Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
Nouveau Shelby 1965 Mustang Fastback
Edelbrock's 700hp Coyote crate motor combines with modern suspension to create supercar performance with a vintage vibe.
As much art as there is in the execution of updating a classic muscle car, in so many cases the real art is more in the restraint. We've all seen cars that we want to like, but it just feels like the builder went a little too far and muddied the final product. In a full custom, there's a much higher threshold, but when you want to pay homage to a vintage icon while still modernizing it, there is a limit to how far you can deviate. The parts may be awesome, the workmanship top notch, and it may be quite functional, but sometimes the "feel" can get lost. Knowing when to stop in order to keep the vision pure is the biggest challenge.
Case in point is this gorgeous '65 Mustang fastback. With the absolute cornucopia of innovative products continually coming out for classic muscle machinery, the sky is the limit on updating one, but if you want to capture the essence of an iconic car while stepping into the Pro Touring world, that's a very fine line to tap dance along when it comes to a Mustang fastback.
Owner George Russo had grown up a Ford guy and still owns the '65 Mustang coupe he drove as a teen, though it's now built in the image of one of the 16 '65 coupes Shelby built for the Trans-Am A/Sedan class (fastbacks Mustangs were classified as two-seaters, which made them ineligible). In his heart, though, George always wanted a fastback, specifically a Shelby GT350. The problem was that fastbacks had always been way more expensive than coupes, making it easy to deviate from the '65 coupe he had in hand. The explosion in muscle car popularity and prices had only served to make things worse. "Back in the days before Dynacorn reproductions, I once saw just the roofline for a fastback for sale at $10,000," George told us. As for whole cars, only the roughest of the rough were in the price range he was searching. Then, amazingly, one with real potential popped up in Texas. After talking to the owner, George and his son decided to take a chance and fly down to see it in person.
To score a cheap Mustang fastback, of course, meant accepting the fact that a lot of work was going to be needed. George and his son knew that—they just wanted to make sure they wouldn't be in over their heads. The car had been hit, but was driveable and fixable, the floors were soft, and there was quite a bit of rust and filler evident, but the price still seemed right. George and his son struck a deal, and they decided to gamble on an adventure driving the fastback home.
Unfortunately the Russos didn't make it too far down the road before one of the brittle old fuel lines split. They managed to get it to an auto parts store and replace the line in the parking lot. That got them back out on the road, briefly. Shortly thereafter, the heater core burst, putting them on the side of the road again. It was an easy bypass, but at this point the Russos decided they may be looking at the tip of the iceberg and it was time to rent a truck and trailer.
George had his fastback captured, but due to other obligations, the work didn't begin for a while. The Mustang sat for four years until he got around to stripping it down and taking a serious look. It quickly became apparent that mediablasting was in order to get to the real truth. That truth was pretty ugly, with an inch of filler over chicken wire, shoddy patches, and rivets in the quarters. The floors disintegrated, and the trunk, firewall, and framerails needed patching. Rather than get disheartened, George decided to dig in and have the work done.
The fastback initially went to Mustangs Etc. in Van Nuys, California, where it spent the better part of a year getting the repair metalwork done and the body panels fitted. From there, things started to accelerate. George wanted a GT350 Shelby-style clone, but he also liked the idea of updating a few styling cues, and improving the handling and performance. Around that time, Ford introduced the Coyote 5.0 in the new Mustangs and George pondered using one of those engines. Of course that would require a front suspension swap and shock tower delete, but he had read an article on installing a custom front suspension clip that would make way for the big quad-cam. George had run across Bodie Stroud's name while admiring the '61 Starliner his shop built, so he called the shop and inquired about the swap. Stroud was actually in the middle of designing his own suspension system for vintage Mustangs, so he suggested George's car be the first candidate. And so the two years snowballed from capable driver to perfect Pro Touring Shelby.
As he planned the project with Stroud, the biggest thing George had to watch out for was mission creep. He wanted performance, but he also really wanted to stay true to the vision and keep it pure. The Mustang needed to look and feel like a GT350 all the way through, like something Carroll's own ethos would have turned out in 1965 if he had access to a Coyote engine and custom suspension. The body had to be stock and all steel. The one concession that eventually arose is the hoodscoop. "The Coyote had 412 hp, and then the Boss came out with 444 hp," George explained. "I thought that would be good, but then I realized my daily driver Audi had 450 hp, and I couldn't build a hot rod that had less power!" Fortunately Edelbrock was launching their 700hp supercharged Coyote crate engine at the time, so George snagged production piece No. 1. The E-Force blower was a bit tall, so the BS Industries crew had to craft a slightly exaggerated version of the GT350 hoodscoop to clear it.
Over the next two years, George and his son had conference calls and meetings every few days to discuss the plan and make decisions on how far the updates could be pushed without crossing the line and losing that GT350 aesthetic. Stroud and his crew were extremely mindful of the goal and every modification made to the chassis, engine bay, and interior was carefully considered to make it feel very 1965. For example, the shock towers were shrunken rather than deleted, and the custom adjustable tubular front control arms were powdercoated in two-tone silver and black to mimic original parts. It's the attention to detail like that that really sets this car apart.
On top of that the Mustang also needed to be practical and easily serviceable. George wanted it clean, but definitely not a show car with hidden parts, since he plans to drive it frequently. The patience will soon pay off, since Stroud was in the final testing phase with the Mustang at the time of our photo shoot, and the big debut was scheduled for the 2014 Fabulous Fords Forever show at Knott's Berry Farm. After that, George will finally be able to walk out to his garage and see the fastback he always wanted: a perfected modern Shelby clone that we think Carroll himself would be proud to claim.
By The Numbers
1965 Mustang Fastback
George Russo, Santa Clarita, CA
Type: 700hp Edelbrock supercharged 5.0L Coyote crate engine
Rotating assembly: 9.5:1 forged Mahle pistons, forged and balanced crankshaft, forged Manley H-beam rods
Cylinder heads: stock with Boss 302 valvesprings
Induction: Edelbrock E-Force Eaton TVS 2,300cc supercharger system, BSI custom cold air induction
Oiling: stock with Ford Racing remote oil filter adapter
Exhaust: ceramic-coated stock shorty headers, MagnaFlow exhaust
Fuel system: 50-lb/hr fuel injectors
Cooling: custom C&R Racing radiator with built-in intercooler
Output: 700 hp at 7,000 rpm, 606 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm
Built by: Edelbrock
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed with McLeod dual disc clutch & Hurst shifter
Driveshaft: custom Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft
Rearend: Strange 9-inch with 3.89 gears and 31-spline axles
Front suspension: BS Industries front clip with Easy Line adjustable control arms, QA1 coilovers, rack-and-pinion steering, Speedway Engineering splined sway bar
Rear suspension: BS Industries custom four-link with Currie 9-inch, Speedway Engineering splined sway bar
Steering: Flaming River column with AGR rack
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch discs with six-piston calipers (front), Wilwood 13-inch discs and four-piston calipers (rear), ABS Brakes electric power brakes
Chassis: custom front framerails, subframe connectors, GT350 four-point rollbar
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: 17x9 Vintage Wheel Works V45
Tires: 245/45 & 255/50 Kumho Ecsta SPT