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Big Price Drop: 1990s Ford “Kelly” Python Prototype

We last saw this car more than a year ago, but enough may have changed since then to warrant another visit. The Ford Python was a prototype that was built to impress Carroll Shelby, but never went into production on Carroll’s watch. A few years later, an entrepreneur named Alvin Kelly liked the concept so much that he built a dozen tribute cars, for which this appears to be one of seven survivors. When we last saw it, it was in Arizona and was being offered for $160,000. Now, it’s at a dealer in Desert Hot Springs, California, where the price here on craigslist has dropped like a rock to $35,000. Thanks for the deja vu discovery, Rocco B!

The Python was conceived as the successor to the famed Shelby AC Cobra. But when Ford and Shelby parted ways after a couple of test cars were built, the idea for the Python went into mothballs. Alvin Kelly’s tribute to the Python was built on a modified Ford Mustang GT frame with a shortened wheelbase to create a 2-seater with the proper distribution of weight. Kelly wanted to sell these through Ford dealers and managed to construct 12 of them before running out of money.

All of the Kelly Pythons were considered prototypes and have a badge on the dashboard identifying them as such. We don’t know what happened to the other five, but the seller says that seven of them are still around. It’s not just been a show car as this “Mustang” has more than 47,000 miles on the odometer. The vehicle sports new tires and exhaust, among other new items not mentioned. We’re told the car handles more like a Lotus than a Mustang, but you’d have to take a test drive to decide for yourself.

The seller indicates that the value of the car exceeds its asking price. Apparently, the insurance company would give you more than $35,000 if you wrecked it or it was stolen. But we’re curious how a car is worth $160,000 one year and $35,000 the next.


  1. Avatar photo Claudio

    The ford python prototype looks like a 1930 tag applied with flat screws!who still used flats in 1990?
    That looks cheap and cheasy , to say the least , the car itself is not bad …

    Like 10
    • Avatar photo Roykirk

      Look like wood screws

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Gasser300

        Electrical wall switch plate screws

        Like 3
    • Avatar photo BimmerDude Member

      Those are fillister head screws, a little chewed up and yes, the whole thing is cheesy-looking.

      Like 3
  2. Avatar photo TomP

    They look like old countersunk wood screws that are not countersunk. And they’re probably only screwed into the dashboard foam. I wonder why they didn’t at least put a car number on the tag. I have a few rare cars, and they all have the number of the car stamped into the dashboard tag.

    Like 8
  3. Avatar photo CCFisher

    It’s not really a Ford prototype. Ford had very little to do with the project, other than providing the inspiration: a 1963 concept car ultimately called the Bordinat Cobra


    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Frank Sumatra

    A price drop to $1.00 might work.

    Like 7
  5. Avatar photo Scrapyard john

    That looks like the Fox body interior.

    I dunno… I think you could find a pretty sweet Fox body Mustang for $35k that would be more collectible than this rig. Of course you won’t get as many “WTF is that?” looks with a normal Mustang.

    Like 8
  6. Avatar photo Howie

    So i guess if you put a Handling By Lotus badge on the back then it handles like a Lotus. No engine photos?

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo gbvette62

      Yeah, I thought that was a nice touch too. It came right off the trunk lid of an 80’s Toyota MR2 or the doors of an 80’s Isuzu Impulse.

      Like 3
  7. Avatar photo Jim

    The back end looks like a squashed Buick Regal. And yes, the nameplate is an obvious prelude to how cheaply this thing was made. I usually like off-beat cars, but this is about as appealing as a Bradley GT.

    Like 7
  8. Avatar photo Big C

    Be the only one in your state, or region, to have one. That’s for sure. I like the Cougar/ T Bird tailights, too.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Riffraff

      @Big C, I was just looking that. I can imagine Kelly robbing the old Ford parts bins to build these things. Hard No! On this “prototype”.

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Stan

    That powertrain always = good times 😎

    Like 3
  10. Avatar photo CCFisher

    This was the inspiration:


    The design did not translate well to the Mustang chassis.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo A.G.

    What an awkward looking car!

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo jwaltb

      That’s a nice way of saying ugly. I agree.

      Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Bakyrdhero Member

    The T-Bird insignia is still present on the mid 80’s T-Bird taillights.

    Like 3
  13. Avatar photo Mark

    “built to impress Carroll Shelby”
    I can’t imagine Shelby asscociating his name with this thing.
    David Hasselhoff?…..maybe

    Like 6
  14. Avatar photo CCFisher

    My comment keeps getting removed for some reason, but if you google “Bordinat Cobra,” you’ll see the 1963 inspiration for this car. The concept did not translate well to the Mustang chassis.

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo Euromoto Member

      You deserve more than a “ thumbs up” for your comment. Spot on.

      Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Brakeservo

    You can buy those brass dog tags on ebay and have them engraved with anything you want for about $10.

    Like 4
  16. Avatar photo Oddimotive Cason Member

    I, too, love an oddity, but am let down here. Maybe it’s the extremely lacking ad (no engine bay pics, no real specs)? Anyway, this would be a funny $5K oddity, but very, very hard to justify at the asking price (not to mention the prior, crack pipe price)!

    I do love that they didn’t even bother to change the wheels – just painted the Fox turbines black. That and the aforementioned “badge” do seem to speak volumes.

    Like 3
  17. Avatar photo michael genshock

    I would need to get paid to haul it off…

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo Al Hodge

    whatever you do don’t show us under the hood….

    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo steve

    No self-respecting professional car builder would ever leave those dash screws unaligned. Very Mickey Mouse.

    Like 2
  20. Avatar photo hemistroker

    front end looks like it was lifted from the Mustang 1 mid-engine prototype or the mid-engine Mach2 and the side body lines mimic the Mustang Milano the rear is definitely old Thunderbird taillights, and the interior is pure 80’s fox body. they took 60’s prototype parts and mixed with 80’s chassis and tailights, I am not surprised old Carroll didn’t want his name associated with that, I’m not famous and I wouldn’t want my name associated with that!!!

    Like 1
  21. Avatar photo Claudio

    Brass dog tags , sums it up !

    Like 2
  22. Avatar photo William Daniel Toel

    I hate the word, “Tribute.”

    Like 1
  23. Avatar photo Chuck Brooks

    Oooh, a Capri with hood pins. Lemme get my checkbook

    Like 1

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