Jerry Heasley
April 1, 2010

Enthusiasts at last summer's Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, were treated to the chance appearance of a very exclusive Mustang. At the time, the body wore no identification. From ten feet, the red fastback looked like a '69 Shelby GT500. Underneath the body panels, however, was an '07 Shelby GT.

Had the spectators measured, they would have discovered that this custom was 4.5 inches wider and 4 inches longer than a '69 Shelby. It also had 20-inch Shelby Special Edition wheels. Still, the gorgeous red Mustang fooled many people. Of course, this illusion is exactly what Retrobuilt in Nixa, Missouri, was trying to achieve.

"Everyone loved it," said Retrobuilt co-owner Clinton White. "We had several inquiries about purchasing the car. I told them it would be available in the future, but didn't give any details because we were still working things out."

Also, the 2010 Mustang was about to come out. Over the next few months, Retrobuilt began making the steel parts to craft molds for the revamped body style.

In October, Retrobuilt took another step by listing the red prototype, now with Shelby GT500 badges, on eBay. "It's a good marketing tool," Clinton said. "We put it up for auction to gather feedback." Once again, the car got phenomenal response, with bids reaching $38,000 in three days before Clinton pulled the car off the auction site.

"That's when Amy called," Clinton said. Amy, of course, is Amy Boylan, president of Shelby Automobiles. The conflict, as Amy pointed out, was the fact that the Mustang was a Shelby GT. Retrobuilt could sell the car as a modified Shelby GT. However, Carroll Shelby owned the rights to the name GT500.

Amy and Clinton talked on the phone. She invited Retrobuilt to Las Vegas during the week of the SEMA Show. Clinton thought the chance for a licensing agreement was a "tremendous opportunity to work with Carroll Shelby." With the licensing agreement in hand, Retrobuilt is now on track to go into business of building the GT500 CS. The CS, of course, stands for Carroll Shelby and differentiates the name from the GT500.

Clinton gave us the build details in Cliff Notes form: "Basically, we roll in an '05 through '10 Mustang. We unbolt the front clip, bumper cover, and the rear decklid. We hang one-piece quarters that cover the existing rear quarters. We hang door shells over the existing door shells. The front clip, decklid, and the rear bumper bolt on right where the factory had it from Ford. And then they roll through paint and assembly. In two to three weeks, you have a brand-new GT500 CS."

The roof is the only panel Retrobuilt does not change on the Shelby GT500 CS. The hood, front fenders, doors, quarters, and rear decklid are fiberglass, made by Cobra Fiberglass. Basically, Retrobuilt built the parts in sheetmetal before turning them over to Cobra Fiberglass for the molds. Retrobuilt owns the molds; Cobra Fiberglass builds the fiberglass pieces from the molds.

Retrobuilt trucked the red Shelby GT-now lettered the Shelby GT500 CS-to Las Vegas along with a white '10 they completed just days before their trip. They displayed the white '10 at a Shelby Automobiles press event, while the red GT500 CS seen here went to SEMA at the Car & Driver radio booth. The reaction was the same at both places-most people thought the cars were real '69 GT500s.

Whether Retrobuilt starts with a '05-'09 or the slightly redesigned '10 model, the end result is the same on the outside.

Retrobuilt will sell the Shelby GT500 CS under license from Carroll Shelby. The specifics have not been ironed out at press time, but there's a good chance we'll see different packages and perhaps a GT500 CS convertible.

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Evolution of the GT500 CS
Clinton White and son Clinton White II have been restoring Mustangs and other performance cars for over 15 years, starting out as White Auto Body. Clinton II said, "We built mainly six-figure cars-SuperBirds, Hemi cars, Shelbys, and a lot of custom vehicles. Anything high-end performance or restoration is what we've done."

Around 2003, White Auto Body changed its name to Retrobuilt and took on several partners. One of their ambitious Mustang builds was the '07 RSC/GT, short for Retro Built Supercar GT. When they began the project, the '67 "Eleanor" was still the rage. The Whites thought that perhaps an '07 with a '67-'68 body kit would catch on but the car never went into production.

In 2007, Retrobuilt built another Mustang, also with series production as the goal, by customizing an '07 Shelby GT500 into a tribute to the '68 1/2 GT500KR. When finished, the tribute cars were high-dollar renditions of the vintage KR with a multitude of custom features. Retrobuilt sold "five or six" and went out of business at the end of 2007.

Now the company has shed three owners and reformed again as Retrobuilt, this time with Clinton White and his son Clinton White II. One of their first projects was the design of the '69 Shelby GT500 for the Gen 5 Mustang.

Clinton II said, "We started with '69 Shelby fiberglass and sheetmetal for an original car." Cobra Fiberglass, a supplier of quality reproduction fiberglass parts for Shelby Mustangs, became a player once Retrobuilt had fabricated the steel panels necessary to make the fiberglass molds. As they had done with the previous builds, Retrobuilt designed the prototype in steel, performing the work the old school way-by hand, in-house, and without computers.

Clinton II said, "We took the original fenders and cut them up, then we grafted them together, lengthening and widening to get the panels to fit correctly. Same for the door skins-we took '69 skins and cut and heightened them. Then we reinforced where the door handle goes so we could use the vintage door handles."

In the same systematic way, Retrobuilt designed a new rear fascia with a one-piece fiberglass decklid. As they had done with the RSC/GT and GT500KR tribute, the '69 GT500 CS used the Ford mounting points. Also, they did not affect any of the "crash zones." Clinton pointed out the factory crash barrier behind the chrome bumper. It's visible with the hood open.

Clinton II said, "The stainless for the hood and the eyebrows come from Shelby Restorations in Michigan. They're having our stainless made for us here in the U.S. along with our bumpers." The bumpers are three inches wider than the original '69 Shelby.

Clinton has driven the red fastback 8,000 miles with "no cracks, no trouble" from the panels. "It does well in the heat and does well in the cold, with no rattles."

The Original '69-'70 Shelby
By 1969, Ford had become more involved in the design and build of the Shelby Mustangs. In fact, the fiberglass nose and rear end for the '69 model was created by Ford Design in Dearborn. The dramatic styling took another huge step toward differentiating the Shelby from the Mach 1s and Bosses coming out of Ford. They were offered as GT350s with the 351 Windsor small-block and GT500s with the 428 Cobra Jet.

When the Shelby program ended in the fall of 1969, a number of Shelby Mustangs were still in the pipeline. Those cars were "updated" as '70 models with hood stripes and a front spoiler.