Jerry Heasley
September 1, 2008

Horse Sense: Retrobuilt in Ozark, Missouri, started out as a restoration shop, but it has added these insane RetroMods to its repertoire. The first was the RSC-GT featured in our Feb. '08 issue ("Flashback Heart Attack," p. 50), and the company has plans for even more retromod variants. "The concept behind our business is to produce vehicles that capture the style and allure of yesterday with the comfort and reliability of today," according to Retrobuilt's Web site. We can't wait to see what the company has planned next.

Enthusiasm for the latest Shelby GT 500 has inspired a whole new generation of Ford fans. Instead of mothballing these cars and hoping for auction glory in 40 years, most owners are taking the immediate path to bolt-on glory in search of more of a good thing. While most of these next-gen Shelby guys are chasing big power, they've shown they aren't afraid to modify a Shelby.

As cool as that is, those bolt-on guys have nothing on Tony Beam and his dream team (Clint White, Mike Buske, Ryan Weaver, Lucas Dowell, and Jeff Mawhiney) at Retrobuilt (www.retrobuilt.com). For a special customer, these guys took an '07 Shelby GT 500 and built what might be called the ultimate tribute to the '681/2 GT500KR fastback.

The 600-plus horsepower from the warmed-over, supercharged 5.4 aside, the really big deal is the all-steel sheetmetal, the custom fiberglass hood, front and rear fascias, and even a chrome front bumper straight out of the '60s. "We began with '68 sheetmetal-doors, door skins, fenders, and quarters, and cut, grafted, stretched, and modified them to fit the new chassis," Tony says.

That's a real '07 Shelby GT 500 he's talking about. Retrobuilt's challenge was to keep the original S197 chassis. What makes this custom trick is, in his own words, "keeping all the factory mounting points, bolts, alignments, door jambs, door gaps-everything-while incorporating the old sheetmetal onto the car."

The fiberglass hood is likewise a custom piece, la the '681/2 GT500KR of the glory years. Of course, a '68 hood wouldn't fit the '07, but the custom '07 hood is strikingly similar to the original that Shelby designed for the '681/2 GT500KR. The shiny, chrome bumper is a real '68 unit that Retrobuilt lengthened by 4 inches to fit the '07 front end. This chrome bumper, maybe more than any other retromod styling element, stands out. According to Tony, the customer (a man in Dallas who chooses to remain anonymous) wanted to "capture as much of the essence of the '68 Shelby as possible."

The Retrobuilt team didn't stop with the front end, sheetmetal, and hood. They had to capture the cues all the way around the car to satisfy their customer. Only six sequential lights would truly transmit the classic theme. "A lot of people make a sequential for the three lights," Tony explains. "We have the six taillights." What he means is they could have installed a set of modern sequential taillights in the '07 rear fascia, but a purely modern treatment wasn't good enough. To get the '68 look, Retrobuilt machined a custom billet tailpanel to give the '07 Shelby GT 500 a set of six taillights.

Creating a modern rendition of the '681/2 GT500KR was no backyard job. The project got underway with the purchase of a new '07 Shelby GT 500. Retrobuilt shipped the Shelby to Car FX in Tulsa. Will Williams of Car FX says, "We take a Shelby with no miles and then just knock it in the head." By "we," he actually means his son Russell, one of the most efficient wrench-turners I've run across in quite a while. No doubt pulling components off a stock Shelby GT 500, including the hood (replaced with a donor GT hood for the time being) could be traumatic, but it's no big deal coming from a crew that regularly cuts out perfectly good Mustang roofs to install CDC Glassback roof panels.

The upgrades begin with the engine, including a cold-air inlet, a blower pulley tune, long-tube headers, and engine programming to push the horsepower into the 650-665 range. RSC also orders serious suspension upgrades, which equate to a full Steeda G-Trac suspension upgrade. "We do the performance upgrades, then trailer the Shelby back to Retrobuilt International in Missouri," says Will. "They go buck-wild with it there for 3-4 weeks getting the body done."

Tony says, "I create the renderings of what I want, and then Retrobuilt turns those over to Branson Machine in Branson, Missouri." On the rear fascia, for example, Branson Machine scans the trunk lid and taillights of the stock car, then mills out a big chunk of aluminum for that flat panel. "It's quite involved and rather pricy," Tony admits. Next, Retrobuilt sends the reskinned Shelby back to Car FX for the final suspension tuning and ride-height adjustment.

Since Shelby Automobiles owns the rights to the GT500KR name, Retrobuilt can't sell a GT500KR, and it can't offer a kit for it, either. Of course, since the company started with a GT 500, there's no issue using the name "GT 500." Anybody can modify a one. "We don't provide any badges," Tony says. "The buyer can use whatever decals, letters, or stickers he or she wants. We just can't do it."

Apparently, the "KR" after the GT 500 on the front fenders is a customer add-on-ditto for the doorsill plates. Overall, the end result is a high-dollar, modified Shelby GT 500 that pays a 21st century tribute to the original '681/2 GT500KR in terms of more horsepower and improved handling. What other modified '07 Shelby GT 500 has a chrome front bumper and sheetmetal sourced straight from a '68 model of the glory years?

Tech Specs
Engine And Drivetrain
Block
Iron
Crankshaft
Forged-steel
Rods
Cracked forged-steel I-beams
Displacement
5.4-liter/330ci
Camshafts
DOHC
Heads
Aluminum w/four valves per cylinder
Intake
Cast-aluminum and air-to-water intercooler
Supercharger
Eaton Roots w/Steeda pulley and idler pulley, JLT carbon-fiber cold-air kit
Exhaust
Kooks long-tube headers and catalytic X-shape crossover, Corsa axle-back exhaust system
Transmission
Tremec TR-6060 six-speed w/Dynotech one-piece aluminum driveshaft and Steeda Tri-Ax shifter
Rearend8.8 w/Ford Racing 3.73 ring and pinion

Electronics
Engine Management
Spanish Oak PCM w/tune
Ignition
Coil-on-plug
Gauges
Stock

Suspension And Chassis
Front Suspension
Springs
Steeda adjustable coilover
Shocks
Steeda adjustable coilover
Brakes
14-in Brembo
Wheels
Shelby CS66, 20x9-in
Tires
Toyo Proxes
Rear Suspension
Springs
Steeda adjustable coilover
Shocks
Steeda adjustable coilover
Brakes
Steeda 14-in rear brake rotor upgrade
Wheels
Shelby CS66, 20x10-in
Tires
Toyo Proxes