The engine of a Cobra Mustang sports car is seen on the factory floor at the Shelby American Inc. world headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S(Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Shelby Mustang GT500 Review: $179,000 of Modern Classic Fantasy

(Bloomberg) -- Remember that 1967 fastback Mustang of your dreams?

A guy in Oklahoma is building a new version that combines the vehicle identification number-matching body with such things as modern brakes and gears. It’s called the 1967 GT500CR Classic. 

From the moment you get behind the wheel, the rounded, five-speed manual shifter, the racing seats, and the growl of the ignition tell you plenty about the kind of car you’re dealing with. This is the type that roars for attention from a half-mile down the road. The engine sounds like war.

Better yet, this $179,000 muscle monster drives as hard and obnoxious as it sounds. If you like expensive remakes that nod to modern comforts, you’ll love it.

Inspired by an American Original

I drove the first-ever GT500CR Classic—car 00—recently through downtown Los Angeles, passing along back alleys, train tracks, and semi-rig loading lots, past dry river beds and graffiti-splattered warehouses.

Made by a company called Classic Recreations, the GT500CR is a number-matching rebuild of the original 1967 Shelby GT500. (That was the high-performance version of the Ford Mustang that Shelby American (now part of Carroll Shelby International) built in the late 1960s. Ford built a few of them, too.)

True vintage versions go for $150,000 to $200,000 on Hemmings Motor News Inc. and Inc. The prices for those and this new version are comparable; you’ll want the original if you’re buying primarily as an investment, but the modern version will probably be more reliable as a daily driver. The body of the car is original, but the rest is newly hand-built, taken directly from molds of the iconic street racer.

Jason Engel is the man behind it. The 43-year-old builder started making similar cars nine years ago, after Carroll Shelby turned over the rights to build them, using his name. Engel has been obsessed with Shelby’s work since the legendary car designer and racer signed an autograph for him at a car show three decades ago.

Engel was 14 then. Impressionable, to say the least.

The meeting ignited a passion that drove Engel to own more than 60 Mustangs over the years, including the original 1967 GT500, on which this vehicle is based.

“It got to where I would go to car shows just because Carroll Shelby was there,” Engel tells us by phone this week. “It’s a dream come true to build these cars.”

Designed to Every Last Detail

Engel recreates a variety of vehicles, such as a 1969 Camaro CR1 and 1966 Shelby GT350CR. His company, Oklahoma-based Classic Recreations, builds them in 100 days or so and sells them worldwide: Some 44 percent of his business comes from abroad, with Russia, China, and the Middle East his biggest markets. Some models fetch as much as $400,000.

His dedication is palpable. Talk to Engel for five minutes and he’ll describe in detail the type of screws in the trunk, the intricacies of the fuel-injection system, and the particular hue of the factory-made, candy-apple-red exterior paint color he pulled from the original car.

“There’s a lot of competition out there, but I separate myself, because I can actually build a car—unlike some others out there,” Engel says. “I’m the owner [of the company]. But I can also paint the car, wire it, build it, fabricate it. Build it. I can run a business and build a car.”

The GT500 is the latest, arguably the greatest, of his works. It has a 545-horsepower, 427 Ford Performance, fuel-injected, V8 427 engine and a front- and rear-suspension in coil-over style (the shock absorbers are wrapped in coil springs) that makes it perfectly suited for barreling down uneven streets—and cooler to look at.

Even though the car looks different from the original—bigger wheels, a different grille, additional seat padding—everything is made to look and feel like the parts from the original manufacturer. It starts as an original 1967 Mustang with an original VIN number and refurbished and built into a GT500CR Classic. The brakes, steering apparatus and exhaust with ceramic-coated headers are all new. So are the multi-speaker sound system, five-point seat belts, and air conditioning.

“This is a passion, so I’m very big on retaining the original DNA of the Mustang,” Engel says. “I just added my own twist.”

He will make 67 of them. Most are already spoken for, despite an 18-month waitlist.

The New Nostalgia

How does it drive?

It’s simultaneously enlightening and nostalgic: The short gearbox, tight brakes, and massive torque force you to focus intensely on the act of driving—clutch in, shift, clutch out, press gas, rumble, go! Repeat. Meanwhile, the round dashboard gauges, the vibration of the V8 under full bore, and that oppressive sound, especially when downshifting and in lower gears, provide a raw-metal experience that makes modern cars seem like appliances rather than machines for driving.

If you really push it you can get to 60 miles per hour in just over four seconds; top speed is 160mph.

Hit that, and your neighbors will hear you a mile away. It’s all right if they do—you’ll have told them all they need to know.


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