning hood scoops.

The regular Mustang had dual headlights, but Shelby had single headlights and the new Shelby grille was not blocked by round driving lights; the new-for-69 square driving lights were now located under the new wrap-around bumper. Lower air scoops were still present in front of all four wheel openings and were functional. Where the front was lengthened, the rear was shortened with a new fibreglass trunk lid with integrated spoiler. The rear had an aluminum exhaust collector that paired the dual exhaust outlets together beneath the rear bumper and they retained the sequential taillights of previous years

The interior was far more luxurious than the 1965 Boy Racer version Shelby had introduced to the world. Starting with the Deluxe interior package option for the Mustang, the 1969 Shelby’s also got a two-point padded roll-over bar with inertia-reel harnesses and a wood-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel. The dash got a 140-mph speedometer, 8,000-rpm tachometer, and both oil pressure and ampere gauges were located on the console. Optional equipment for the Shelby’s included a tilt steering wheel, forced air ventilation, AM/FM Stereo, 8-Track player, intermittent wipers and a fold-down rear seat.

The performance of the new 1969 Shelby came from the new-for-1969, 351 cu. in. Windsor engine which produced 290 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque. Standard was  a wide-ratio 4-speed stick, or upgrade to the optional FMX Cruise-O-Matic 3-speed automatic. Traction-Lok, Ford’s name for a Limited Slip Differential, was also an option. Included in the Shelby package was a set of Gabriel Adjust-O-Matic shocks and 15×7-inch wheels with Goodyear F60-15 Polyglas GT Tires, bias ply, not radials in those days.

The cars were no lightweights, either financially or on the scale. They weighed in at 3,689 lbs and cost $4,434 for the Fastback, but they did go zero-to-60 in 6.5 seconds and did not embarrass the owner in the quarter mile. Not too bad for a big comfortable car, but they only built 1085 Fastbacks and the $319-more expensive convertible only had 194 built. 

The range of colours was great and with even better names – Candy Apple Red, Gulfstream Aqua, Acapulco Blue Metallic, Royal Maroon, Silver Jade, Pastel Grey,  Wimbledon White and Black Jade. Four “specialty colours” were also offered – Grabber Orange, Grabber Green, Grabber Blue and Grabber Yellow. Interiors offered were White, Black or Red, and it was the three Yellow Fastbacks with black interiors that were sold new at Fogg Motors in New Westminster in 1969 that are the genesis of this story.

Enter a young Bill Smythe, a dashing buyer for the major department store Woodwards and as such, he had the cash to pony up and buy a Shelby. He was driving a ’67 Mustang fastback with a 390, but missed getting a new Shelby at Fogg Motors, the only Shelby Dealer in British Columbia. He was lucky to get to buy a perfect car from Barb Greshmill of Richmond, whose primary use of the car was to drive her kids to private school. The car was in like-new condition and only had 18,000 miles on it. Paying $4,000, Smythe had the world by the tail! He bought it sight unseen after Greshmill‘s husband told Smythe he was going to sell the Shelby since his wife was getting a new car.

Over the next few years, the car was driven everywhere, and every day to work. He put on the miles and in the late ’70s, built himself a new house in Cloverdale, a quaint part of Surrey B.C. Costs being what they always are when building your own house, he went way over budget and when someone offered more than double what he paid for the Shelby, it was gone.

Over the next year, he was heartbroken and needed to buy it back, but the new owner was not going to let that happen. One morning, he came down for breakfast and his young son had circled a classified ad in the paper for a 1969 Shelby. After looking at the mess the car was, he only took it because it was yellow. His dear friend Brian Pisiak, who owned Cloverdale Collision, took one look at the car and said “wash it and sell it.” The car had been ridden hard and put away wrecked. 

Even evidence of a previous accident with a bad repair did not deter Smythe from restoring the car. The car had high miles, showing 6,000 miles on the odometer, meaning  it had probably 206,000 on her, or a really hard 106,000 miles. Once finished, the car was put back in use as a daily driver and was driven to Downtown Vancouver every day, 30 miles each way until Smythe recently retired. The car took the family on summer vacations, ski trips and even successful hunting trips – successful for Smythe, not the white tailed deer he hauled home in the Shelby’s trunk.
Smythe owned two of the three 1969 Yellow GT 350’s Fogg Motors sold, and both were automatics. The third one was a 4-speed and owned from new by a Fraser Valley fellow, and it was primarily driven by his wife. The car remained in great shape until it was sold in the early 1990s and was supposed to have gone to Louisiana. The second car was never raced by Smythe, except by his daughter, who got picked up twice on Latimer Road drag racing, as Latimer was quite the spot to race. The first car, after some aggressive tuning, ran in the low 13’s at the Boundary Bay Airport dragstrip back in the mid 70’s.

Both Smythe’s kids drove the car to high school and were kinder to it than Smythe was to his father’s cars, which seemed to never go past 9,000 miles on a set of tires. Smythe taught his kids how to change the oil and spark plugs and the car was in 35 parades in Cloverdale. Smythe says everyone has driven the car and he reminisced about the first time he met Carroll Shelby at the Shelby American Automobile Club event in 1992 at Portland. Shelby looked over the car and asked “Do you drive your car, Boy?” Smythe was happy to tell Shelby that yes, he drove it to work every day! Another fond memory of the SACC-17 in Portland was the car show, where Smythe won third place in his class, while first place went to his first Shelby that had been restored and trailered to the event!

One fellow who shows up to many SACC events is Allen Grant, who was one of the big players with the “Speed Merchants of Venice,” as the original crew from Shelby American was known as. The Shelby club is known for its strong ties to its members and many become lifelong friends. Langley’s Pete Tekatch had met Allen Grant at many of the SACC events and ended up doing lots of things with Grant and his wife. When Grant was visiting Langley, Tekatch brought Grant over to Smythe’s “car room,” a real treat for a true blue Shelby fan such as Smythe.

The stories of this Yellow car are numerous and many are legendary, but none more so than when it was christened as a Taxi. After a trade show, he drove one of his clients in the Shelby to the airport to drop them off for their flight home. He pulled up to the curb and jumped out to wrestle the suitcases out of the tiny trunk opening “that was half full with one case of beer.” While he shook his client’s hand and got back inside the car, there was a little old lady that had climbed in and requested to be dropped off at an address on Number Three road in Richmond! With a smile and a wink in his eye, he dropped off the lady at her destination, no charge!

Categories: Features, Muscle Car Plus