Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
July 16, 2010
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Jason Engel knows that he's treading in familiar waters. Indeed, he realizes that his new GT500CR Mustang will likely be compared to previous "recreations" and "continuations" based on the always-popular '67 Shelby GT500. Undaunted, Jason feels that with his new GT500CR, built by his Oklahoma City company, Classic Recreations, he has eliminated the worst of the predecessors and kept the best of the rest.

With the needed Shelby licensing on the line, Jason took his prototype of the GT500CR to Las Vegas earlier this year so Shelby American personnel, including VPs Gary Patterson and Gary Davis, could inspect the car and put it through its paces on the Las Vegas Speedway test track.

"I was scared to death," Jason says of the experience. "But they were all so cordial to me. And then it was great to have those guys tell me that I'd built a kick-ass car." He got the licensing approval.

Now it's a matter of building and selling cars, all based on original '67 or '68 Mustang fastbacks, not Dynacorn replacement bodies. Jason explains that he feels cars with original bodies and Ford VINs-V-8 engine codes only-will hold their value better, which is important to buyers who are considering a car that is described as an "investment," meaning you'll need to get off your wallet to put one in your garage. In late March, Classic Recreations had 19 bodies awaiting their transformation. Jason says that he buys restorable bodies from around the world, even paying finder's fees.

From these bodies, Classic Recreations styles the GT500CRs in the "classic" appearance of the original Shelby GT500. "We wanted to keep the look of Carroll's GT500 but with some modern twists," Jason explains. "It's the best design of any '67-'68 Mustang fastback, and we didn't want it to look like something that had already been done. People told me they wanted the original Shelby hood, scoops, and front end, and they also like the side exhaust."

In the inevitable comparison, you can see that the GT500CR, unlike Eleanors, retains the classic appearance of the '67 GT500, right down to the center-mount foglights in the grille. There's no hump on the hood or overly aggressive front end. The rear is classic Shelby with its trunk spoiler and sequential Thunderbird taillights, which look especially attractive on a red car. But there's also an R-model-style front valance, mild fender flares, and those sexy side exhausts, probably the most familiar remnant from Eleanor but molded into the body instead of tacked on.

If the appearance is vintage, the mechanicals are anything but. "It's got cool old-car styling yet you can get in it and drive for two hours," Jason says. "We want them to be drivers, so we've added a lot of modern amenities."

The suspension is completely updated with a coilover front end, rack-and-pinion steering with tilt column, and performance tuned rear suspension (coilover on the top two models). Brakes are huge four-wheel discs from Shelby/Baer. As expected, you get electric cooling fans, modern Carroll Shelby bucket seats, air conditioning, Pioneer stereo with modern speakers, and high-performance Z-rated tires.

Jason says he "went crazy" with the drivetrain, which starts with a stroker 427ci small-block crate engine with a World Products' block, Concept One pulley system, MSD ignition, and a Moroso oil pan that's built specifically for the GT500CR. In base form, the engine produces 545 hp-not counting the 150hp nitrous system. All will feature a Tremec five-speed manual transmission and 9-inch Fab 9 rearend with 3.70:1 gearing.

Jason is especially pleased with the Pro-M Mass Flow fuel injection. "It's the cleanest and easiest fuel injection I've ever come across," he says. "It learns and compensates so you don't need a laptop or complicated tuning. If you turn on the A/C, it raises the idle speed. The computer also detects engine temperature and kicks on the radiator cooling fans when needed."