|photo (c) by Tim Page 1968|
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. Nothing solid enough to post here yet. When and if that time comes, it'll show up here. Still looking for an article that was done in a Shelby publication, Snakebite, about JM's GT 500 by author, Bob B. Anyone with a copy, I'd love to see it.
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.
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 it's 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.
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 October1969. Dave has no details on 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.
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 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.Who ever bought the remains would be the legal owner today. It's possible the car was melted down and turned into a refrigerator.The 'Care Of 'portion of the registration is typical of lease deals which is the only situation that makes sense for an accounting firm to have any claim on a registration for one of their client's cars.
That, my friends, is why interest was strong on that end of the telephone wire. 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 its 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 and has a Micheal McClure afterward.
"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 are 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.
* text (c) by PHS Media 2010 pics by PHS Media except photo a by Tim Page (c) 1968.