Jim Smart
August 1, 2007
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

The exciting world of restomod is taking us to places we never dreamed. Take, for example, the Shelby GT350SR. Carroll Shelby and Unique Performance (Farmers Branch, Texas) have gotten together, and ol' Shel' is building cars again-this time in his home state of Texas.

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"The GT350SR is a modern evolution of its legendary ancestor," Unique Performance tells us. It's the hottest first-generation Mustang fastback ever produced, with a choice of at least three different engines-331ci, 408ci, or 427ci-carbureted or injected. If you have deep pockets and lots of ambition, the GT350SR is a sizzling dream-ticket ride with all kinds of wild options unheard of in '65-'66 cars. You can equip this retro Pony just about any way imaginable.

Larry Carpenter learned all he could about these cars-and Unique Performance-and had one built. Larry is an approachable guy with a down-to-earth attitude. He has never forgotten where he came from, nor taken his eyes off where he's going. His philosophy makes you wish he was running for political office instead of pursingreal-estate investments.Larry will tell you the best direction to take in life is to act with honesty and integrity in all that you do-and that's the way he lives. He began his career as a firefighter. When you consider his roots, it's easy to understand why this man approaches life the way he does. With Larry, what you see is what you get. He loves fishing, fast cars, and-most of all-his family.

Larry became a business success by following the advice and teachings of key players in the world around us: Zig Ziglar, Thomas J. Allan, Patrick Morley, and Andrew Carnegie. He has also digested teachings of the Reverend Billy Graham and Oswald Chambers. Larry says one of the most important books he has ever read, aside from the Bible, was The Empire of Business by Carnegie, followed by See You At the Top by Zig Ziglar.

Born in North Carolina, Larry spent most of his career in the hotel and outdoor-advertising industries. After he graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 1986, he got into the investment business, which naturally segued into the exciting industry he's in today.

No one has handed Larry anything in his many years in the real-estate business. He learned much of what he knows on his own while looking to the knowledge of those already there. His most formidable years were spent in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Red Roof Inn Hotel Group where he cut his teeth in the business. In 1993, he ventured on his own, launching Carpenter & Company in Little Rock, making good investments, and growing his company. What's more, he did it with zero debt.

In 2001, Larry founded the Carpenter Hotel Group, a real-estate investment company with interests all over the country. He is especially proud of the Holiday Inn Presidential Conference Center in downtown Little Rock near the Clinton Presidential Library. Count on there being more projects like it.

How could Larry's great success not be rewarded with something just as extraordinary? This man is a stereotypical midlife baby boomer who has worked hard and loves classic musclecars. He fondly remembers those cars he couldn't afford when he was young. But he can afford one now, and that's why he contacted Unique Performance and ordered the musclecar of his dreams-a Shelby Mustang GT350SR.

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You can't argue with this car's demeanor. Clad in Raven Black basecoat/clearcoat urethane with those classic gold stripes (specially requested by the owner and the only SR built with this color combo), this car tells you at a glance that it isn't a clone, nor is it anyone's kid brother. It's the real thing with Shelby's blessings. It's a car that once had another life before arriving at Unique Performance-born anew in the heart of Texas, something handcrafted just for Larry.

What Larry liked most about the GT350SR was its big-cube, lightweight Windsor small-block V-8. He opted for a fuel-injected 408ci mill sporting 575 hp. This is a Shelby-tuned powerhouse that continues Carroll's legacy of really hot, nimble-hoofed super handlers. Shelby has always known the key to getting there faster is to make a lot of torque without having weight in the nose. You do that by stuffing lots of displacement into a small-block V-8.

Larry's GT350SR has Tremec's bulletproof TKO series five-speed transmission, which gets its direction from a Tilton hydraulic-diaphragm clutch and flywheel. Down river, there's a Currie 3.25 Traction-Lok rearend with 31-spline axles. The cool thing about the TKO/ Currie combo is its durability and seamless power management. Those are Shelby's own R-styled five-spoke 15x7-inch wheels (American Racing Torq-Thrusts) wrapped in BFGoodrich Radial T/As.

Unique Performance fits these cars with its own custom dual-exhaust system-long-tube headers cruising down to 2-1/2-inch pipes through SpinTech mufflers and side-exit exhausts. The system barks a throaty roar when Larry cracks the throttle.

Inside, the GT350SR is a world that classic Shelby GT350s couldn't possibly relate to with Old Air Products air conditioning and heating, a stereo, deep bucket seats, power rack-and-pinion steering with a woodgrain wheel, a short-throw shifter, and other creature comforts.

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What makes the GT350SR even cooler than its ancestors is convenience. There's no Holley four-bore to keep tuned. Dual-points? Forget them-there's an MSD electronic ignition. Valves to adjust? Are you kiddin'? Imagine 575 hp on tap with air conditioning, stereo, the efficiency of overdrive, spot-on handling, comfortable Shelby-signature bucket seats, and a rear seat for the kids. How cool is that? For Larry, it's extraordinarily cool, as well as an opportunity to relive Shelby history while creating a whole bunch of his own.

The Details
Unique Performance '66 GT350SR, No. CSC-016
Owner: Larry Carpenter, Little Rock, AR

408ci small-block V-8
575 hp
DC&O electronic-port fuel injection
MSD ignition system
Shelby signature valve covers
Unique Performance-spec Griffin aluminum radiator
SPAL electric fan
Roller hydraulic camshaft and valvetrain
Aluminum heads

Tremec TKO-500 five-speed

Currie 9-inch
3.25 gears
31-spline axles

Long-tube headers
2-1/2-inch dual side-exit exhaust
SpinTech mufflers

Front: Unique Performance coilover, QA1 adjustable gas shocks, Baer Tracker adjustable bumpsteer tie-rods, shock-tower brace, Total Control Products power rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Unique Performance four-link coilover, Shelby traction bars, QA1 adjustable gas shocks, subframe connectors, driveshaft safety loop, four-point rollbar

Front: Baer 12x1.1-inch cross-drilled and slotted disc, PBR two-piston caliper
Rear: Baer 12x0.81-inch cross-drilled and slotted disc, PBR single-piston caliper
Adjustable proportioning valve
Cooling ducts to all brakes

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Front: Shelby R-Style, 15x7 inches
Rear: Shelby R-Style, 15x7 inches

Front: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P235/60R15
Rear: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P255/60R15

"Carroll Shelby" embroidered high-back bucket seats, G-Force five-point quick-release harnesses, Old Air Products Hurricane Climate Control, Shelby Signature Series instrumentation with 160-mph speedometer, woodgrain steering wheel, CAE sound-dampening package, rear seat for the family (the GT350SR usually comes as a two-seater with a spare-tire holder)

Shelby fiberglass and emblems, functional SC Cobra gas cap, Shelby quarter windows, Shelby bullet racing mirrors, GT350SR graphics, Raven Black basecoat/ clearcoat with gold stripes