jimmorrison-leadartIn April of 1967 there were few rock stars in America bigger than The Doors’ singer and songwriter, Jim Morrison. Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Jim and his band mates were riding the crest of a mighty wave as their debut album, The Doors, had gone gold and its second single, the contagious Light My Fire, was the number one song in America.

Owing to the fact that that this was his record label’s first chart-topper, Elektra Records founder and President, Jac Holzman, decided to offer each band member any gift they wanted as a reward. Keyboardist Ray Manzerak and guitarist Robbie Krieger opted for state-of-the-art reel-to-reel tape recorders, and drummer John Densmore chose a horse.

What did Morrison want? He knew he wanted a car, but didn’t know what kind. That is, until he saw the Shelby Mustang GT350 owned by his hair stylist (and future Manson Family murder victim), Jay Sebring. Jim thought the car looked both classy and brutal, and asked Holzman for one. Holzman agreed and did one better, buying Jim a brand new, Nightmist Blue 1967 Shelby GT500.

1967 Shelby GT500 in Nightmist Blue.

The 1967 Shelby GT500 in Nightmist Blue.

The car was christened “The Blue Lady” by Morrison’s friend, Babe Hill; it was named after a character in a screenplay Morrison had been working on. Jim’s Shelby was equipped with a 428 Police Interceptor powerplant with dual quad Holley carburetors and a four-speed manual transmission. The car was unusual in a number of ways, as it had a parchment interior in lieu of the black more commonly found with Nightmist Blue cars.

Left: the 428 Police Interceptor engine. Right: The rare parchment interior.

It also lacked the bumper-to-bumper Le Mans stripe that most Shelbys had draped across the top. It had the rare 10-spoke wheels, and was not equipped with air conditioning. As an early production car, it also differed from the GT500 norm by having large, round, twin fog lights paired close together in the center of the grille. Later cars had smaller, rectangular lights towards the outer corners of the grille to comply with Federal vehicle regulations.

Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison.

Equipped as it was, Jim’s GT500 packed 335 horsepower at 5,400 rpm, and 420 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm. This was good for a consistent 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds and a standing quarter mile of 15.0 seconds at 95 mph. Heady stuff for 1967.

Jim was fond of the prodigious output, and often liked to use its full potential in less than lawful ways racing around the canyons of the Hollywood Hills at breakneck speeds. Seeing Jim at gas stations pumping high-test into The Blue Lady was likely a fairly common sight around Los Angeles, as the car only averaged 10 mpg, and likely far less given his driving habits.

A troubled artistic genius, Jim was known to be a hard drinker, and as we all know that does not mix well with cars. As such, The Blue Lady suffered many accidents during his ownership. In each case, Jim managed to plow down a part of the Los Angeles scenery and walk away unscathed, only to report the car stolen later and have it repaired. One such incident allegedly involved Jim running down some young trees right in front of a police station.

In the Spring of 1969, Jim and his friends Babe Hill, Frank Lisciandro, and Paul Ferrara decamped to the desert near Palm Springs to shoot what was essentially an extended trailer for a feature film that Jim intended to direct and star in. The movie was to be called Highway, but was later changed to HWY: An American Pastoral.

It told the story of a psychopathic hitchhiker who kills a man that gives him a ride, and then steals his car. Not surprisingly, the vehicle in the film happens to be one 1967 Nightmist Blue Shelby GT500. The movie was shot over a period of several weeks in 35mm, and was later edited into a one-hour demonstration of what the feature could be. Jim appears in the film with very long hair and a thick beard, and persists in thrashing the Shelby along dirt roads and desert locales, doing donuts and indulging in general automotive mayhem.

Jim Morrison in HWY: An American Pastoral.

Jim Morrison in HWY: An American Pastoral.

Not long after HWY was shot, something happened to Jim’s Shelby. Friends of his have differing recollections and summations as to what transpired. According to some, one evening in the Fall of 1969 Jim was driving recklessly and ran into a telephone pole on Sunset Boulevard. After inspecting the damage, Jim wandered off on foot to a favorite bar for the rest of the night.

When he returned, the car was gone; ostensibly towed away by the police. Others suggest that Jim left the car in long-term parking at LAX for an extended period of time during a concert tour, and when he returned it had been towed and sold at public auction. Still others contend that Jim totaled the car in some feat of misadventure, and that it was crushed for scrap.

Although none of these stories have been, or can be verified, three things are certain: 1) Jim was never seen driving the Shelby after that Fall; 2) For the duration of his time living in Los Angeles, he was seen driving a variety of rental cars; 3) The car has been missing ever since.

Many a car collector in the past has set out to track down a significant lost car with the intention of restoring it to its former glory. But values of vintage Shelby Mustangs are at an all time high, and interest in Jim Morrison has never been stronger. Couple that with auction prices of cars formerly owned by iconic figures reaching stratospheric levels (such as we have seen with the recent sales of Steve McQueen’s automobiles) then it should be no great surprise that at this very moment, there are literally dozens of people actively on the trail of what could potentially be the most valuable Shelby of all.

The most valuable GT500 of all?

Could Jim Morrison’s be the most valuable GT500 of all?

According to the California DMV, “The Blue Lady” was last recorded with the state on April 30, 1969. Its ownership was listed as James Douglas Morrison, care of Johnson/Harband, the accounting firm that handled The Doors’ finances. Amateur Blue Lady sleuths who have contacted the firm, now known as Johnson/Harbrand/Foster/Davis, have been greeted with something less than enthusiasm when discussing the car on the record. But they have suggested that they get the feeling the firm is, in fact, holding back some pertinent information.

This has led many of the Shelby’s hunters to suspect that the car does still exist, and that the firm is unwilling to discuss it owing to a confidentiality agreement with the current owner(s). Further keeping those on the trail of “The Blue Lady” hopeful is a woman in Phoenix, Arizona, who has made noises to the effect that she is in possession of a certain, dead rock star’s car.

The last California registration card for Jim’s Shelby.

This woman actually sold the car’s last original registration card to a Blue Lady hunter named Bret Matteson, but did not offer up the car itself for purchase. As of now, the woman has remained anonymous and her claim unverified.

Armed with all this information, Dave Matthews of the Shelby American Auto Club has been on alert for anyone selling a Shelby with the VIN listed on the 1969 registration card. Personally, Dave believes that the car was scrapped after Jim’s alleged accident on Sunset Boulevard, and places the date of the car’s demise around October 1969. He is, however, open to the idea that the Shelby could have survived and may indeed be in the possession of the aforementioned woman in Phoenix.

Another lead involves an official of the Blacktop Nationals car show, who claims he may own Morrison’s car. While he can’t prove this with hard evidence, he insists that when his Nightmist Blue and Parchment ’67 GT500 was given a frame-off restoration, clues that the car was “The Blue Lady” were found. These clues apparently included frame damage and old repairs that matched the kind described by Morrison friends after his various accidents.

Christian Mixon, a former car dealer and current film producer at Nth Degree Productions, has been working on a documentary for many years that focuses on the story of “The Blue Lady”, and makes a sober attempt at locating its current whereabouts. Patrick H. Smith, of PHS Collector Car World interviewed Mixon in 2009, and Mixon had this to say:

“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. 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. 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.”

Mixon is apparently still in production on the film, and a release date is not forthcoming.

For my part in the hunt, I contacted my Facebook friend Tony Funches.

(L to R) Friend Babe Hill, Bodyguard Tony Funches, and Jim Morrison.

(L to R) Friend Babe Hill, Bodyguard Tony Funches, and Jim Morrison.

Today, a politically active and sage-like man of 68, Tony was hired by The Doors back in early 1969 as a personal bodyguard for Morrison. At six feet five inches and a Vietnam veteran, Tony had no problem keeping Jim safe from the less savory characters who hovered around the music world and might have sought to take advantage of him. In the course of his duties, Tony and Jim became good friends, and spent a significant amount of time together. As such, Tony is probably one of the best people to ask about the fate of Jim’s Shelby, and he believes the car was scrapped after Jim totaled it in one of his misadventures.

“It was totaled,” asserts Tony. “I’ve told everyone the same thing for years. It got towed after it was totaled. It went to the shredder and is lost forever to early recycling. That’s what junkyards do, did do, will do.”

Whether you believe that Jim’s GT500 met its demise or is still out there somewhere, only Jim knew the real circumstances and we unfortunately lost him on July 3, 1971, when he passed away in his rented flat in Paris while on sabbatical. Like the man himself, Jim’s fabled Blue Lady remains shrouded in myth and mystery.