October 26, 2006

When is a Shelby not a Shelby? When it's built by Jerry Shelby (no relation to Carroll). Actually, Jerry is quick to give credit to Steve Greer for initially building (and painting) this fastback in his home garage in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Jerry built up the car considerably from there, adding a Flaming River steering box, Global West upper and lower A-arms with adjustable strut rods, and Baer four-wheel disc brakes at his hobby shop in Houston, Texas.

The result is one of the best modifieds on the planet, and the Best Modified {{{Mustang}}} at the 40th anniversary Mustang show in Nashville in April 2004. Your editors voted it this award two years ago and recently flew to Houston to take the pictures and gather the story.

When Jerry backed the '65 from his hobby garage, once again we were smitten with the Pecan Frost Metallic fastback. The original color is similar, called Prairie Bronze. A restomod is certainly not stock. Yet, except for the Halibrand 16-inch wheels and the Shelby scooped hood with Wimbledon White LeMans stripes, enthusiasts who don't spot the lowered suspension (2 inches up front and 1 inch in the rear) might mistake this hot ride for factory issue.

Greer found his dream fastback in a backyard, where kids were using it as a playhouse. First, he restored the Mustang as a 289-2V (C-code) original. As is so often the case today, Mustangs that are not K-codes, Bosses, Shelbys, or other legends, go the modified route.

Jerry likes both stock and modified. In his shop we spotted a beautiful '67 fastback with the 289 Hi-Po engine. There's no way he'd modify this K-code because it is so rare and has so much of what he calls "historical value." Production was "400-some" for the '67 Hi-Po versus "thousands" for the C-code 289-2V fastback. Jerry makes a lot of sense when he says the Hi-Po is a collector car, so it interests collectors. Collectors want a Mustang to be as original as possible.

In contrast, he says, "The people interested in my modified may be car enthusiasts and Mustang enthusiasts, but they are not collectors. The '65 is a really super-duper-looking and fast Mustang, but it's not a collector Mustang like the '67 K-code."

Jerry was looking for a modified '65-'66 fastback that was a "knock-out on the outside and high performance on the inside." Greer's for-sale pictures of this fastback looked "nice" on the Internet, but when Jerry saw the '65 in person, he says the Mustang knocked his socks off. Then, when he drove it, it blew him away.

Big-boy's toys command respect. You have to realize the danger that lurks at the tap of your right toe. "Some people recognize the engine under the hood is not a 289. Others don't," Jerry says. Looks can be deceiving. The Coast High Performance-built 408 (a bored and stroked 351 Windsor), fed by a 750 Holley double-pumper, produces about 475 hp, over 200 horses more than the K-code 289 Hi-Po. From a valve-cover standpoint, you can't tell the difference. The 408 is just a little wider.

Jerry congratulates Greer for the great looks under the hood. Moving the battery to the trunk, he believes, "opens up the engine and provides the perfect place for the MSD."

Inside, the main changes are the shifter, steering wheel, gauges and stereo tuner. Pull them and the Palomino interior is bone stock.

The performance upgrades enhance the retro look without sacrificing the vintage looks. But, with a modified, one change leads to another and there are many changes. You have to be part designer, part builder, part mechanic, and downright dedicated to get the car just right. Greer had boxed the lower A-arms to make them stiffer. Jerry took those off and installed upper and lower A-arms from Global West as they are much stronger and stiffer. He didn't mess with the Koni shocks and five-leaf rear springs in the back.

The longer Pitman arm, la the original '65 GT350, made the steering a little quicker. The new Flaming River box took all the "slop" out of the steering and was a major improvement. Jerry also added the Baer Claw disc brakes. The rotors measure 12 inches in diameter in the front, and 11 inches in the rear.

Jerry feels as though the car is now done. The high-performance engine is balanced with a tight, modern suspension, worthy of such a high-performance modified. The car will also do one thing that's more important than getting from 0-60 mph, and that's going from 60-0 mph.

Jerry mostly drives his modified to cruises and car shows, where it has won almost every show entered. "I was surprised to win at Nashville, at the 40th, from Mustang & Fords," Jerry says. "I think it's because it's a tastefully done car." There's a line builders cross that separates the best modifieds from the also-rans. Knowing that line and not crossing it is the secret to building cars like Jerry's that win shows.

The Details

'66 Mustang 2+2 Fastback
Owner: Jerry Shelby, Houston, TX

351W based 408 stroker
4.030-inch bore
4.00-inch stroke cast crank
Probe steel 6.125-inch I-beam connecting rods
Probe forged pistons
Total Seal moly rings
Crane hydraulic cam, .520/.544 lift,
234/244 duration
Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads, ported and polished
Manley 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves
Crane double springs
Crane 1.6:1 ratio roller rocker arms
Ford 6.272-inch pushrods
Edelbrock Performer RPM intake
Holley 750-cfm double pumper
MSD Billet Pro distributor
MSD 6AL ignition
MSD Blaster coil
475 hp/475 lb-ft torque

Tremec T5 five-speed
Hurst shifter
Centerforce clutch
Lakewood bellhousing
Aluminum driveshaft

Auburn Locker
Richmond 3.89 gears
31-spline axles

Hedman Jet-Hot-coated headers, 151/48-inch
primary, 3-inch collector
DynoMax mufflers, 211/42-inch
True dual exhaust, 211/42-inch

Front: Global West tubular arms (lowered 2 inches), adjustable strut rods, StamBar sway bar, Koni shocks, Flaming River steering box
Rear: 1-inch lowering five-leaf springs, sway bar, Koni shocks, Global Westsubframe connectors

Front: Baer Racing, 12-inch disc
Rear: Baer Racing, 11-inch disc

Front: Halibrand five-spoke (spokes painted, rim polished), 16x8, 411/42-inch offset
Rear: Halibrand five-spoke (spokes painted, rim polished), 16x8, 411/42-inch offset

Front: BFGoodrich Comp T/A Radial, P225/50ZR16
Rear: BFGoodrich Comp T/A Radial, P225/50ZR16

Palomino vinyl upholstery, Moto Lita steering wheel, JME billet gauge cluster with Auto Meter gauges, Deist racing harnesses

Pecan Frost Metallic PPG Deltron paint, GT350-style fiberglass hood, Wimbledon White Le Mans stripes