Jerry Heasley
September 1, 2007
Houston School of Automotive Machinists (S.A.M.) built an incredible and streetable powerplant. "We called it an 'SLR' motor to match the capabilities we were looking for: streetability, longevity, and reliability," Jeff says. "Judson Massingill, Houston S.A.M. owner, and Pat Topolinski, lead dyno operator, were great to work with." Pat personally tuned Jeff's car in his garage at no cost, twice. He is now employed by NHRA Pro Stock team Greg Anderson and Jason Line.

After a six-month search, Jeff found the car you see here; of course it wasn't in this fine a shape. It started out as a C-code that had been upgraded to a 302 at some point in the past. Jeff upped the Bittle 427 ante with a 351 Windsor stroked to 408 cubes that, with aluminum heads, is 150 pounds lighter. New-school, it features a raft of high-tech, 21st century goodies (see spec chart.) The outcome is 510 horses at 5,400 rpm and 510 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.

Jeff calls this tune "very usable." The automatic shifter looks Mustang original, but the familiar T-handle is pure stealth. Behind the 408 is a Lentech Street Terminator Plus AOD (three-speed plus Overdrive), with a 9 1/2-inch stall converter and a set of 3.70 gears in a 9-inch differential. "I can beat on that all day long," Jeff says, the engineer coming out in him. "I shift it all the time, 1-2-3. I love it. It's very streetable."

New tech blends with old in Jeff's GT500 clone. He could have gone with disc brakes in the back, but he preferred the blackout looks afforded by classic drums, which are "every bit as good unless you are repeatedly stopping."

Jeff's Mustang retains the retro look, inside and out. The body is correct to '67 Shelby specs right down to placement of the badges. "I did everything right, even the lower scoops. I made sure they were functional. I didn't skimp anywhere."

Inside, Jeff wanted A/C. He went with a Vintage Air system that featured black, plastic vents. This wouldn't do because the original '67s used brushed-aluminum vents. "The Vintage is all electric," Jeff says. "Ford's system is vacuum. We bought a dummy faceplate for the brushed aluminum with the levers. It looks stock, but behind, it's all electric. It was quite the engineering feat."

You may have noticed Jeff's license-plate frame on his Shelby clone. The frame was a joint idea of Jeff and his mother, Anne, who was battling breast cancer. Jeff and his mom had several hundred plate frames made, and with a donation to breast cancer research, Jeff and his mother would provide the donor a frame to promote awareness. The two then forwarded the donations to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. Sadly, Jeff's mother lost her battle recently, but the fight continues.

Simpson belts and a Grant steering wheel are the two apparent concessions to stock inside. The Shelby gauge pod looks stock. It's not. Originals can cost two grand or more for the combination oil pressure and ammeter gauges. Jeff built his own with period Stewart-Warner gauges. He likes that the oil-pressure line doesn't run inside the cab on this late-model gauge, courtesy of an oil-pressure-gauge isolator.

Jeff prefers to drive his GT500 to weekend cruises, where people talk about cars and leave when they want. While he attends some shows, he isn't so eager to park his fastback for prescribed periods of time.

"When the car was new and just out of the shop, there was one scary moment when a defective starter cable came loose from the starter and welded itself to the car," he says. "That made for a lot of smoke and potential fire. I stopped all traffic in the middle of a two-lane road and flagged down a guy who had a wrench and removed the cable. We saved the car, but I'll never forget that sick feeling."

How fast is the 510-horse clone? Jeff hasn't put it on the strip, but he's had long talks with the engine builders. They estimate the high-10s for the quarter-mile and 185 top speeds. Crude estimates from Jeff and Ricky Cappel of Cappel's Auto Restorations put the amount of time to complete the rotisserie resto-modifications on the car to about 450 hours in the body alone and around 2,000 hours total in the whole car when counting all the wrenching, strategizing, special engineering (and there's a lot of it), and running-around time. According to Jeff, "There are few things on a car from top to bottom that Ricky can't make look like a million bucks."

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery