Chuck James
July 1, 2000
Contributers: Chuck James

Like so many of us who spend too much time and way too much money on our old Mustangs and Fords, Rick Tousley fell in love with '65-'66 Shelby GT350s when he was younger. Much younger, in fact, because Rick remembers being 9 years old when he first attached his emotions to the original GT350s at the Ford dealership his father owned in Minnesota. Now all grown up, married with almost-grown children, and working as a day trader at his home in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, Rick has reaped the rewards of his Shelby daydreaming by transforming a '65 Mustang fastback into a GT350 replica with an ultra-trick blend of vintage Shelby and modern restomod upgrades.

With a Shelby conversion in mind, Rick went on the prowl for a clean, rust-free '65-'66 Mustang fastback. He found a red '65 in Texas, then had it transported to the Gulf coast of Florida for its transformation into a modern Shelby. Rick completely disassembled the fastback for bead blasting and body/ paint work by Chuck Eichenberg at Reliable Automotive. Prior to spraying on the fresh Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue stripes, the car was treated to its Shelby makeover with a blend of various Shelby mods from Tony D. Branda Shelby & Mustang Parts, like the R-model front valance, fiberglass hood with scoop, '66 Shelby functional sidescoops and rear-quarter windows, and '65 Shelby/Cragar wheels. "Basically, I just took all of the best features from both the '65 and '66 GT350s and added them to my car," Rick explains.

To modernize his Mustang's power, Rick went to the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog and ordered an M-6007-B51 302 crate engine, a long-block assembly rated at 320 hp with aluminum GT-40 heads and hydraulic roller cam. The new-into-old swap required some modifications, like swapping the oil dipstick tube from the block to the timing-chain cover, so Rick enlisted Dom Forte at Forte's Auto Repair in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the engine preparation and installation. Powdercoated Hooker headers connect to a fabricated 21/2-inch exhaust system that includes a pair of three-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. A C4 automatic, prepped by Turbo Action in Jacksonville, Florida, channels the torque back to a Lincoln Versaille 9-inch rearend with 3.50 gearing.

Initially, Rick ran a conventional four-barrel induction system on the 302, but the need for more speed led him down the path toward fuel injection and a supercharger. Markel Engineering in St. Petersburg put together the combination of ACCEL fuel-injection and Powerdyne supercharger, an installation that required substantial fabrication by Markel because bracketry is not available for mounting the Powerdyne blower into a vintage Mustang. With ACCEL's software that allows calibration changes with a laptop, Markel dialed in the package for optimum driveability and performance, with more than 400 hp as Rick's best seat-of-the-pants estimate.

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Underneath, Rick continued his modern Shelby theme by incorporating a number of original GT350 suspension mods, like lowered front A-arms, Shelby-spec springs and Koni shocks, a quick-ratio steering box, and override traction bars. For improved braking, Rick went for discs all around--'67 Mustang at the front and Lincoln Versailles at the rear.

The all-black interior is brazenly stark, as a GT350 look-alike should be. Obvious mods include the '65 Shelby-style walnut-rimmed steering wheel and instrument panel pod with tachometer and boost gauges. Looking strangely out-of-place is the '66 Mustang air conditioning--you couldn't get it on an original '65-'66 Shelby but, as Rick points out, you can't live without in Florida, so he installed the A/C, restomod-style, with a late-model Sanden compressor. Five-point Simpson harnesses attach to the four-point rollcage, while a Pioneer stereo pumps out tunes from a remote-mounted CD changer and dual power amps in the trunk.

Not one for trailering or even sitting still at car shows, Rick drives his fastback at least two or three times a week, including many mornings when he drops off his kids at school. "At gas stations, young and old have thanked me for driving it so others can see it," Rick says. "I always get thumbs-up signs, a lot of questions, and women throwing themselves at me... Well, it could happen!"

Mainly, though, Rick says people ask him why he likes driving an old car. "My standard reply is, 'Why would I want to drive a boring Lexus when I can drive a cool Mustang instead?'"

We like the way this guy thinks!