Wayne Cook
January 27, 2010
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

After completing a '65 Shelby GT350 replica, using a '64 1/2 Mustang as a foundation, Gary Bennett of Lilburn, Georgia, was on the hunt for a new project. His intention was to build another Shelby replica, but he wanted to create something more extraordinary in the process. According to Gary, the first car turned out great but it was rather ho-hum when the hood was opened, looking like most garden-variety 289ci engine bays. With the new project, it would be important to take the engine bay, as well as the whole car, to the next creative level. Gary also wanted to include his son Parker in the new restoration project.

After a prolonged hunt Gary spotted a fastback for sale in the local paper, an original Georgia car. When Gary and his son Parker went to see the Pony, its engine had given up the ghost at the dragstrip and the overall mileage was over 100,000. However, this Mustang was an original GT 390 FE car and it was mostly straight and rust free. Because it was a GT, and an original big-block car, it came equipped with several important things such as a 9-inch axle and disc brakes. Indeed, the fastback was a perfect platform for a father and son restoration project.

The car was purchased and for the next three years the two worked a total of 3,500 labor hours. During that time Parker aged from 12 to 15 years, so the timing was perfect for a young man coming of age to learn the ropes of the classic Ford world. The father and son team shared in the trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with any complicated restoration project, and both are understandably gratified by the impressive result. The results also confirm Gary's belief that such a large undertaking by a father and son builds a lasting bond that is of tremendous value to any family.

Aside from the late model Bullitt-style wheels the car is an authentic replica on the outside from the pinnacle of Shelby greatness, where power and styling ruled the design table. Under the hood, Gary and Parker decided to stay true to the Shelby GT500 theme with a 428 FE engine. They hunted down a 391 truck block, had it sonic tested and bored out to the stock 428 bore size of 4.130. However, they wanted something a little more impressive than the usual four-barrel carb so they chose to run a TWM Performance eight-barrel fuel injection set up. In the old days these eight-barrel setups were a can of worms to get running right, but now with modern computer-controlled engine management systems, they have the car running fine.

Although Parker was only 12 years old when the project began, he soon proved his mettle by taking charge of many of the more complicated aspects of the project. The wiring and instrumentation became his areas of specialization and he had to modify the wiring harness from a Ford LTD, shortening it to fit the smaller Mustang, and he completed the complex instrument installation successfully. Another area the team was concerned with was the cleanliness of the installation underhood. For example, the standard A/C compressor was tossed in favor of a smaller Sanden compressor which was mounted on the bottom side of the engine near the crankshaft pulley using specially made brackets custom-made by the two team members. Once the compressor was installed, the air conditioning lines were routed inside the fenders for an extremely sanitary installation almost invisible to the casual observer. The clean theme extended to the engine control wiring, which was routed underneath the fuel rails and exits the engine bay in one orderly bundle directly behind the engine at the center of the firewall.

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