Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 18, 2012

Brian directs me to a parkway where we can cruise at higher speeds. I continue to be impressed by the torque, even in Fifth gear. With its coil-over front suspension, the ride is smooth and much more comfortable than an original '67 Shelby G.T. 500 with its heavy-duty coil springs and high-performance shocks. Best of all, there's no drone from the exhaust at any cruising speed.

Back in Cape Coral, Brian and I stop for mahi-mahi sandwiches at The Joint, one of his favorite restaurants located in a posh waterfront shopping plaza. The G.T. 500CR looks right at home parked among the Mercedes and other high-end luxury vehicles.

After spending the better part of a day with Brian's car, I can say that the G.T. 500CR is about as close as you can get to a new Mustang with an old Mustang. Is it as smooth and comfortable as a '12 Mustang GT? No. But is it a better overall car than the majority of old Mustangs? Most certainly, as it should be for the price tag.

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Obviously, not everyone can afford a G.T. 500CR. Heck, how many wives would let their husbands spend $150,000 on an old Mustang? But if you've worked hard for the past 30 years and you're ready to enjoy the fruits of those labors with a vintage muscle car that features sexy Shelby looks, great performance, modern conveniences, and none of the reliability issues found in most old cars, then the G.T. 500CR is the car for you.

You may even win some car show trophies.

3,000 Hours

When you look at the man-hours and parts involved in the G.T. 500CR build, you have to wonder if Jason Engel isn't losing money on each car. From start to finish, every G.T. 500CR build requires 11 to 14 months and 2,500 to 3,000 hours of labor in the Classic Recreations shops. Multiply that by a common shop rate of $55 per hour and you come up with between $137,500 and $165,000—just for labor alone.

So it's not surprising to hear Jason say, "I'm not doing this to get rich. I'm hopefully creating a business that will be turning out other high-end cars in five to six years."

Most of the labor occurs in the early stages of restoring the fastback bodies that Jason acquires from many sources. Every car is stripped "to the carcass," then acid-dipped, which Jason prefers because the acid gets inside areas like the frame rails and also helps to neutralize the metal to prevent future rust. Then Jason makes a list of the needed body repairs.

"We don't patch anything," he says. "If there's rust in a rear quarter panel, we replace the entire quarter panel. Every car gets a new one-piece floorpan, which is stronger than patching. If a car needs a frame rail, we replace the whole thing, including the torque box."

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With the body repaired to Jason's satisfaction, it moves to another section of the shop to get fenders, doors, wheel flares, and other components. By the time the car is ready for paint, which includes "lining up everything like they do on a Ferrari," Classic Recreations has invested up to 900 hours into the project.

For the next six weeks, the future G.T. 500CR goes through its paint process, which includes three rounds of priming and blocking. While still in primer, the body is flipped on its side for the installation of subframe connectors, bracing, and other undercarriage modifications. Then U-POL coating, a truck bedliner material, is applied to the undercarriage, passenger compartment, and engine bay. Jason likes the U-POL product for several reasons, including its durable and easily cleanable textured finish, rust prevention, and sound deadening properties.

Finally, the car is ready for paint, which is baked before the final rubbing. "Most people are surprised when they see that we don't use water for sanding," Jason explains. "We dry sand with 1,000-grit sandpaper, followed by 1,500-grit. Wet sanding is very messy and the residue gets into all the cracks. With dry sanding, you just blow off the dust."