Jim Smart
November 1, 2009

Houston has long been a big oil town, even in the worst of times for the oil industry. In the best of times, Houston was over the top in terms of prosperity. It's home to a huge aerospace community centered around NASA, with the Johnson Space Flight Center managing space missions for at least a half century. When you combine oil gushers and thundering rocket power, you get something on the order of Jeff Fox's '67 Shelby GT 500 replica. It seems only natural that a NASA flight test engineer would build a car like this.

When Jeff set out to build a Mustang, his professional demeanor immediately went to work. For one thing, Jeff wanted a car that would outdo anything Carroll Shelby had built 40 years ago. The plan dates back more than 20 years, when Jeff belonged to the Texas A&M Sports Car Club. J. Bittle (who later founded JBA Headers) showed up at an event with the '67 GT 500 he'd owned since high school. The styling captured Jeff's imagination, but he couldn't help but notice that Bittle's Shelby was anything but stock at a time when everyone was restoring Shelbys to concours condition. Bittle's car, filled to the brim with a screaming 427 big-block, was ready for the road course or dragstrip.

The experience inspired Jeff to find a '67 Mustang fastback so he could build the car of his dreams. It wouldn't have to be blessed by Carroll Shelby, nor would it have passed through Shelby's Los Angeles Airport facilities. But it would have the looks of a genuine '67 GT 500 without concern for rarity, value, or the weight of a big-block. It would be quick, nimble, and light on its hooves.

Jeff found his '67 Mustang fastback and went to work, first stripping the car to a bare shell and then loading it onto a rotisserie. After making necessary repairs, the fastback was clad in PPG basecoat/clearcoat Candyapple Red with Wimbledon White LeMans stripes. Massaging the Shelby fiberglass was no easy feat because no matter how good fiberglass is, it always needs work to look good and fit right.

Great handling comes from Total Control Products' coilovers coupled with a fat 11/16-inch sway bar and Baer bumpsteer correction kit in front. TCP power rack-and-pinion steering gets the road ahead into clear focus. An MPG adjustable export brace, a Monte Carlo bar, and subframe connectors stiffen the platform. In back are 4 1/2-leaf, mid-eye leaf springs with Edelbrock IAS shocks and TCP shock plates.

Rolling stock includes PS Engineering's 15x7-inch Trans Am five-spoke wheels in front followed by 15x8-inch versions at the rear, all wrapped in BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires, P225/60R15 and P255/60R15 respectively.

Inside, Jeff wanted the authenticity of a Shelby with a smattering of goodies from his own imagination. Behind the dash is a Vintage Air system that retains the Mustang's original heater controls. The tachometer is an 8,000-rpm unit alongside a 0-140-mph speedometer and Stewart-Warner instruments. A Grant steering wheel simply felt better in his hands, and it was a lot cheaper than an original Shelby piece. Beneath the carpeting is AcoustiShield insulation for quiet on the open road.

Once Jeff had a rolling body, he handpicked an engine and driveline, going with a Houston S.A.M. 408ci Windsor stroker that's dyno-proven to produce 510 hp at 5,500 rpm with 510 lb-ft of torque. Inside is an Eagle 4340 steel forged crankshaft yielding a 4-inch stroke, dancing hand-in-hand with Eagle 6.200-inch H-beam rods and SRP forged flat-top pistons. Because Jeff has a solid aerospace background, he opted for ARP fasteners throughout this engine. On top are Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum heads married to a single-plane Victor Jr. intake manifold for deep breathing on the high end. A Holley HP750 with 1/2-inch spacer enhances torque. This also means sacrificing some torque down low, but not much because Jeff has a lot of stroke going for him.

The driveline is designed for both racing and cruising, starting with a LenTech Street Terminator Plus automatic overdrive transmission. Because Jeff fitted his LenTech box with a 2,500-rpm stall, 9 1/2-inch torque converter, power comes on quickly because the engine is allowed to rev to 2,500 and make power before torque multiplication. Out back is a Currie 9-inch axle with 3.70:1 gears and an Auburn limited-slip differential.

When Jeff sent us pictures of his GT 500 replica fastback, we were convinced he had the real thing because he didn't miss the important details. All of the basics of a '67 GT 500 are there, which could fool even the best of them. For Jeff, it's just another day of sweating the details.