Connie Kreski and Her Lost Shelby GT500

by Michael Satterfield - 01/23/2020

In 1964 Playboy Magazine started a tradition of gifting the 'Playmate of the Year' a car; from 1964-1975 those cars were painted in the magazine's signature color Playboy Pink. Some of the iconic cars that were painted include a 64.5 Ford Mustang Convertible, a Porsche 911S, and a DeTomaso Pantera.  For 1969 Playmate of the Year Connie Kreski would receive one of the coolest muscle cars ever built a Shelby GT500 Fastback and the only Shelby that was ever painted pink. Featuring a 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet under the hood it might just be the toughest pink car of all time.

In addition to the Shelby, she also received a Schwinn Varsity 10-speed bicycle, Harley-Davidson M-65, a pair of skis, a fur-jacket by Alpers Furs and outfit by Peter Kennedy, an Arctic Cat Panther snowmobile with riding outfit, a Jantzen swimsuit with scuba diving equipment by US Divers,
a pool cue, jewels, cosmetics, an AM/FM car-stereo, Champagne, and a typewriter. While many of the other items are interesting, none are as rare or as valuable as the only pink Shelby to ever be produced.

Connie was Playboy Magazine’s Playmate of the Month for January 1968 before being named Playmate of the Year for 1969, she was known to run in the same Hollywood circles recently depicted in the Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Kreski was even mentioned in the L.A. Times by writer Joyce Haber in a story about the murder of Sharon Tate. As a member of Tate’s social circle Connie had been invited to the infamous party at the home she shared with her husband Roman Polanski. She had declined the invitation for an unknown reason the night that followers of Charles Manson paid a deadly visit to the mansion on Cielo Drive.

Her brush with death was almost as short-lived as her brush with fame. In 1969 Connie landed roles in two films, including the female title role in Can Heironymus Merkin Ever, Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? which might be the longest film title in history. The bizarre film was given an X-Rating and described by one reviewer as "A zany erotobiography. The wackiest film yet." While another said, "Merkin is a ribald, yeasty movie." The film wasn't a success and would be the last film Connie would ever star in, she wasn't a rising star and by 1970 she had a hard time finding work in Hollywood.

But getting back to the lost Shelby. From 1969-1970 Connie was at the height of her fame, but oddly enough, no candid photos have ever surfaced of her driving her Pink Shelby GT500. In fact, outside of the original press photos (shown here), I have yet to find another photo of the Pink GT500. She spent a lot of time outside of the US, filming Merkin in Malta, and in 1970 moving to London after filming an episode of CBS's Love, American Style, and she didn't take it with her. Kreski returned to Los Angeles in 1971 to film The Trackers a made-for-TV western starring Sammy Davis Jr.

In 1971 she began a relationship with actor James Caan, she had a small role in a French film shot in Los Angles in 1972 and a small role in 1975's The Black Bird. Her high-profile romance with actor James Caan ended in 1976 she stepped back from the spotlight, her last acting role was in a 1977 miniseries called Aspin. From 1978-1992 not much is known about Connie, she would attend some events at the Playboy Mansion, we know this because she was photographed with Hefner and several other playmates in 1979. It appears she never married or had any children, and her last public appearance would be in the 1992 documentary Playboy Playmates: The Early Years, (which is only available used on VHS)She would pass away just three years later due to a blocked carotid artery, she was only 48.

As far as the Shelby goes no one ever seemed to ask her what happened to it while she was alive, so my search led me to Connie’s hometown of Wyandotte, Michigan. Before being discovered at a University of Michigan game by a Playboy Sports Reporter, Constance Kornacki (her real name) had graduated from Mercy College of nursing and had just started working at an Anna Arbor hospital. According to a cousin who I emailed, her choice to pose nude for Playboy did not sit well with her conservative Catholic family. The title of a story published on April 30th, 1969 in The Daily Times News sums up the relationship with her parents over her choice to appear in Playboy, "She’s On Her Way to Stardom, But Moms On Tranquilizers". The family had little to no contact after she moved away from Detroit and there is no evidence that Connie ever went back to Michigan after 1969.

With no clues coming from her family, I reached out to the former senior vice president of Playboy, Victor Lownes who spent time with Connie in London in 1970. As one of Playboy's first employees, Victor helped the fledgling publication sell advertising in a very conservative America, eventually, he went on to create the concept of the Playboy Club and help expand Playboy's empire in the UK and Europe and was essentially the Hugh Hefner of London.

Lownes would marry Marilyn Cole, the 1973 Playmate of the Year, and in our correspondence, said that he didn't recall what happened to Connie's Shelby, but it was likely repainted almost immediately. While the promotional value for the Playboy brand was huge, a young woman driving such a recognizable car could draw the wrong kind of attention.

My wife, Marilyn Cole, also won a pink car (a Volvo 1800ES Wagon) when she was selected as Playmate of the Year. We had the car painted a nice tan when we had it here in London.
Victor Lownes

Carroll Shelby’s cars have become some of the most sought after by collectors, with Shelby Mustangs regularly selling at auction in the high six figures, a one of a kind GT500 would surely set an auction record. Shelby and Playboy had a long history of working together, Shelby often placed ads in Playboy, and in 1968 ten Shelby Mustang Convertibles served as house cars for the Playboy Mansion at Lake Geneva. Carroll Shelby was there for the grand opening and rode in a 427 Cobra as part of the parade of Shelby’s Convertibles. While all ten of the Lake Geneva cars are accounted for, some restored, others still awaiting restoration, Connie’s 1969 GT500 has yet to surface.

The lost GT500 is listed as unaccounted for in the Shelby registry. What we do know is that the car was Shelby serial #1027, with its Ford vehicle identification number being 9F02R481027. It left the factory in Pastel Grey and was repainted "Playboy Pink" before being delivered. Outside of its special repaint, it was a regular production GT500 with a 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet, automatic transmission, and no air conditioning. After Kreski took delivery of the car, it has never been seen again. To this day not one picture of the car has surfaced, it simply vanished. Rumors online tell stories of a guy, who knows a guy, who claims that in the 1980s he stopped by on the side of the road once to inspect a Mustang and noticed some pink on the underside of the dash. Others have made cryptic claims as late as 2018 that the car is in California and currently being restored, yet they have never produced any evidence of the car's existence.

The general consensus is that Connie sold the car in 1969 or 1970 and it was repainted and either wrecked by the new owner and sent to a salvage yard or that it is still hidden away in some retiree's garage in the Greater Los Angeles area. It could be out there, stranger things have been found lurking in the garages of Los Angeles, like Phil Spector’s Shelby Daytona that was languishing away in storage for nearly thirty years.

The original version of this story was featured in the 2015 CarTech Lost Muscle Cars if you want to read more stories of mystery muscle cars check out the book HERE.