photo (c) by Paul Ferrara (c) 1968
Jim at Griffith Observatory with Stone, the dog. 
                                                                       By: Patrick Smith
Note: Those of you who read an earlier version of this article probably noticed it has grown and has additions. It's a living project and as I find more info, I add to it. I'm in touch with some serious diggers who are looking hard for this car and I get info sometimes. After 5 years I have decided to post my findings and move onward to other Lost Star Car projects. Special Thanks goes to L Christian Mixon, Paul Ferrara. Tony Funches, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison and Henry Diltz. Thanks to the Doors for their intense visitation of energy in the summer of 1966.

 When Carroll Shelby released the GT500, it was warmly received by car fanatics and hipsters with money. It was double the price of a nice Mustang and hand finished in an ex Los Angeles airport facility Shelby rented. GT 500s were were boutique built cars. Many famous personalities like Lee Marvin and Steve McQueen owned Shelbys. Only 2,050 were made. One of the notorious owners was Jim Morrison, leader of the Los Angeles rock band, The Doors.
Two ladies promoting the all new 1967 GT500.
                                                           Morrison was a troubled individual and didn't adjust well to stardom. As the Doors  created more hit songs besides "Light My Fire", they spent more time on the road performing live. Once the initial thrill of being famous wore off, Jim grew to hate the pop star machinery and discouraged publicity. Ironically, Morrison's views on American society and just about everything brought unwanted attention to him.When "Light My Fire" hit #1 in the music charts, in June, 1967 everyone was thrilled. Jim celebrated by ordering a Shelby Mustang GT500 fastback.
Most Nightmist Blue cars were black interior jobs, a run of 49 were made with parchment. Jim's was one.
 His GT500 was a little unusual in that it came with a parchment interior instead of black, the more common choice for a Nightmist Blue metallic body color. Morrison's GT500 also came with the early production twin driving lamps paired close together in the center of the grille. Later cars used smaller, rectangular lamps to comply with federal regulations. Morrison's car never had stripes or air conditioning either. It did come with the 428 Police Interceptor with dual quad Holley carbs and a four speed transmission. Jim patterned his car after Jay Sebring's ride. Sebring was a famous celebrity hair dresser who owned a '67 GT350.
     Morrison loved the car and called it "The Blue Lady," but he didn't baby it at all. Jim drove it hard and it appears in a movie he produced called "Highway" with Jim doing donuts in the desert and running rough shod on the highway while portraying a deranged character in the film about the dangers of hitch hiking and element of chance meetings.
   Morrison's ownership of the car was shared with the accounting firm who handled the Doors finances. The California State Vehicle Registration shows James Douglas Morrison's name on top with "care of Johnson/Harbrand" below. Johnson/Harbrand was a chartered accounting firm and it exists today as Johnson/Harbrand/Foster/Davis. The registration paper was dated April 30th, 1969 and revealed the licence plate was VRD 389. From this data we know the car still was plated for the first half of 1969. According to "No One Here Gets Out Alive"a Jim Morrison biography by Danny Sugarman and Jerry Hopkins, Morrison crashed his car on Sunset Blvd by hitting a lamp standard. Sugarman's account has Jim walking away from the crash leaving it at the site.

   Further research reveals that the Shelby was repaired and used later in the "Highway" film. There are many rumors about what happened to Morrison's Shelby. The most common myth is that Morrison parked it at an airport hanger where it was stored so long it was eventually towed away and sold. Another story has Morrison crashing the Shelby behind a Wilshire Division police station late at night. Close friends of Morrison, Frank Lisciandro, Babe Hill shared many rides in the car but nothing was mentioned of its fate in "Feast of Friends", Lisciandro's photographic memoir of Jim Morrison. I decided to do some research and rattle a few skeletons in closets.
   When I contacted Jay Foster of Johnson/Harbrand/Foster/Davis, asking if the firm was indeed the same one known as Johnson/Harbrand in 1969, he said "yes." I was inquiring about a registration card listing them as part owners of a company car in 1969. The first question Jay asked me was if it was a Mustang and if I could verify it, he may have some interesting information. A most intriguing answer considering I mentioned nothing about the make, model or Jim Morrison's name! I merely said it was a company car. When I told Jay about the article, there was no further communication on his part. Obviously someone still remembers that car and has keen interest in its whereabouts!
   It gets even better when I come across Bret Matteson's web portal on the Morrison Shelby. Bret provides the basic background info including the usual famous stories. Bret went one further and purchased the registration title of Jim's car. He'd met up with Frank Lisciandro soon after a lady in Phoenix, Arizona called Bret for advice on how to sell "a dead rock star's car." Bret didn't "buy" a car, just the registration paper. The interesting detail is the paper shows the car was still titled and plated at the time. That doesn't mean the car still survived. Those papers are printed up to half a year in advance and survive long after a car perishes.

    I discussed the car with Shelby American Auto Club (SAAC) 1967 Shelby registrar, Dave Matthews. Dave was very forthcoming and believes the car was destroyed by October 1969. Dave has no details on the accident other than as registrar he has never seen a car with Morrison's VIN number appear. The SAAC knows the VIN number and selling dealer so confirming this car would be a snap if it ever appears. The accident time period matches Frank's harrowing account of Jim Morrison crashing the car behind Wilshire LAPD station with Babe Hill, and Frank as passengers.
   The most interesting person I've encountered is Christian Mixon, a film producer, movie actor and former classic car dealer who resides in Texas. Christian is producing a documentary about Morrison's Shelby. It would've been completed years ago had he given in to the money men's demands to sensationalize the film with lurid details of the rock star's life in a Geraldo Rivera manner. Christian's a car nut and he's been interviewing the key figures connected with Jim and the car. Christian's financing it himself so he can achieve the desired result which I understand will focus on the Shelby's known history and be a serious attempt to track its whereabouts. When he was a car dealer, Christian made many star car deals. He offered this perspective on the Morrison Shelby when I interviewed him in July, 2009.
The Morrison Shelby used an early spec twin driving light version grill as seen here.
   "I'd love to believe it's still out there. From all the reports I've gathered, there is no mention of the car after October, 1969. I've sold a few celebrity cars and timing is everything when it comes to flushing them out of hiding. Morrison's Shelby didn't materialize when that Oliver Stone movie on the Doors appeared in 1991. That would've been the ideal time to sell the car. There are a million possibilities on the whereabouts of that Shelby. I've seen car fanatic collections where there were over 200 of the same year, make and model sitting in garages. Some owners forget where and when they bought them. The nice ones are inside and clean, many others sit outdoors or languish in sheds. Morrison's car could be in one of those scenarios."
    As we talked more, Christian brought up another angle, "It may be part of a deceased owner's estate waiting for due diligence and storage payment issues to be handled. I know of a couple of cars in that situation as well. We may never know what happened to it. That just makes it fascinating and we might be sorry to learn the truth." Christian Mixon's documentary is in production at press time and my latest conversation with him reveals he has done more legwork since our 2009 interview. Mixon can be reached at Nth Degree Productions in San Sabas, Texas.

UPDATES: It appears that an unconfirmed report on a Jim Morrison article's comment section has someone saying he had met and talked with Tony Funches, a bodyguard for Jim Morrison in the 1969-1970 era. This individual states that Tony Funches said the Jim Morrison Shelby Mustang "didn't survive by any means."The source for this comment can be traced to this web article in the link below. Again, no official confirmation nor details at this point. The commentator is unnamed "Z" (not verified) and on Sunday 08/12/2012 "Z" made his comment. http://www.timelessrides.com/blog/automotive-history/jim-morrison-shelby-mustang-gt-500
   Timeless Rides web author, Daniel Fehn, mentioned my attempts to track down the Shelby Mustang through Johnson/Harbrand. As for Daniel's inquiry about the legal ownership of the vehicle, the insurance company would've cut a check to Johnson/Harbrand IF it was indeed totalled.Whoever bought the remains would be the legal owner today. It's possible the car was melted down and turned into a refrigerator. Say a car is totalled, the insurance company writes it off, a check goes in the mail and life goes on. The insurance company usually sells the remains if it's a valued car at an auction and being car crazy California and Los Angeles in particular, who's to say someone didn't buy it for the drive train? Just saying.

More Evidence Indicating Destruction of Jimbo's Car: In an interview with Vince Treanor, Doors stage manager for a book chronicling Jac Holzman's business venture in Elektra Records, He recalled Jim Morrison's reckless behaviour in one telling incident. "He piled up his Cobra, destroyed the damn thing. Bill Siddons got the tow truck to go get it before the police picked it up. I saw a picture of that car. Nobody could have survived it, and yet  he walked away. stone cold drunk on his ass," Vince doesn't mention the year so we aren't sure if this is crash #1, #2 or one in between! However, Vince met the Doors for the first time in New Haven CT in October. The night Jim was arrested onstage. He'd built some sound cabinets for the band's show. They liked the workmanship and was hired for 1968. Bill Siddons is mentioned in a managerial capacity as well which means it's later in the band's career. The severity of the wreck suggests this was the late 1969 crash behind Wilshire Division police station. It also fits nicely with Frank Lisciandro's account of Jim weaving badly in an alleyway with Babe Hill and himself as passengers.
Update: More crashes, less hope for survival....
    If it did survive, it sure isn't going to be in good condition....An account by close friend of Jim Morrison, Babe Hill as told in Frank Lisciandro's book, Feast of Friends mentions the night Jim crashed his GT 500 behind a Beverly Hills Police Station. Does this guy have a knack for wiping out behind cop shops or what? I haven't looked at this book since I last used it for research years ago. I'll let Babe Hill describe what happened. An important clue I'd missed was the Shelby wasn't totaled in that particular crash. Vince Treanor's incident mentioned even earlier suggests that it was in fact the write off accident.

"I remember one night in The Blue Lady we went racing down some street. He just took off and the street ended, it dead ended. Jim was dead drunk and we had Violet (one of our cocaine queens) with us. I was just holding on to her, man, I said ‘we’re going to die’. And he hit the brakes and we went over the curb and went up on the lawn and dead ended against a tree. It just so happened we were in the back of the Beverly Hills Police Department. It didn’t wreck the car but it more or less wiped out the undercarriage. We hit the curb straight on but it was a pretty high curb. So we sent Violet in and she called a cab and we left. The cops never even knew we were involved."
  
   So let's see, that's crash number,3 is it? His first one on La Cienega in '67, a second one in 1968 with no particulars given. The Vince Treanor write off accident from 1969 and this beauty from around the same time period with Babe Hill and 'Violet.' I have a description of the Treanor accident now. I found that in one copy of  "No One Here Gets Out Alive" J Hopkins- D Sugarman. the 24th paperback printing.
I mention this only because this book is now notorious for the split run where alternate endings presuming the death or escape of Jim Morrison was suggested to juice sales. The first copy I read was in the 1980s. This one came out after the 1991 Doors movie. 
   "The problems were piling up. Jim had another accident in the Blue Lady, this time leveling five young trees on La Cienega Blvd near the Clear Thoughts Building. He abandoned the car and ran to a phone booth to call Max Fink to say his car had been stolen."  The timeline of events in this book is often out of sequence so we have no clear statement when this happened. Leveling five young trees doesn't sound terrible by itself. The front end would be a mess for sure but not a write off. Add the previous repairs and damage from the last two crashes and you're looking at a real messed up car. The inner fender partial VIN and Shelby tag will be AWOL. The underside will look pretty mashed up on the torque boxes and leaf spring perch areas. I can see an insurance adjuster looking at this car and cutting a check saying, "It was nice doing business with you. Don't call us, we'll call you, By the way, you're no longer insured with us as of this moment." What is amusing is by 1970 Jim Morrison was driving rental Dodges when meeting Patricia Kennealy. Ugly, horrid Dayglo colored Dodges according to her.

I Dig Deeper, Rattle more chains.... Five years later, one  attempt to claim Morrison's car using a New Mexico candidate GT 500 and  several forum posts later, I decided it was time to get serious digging up some answers. Christian Mixon helped with suggestions in many talks we had about his documentary film production and people I'd contacted. He also spent time watching a copy of HWY film like I did, searching for ANY evidence of the car having survived long enough to see the 1970 calendar year. I did this the first time 5 years ago and did it again when some new footage appeared on youtube from Paul Ferrara with a statement on the film roll mentioning location and approximate date of filming for the "madman in the desert sequence" where Jim  Morrison pulls over the Shelby, steps out and stretches his legs. In the movie, some footage of an injured dog lying on the highway near a town is interspersed with the footage Ferrara shows. Filmed at Joshua Tree State Park in Spring of 1970 is a jarring statement. That places the car having survived a whole six to seven months later than originally surmised. This frankly doesn't seem possible. Jim Morrison in April 1970 looked quite different than he did in April, 1969. I watched the footage of Jim's Shelby arriving in Los Angeles city projects area and the long drive into LA by car. A lot of other cars were shown passing by close up and far away. Judicious use of the freeze frame and replay buttons confirmed no vehicle newer than 1969 appeared in any of the footage. Given their locations in downtown LA, a major highway and the urban projects area, avoiding a 1970 car model would've been impossible. Even the billboards promoting new cars near the end were for a 1969 Ford Maverick. It would appear that the date on the film footage is off by about six months. The Maverick was released mid 1969 as an early 1970 model. By the way, I did talk to Paul about Jim's car and other things relating to the Waiting for the Sun photo sessions. He does not know what happened to Jim's car but Paul cleared up a mystery which I attended to the the Jim Morrison Shelby Revisited article.

     I talked to some of the people who knew Morrison back in those days to finally chase down what happened. Henry Diltz is one of the premier rock and roll photographers of the 1960s and 1970s. He photographed The Doors for their 1970 classic Morrison Hotel album. Recording sessions for that album started in the fall of 1969 and Diltz was hired to photograph the band around their old haunt in Venice Beach. The album was a reach back to their roots. I asked Diltz about Jim Morrison's Shelby GT 500, whether he had seen him drive it or heard anything about a write off crash. This is Diltz's reply. "Hi Pat. I never saw Jim's Shelby. Never saw him in any car except the band's VW van." So for transportation that week, Jim was bumming a ride in a Volkswagen van. It's real likely this was Ray Manzarek's van.

  I spoke to another person intimately connected with Jim Morrison during this same time period. Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was a rock journalist working for Jazz & Pop magazine back in 1969 when she met Jim Morrison for an interview. They hit it off and became lovers and eventually were wed in a handfasting ritual in 1970. I asked Patricia about Jim Morrison's Shelby GT 500 and if she'd seen or heard of it being damaged or totaled. She met Jim in late fall-early winter of 1969. This is the contentious time period where we believed the car was wrecked. Patricia's reply was interesting as it confirmed another sighting of a Morrison car. This one a rental.
   "Hi Patrick, how nice to hear from you. Fun stuff about the car, but it was before my time, I never saw nor rode in it, so I can't tell you anything about it. The car we drove around in Strange Days (her book) was a violently fluorescent chartreuse  Challenger, just awful."
    
     Mopar fans will recognize that particular color as Sublime Green, an extra cost High Impact paint option. Other sources mention a Dodge as well and that it was a rental car. The Challenger was brand new for 1970 and released in fall of 1969. The Sublime paint code was offered only after February 1970 as a spring promo color. This confirms Jim  was without his Shelby since Fall of 1969 and into April 1970 driving a Challenger. I was getting closer. A conversation with Paul Ferrara, Doors photographer, close friend of Jim Morrison and film techie for HWY and Feast of Friends movies about Jim's car. He does not know what happened to it. The last person I spoke with was Tony Funches, Jim's body guard from 1969-1970 era. Funches, you may recall, was the person who was identified earlier in this article as having said "the car didn't survive by any means," in a conversation with a fan a few years earlier. I contacted Tony, explained the origin of the article and my aim, then asked him head on was the car now junk. This is Tony's reply; "Tony, is that GT 500 junk?"....Yes, It was totaled. Frame damage, Went to the crusher/shredder. End of Story, ANYTHING presented as the original is done so as "intentional intent to Defraud, Period."  In replying, Tony included my original question as well. In an earlier interview, Tony elaborated in one sentence what happened, "Jim learned that he should not drive after wrapping a Shelby Mustang King Cobra 428 around a telephone pole" (sic). Jim's car was actually a GT500 but it is easy to confuse it with the GT500KR which came out a year later.They look very similar. Tony has a book that will be coming out soon discussing his career as a rock and roll bodyguard and observer-participant of late 60s and 1970s era American cultural revolution. It promises to be a fascinating read.  So there we have it. 5 years' search has come to an end. We can sadly say goodbye to one of the automotive Holy Grails. This particular Shelby GT500 is forever a Lost Star Car.

    * text (c) by PHS Media 2014 pics by PHS Media except photo a by Paul Ferrara (c) 1968
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