Jim Smart
February 15, 2007
Photos By: Tracy Stocker

If you're like most of us, Shelby ownership is something that happens to other people. Chances are, if it does happen to you, you have more than your share of gray hair, an established career, both feet squarely on the ground, and kids off to college. But what happens when Shelby ownership happens at 16 and the calendar clearly says 2007?

Now here is the look of a satisfied young man who achieved his dream early on. Zak Popovich knows the good fortune that comes with setting a goal and making it happen.

When Zak Popovich of Northern Indiana became old enough to realize his passion for automobiles, he quickly learned he liked classic Shelby Mustangs. Now understand, Zak was at least one generation from being born when Ford and the A.O. Smith Company produced these cars nearly 40 years ago.

So how does a 16-year-old come by a ride like this-and do such a terrific job of car building? As is the case with most such acquisitions, Zak's Shelby began with a dream, then a whole lot of persistence combined with luck. When he was just 13, he found his Shelby at a collector-car dealership in Ohio. This car meant everything to him-a chance at owning a slice of Shelby history and the thrill of driving it when he reached 16.

Because Zak had a definite appreciation for both Shelby Mustangs and their history, his intent was to personalize the car without insulting its heritage. He wasn't about to build a trailer queen he couldn't drive and enjoy. This Shelby would be a driver he could enjoy any time Indiana weather permitted. Pencil us in for pure, unadulterated pleasure.

To be both a looker and a good driver, Zak's Shelby was taken to the experts at Livernois Motorsports in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, just outside Detroit. Livernois restored the Shelby from stem to stern-building a powerful 400-plus-horsepower, 347ci stroker, setting up the driveline and massaging the body to perfection in a blazing Kosmo Red urethane basecoat/clearcoat.

Zak wanted plenty of torque on tap, but he also wanted a common-sense power-management program designed to make the most of his 302-based small-block. Inside is an Eagle 347ci stroker kit massaged to produce 400 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.

Zak was realistic in his quest for power. He opted for an Eagle 347ci stroker package to yield lots of torque without having to run the engine hard. That's why they build strokers. His Livernois-built 347 has a modest roller hydraulic cam grind, perfect for the street, coupled with Ford's own GT-40 cylinder heads and single-plane induction to handle displacement.

Although we think of dual-plane induction for street use, torque in this case comes from displacement and improved runner volume found in a single-plane high-rise. Zak went this route because he understood the dual-plane Cobra high-rise wouldn't make power with 347ci at high revs. The single-plane Ford Racing Performance Parts manifold, by nature, doesn't help an engine make torque down low-the 347's longer stroke helps create a broader powerband. When revs get high, the single-plane manifold lets the engine breathe nicely while making torque.