Here at Modified Mustangs & Fords magazine, you'll find us preaching the virtues of driving your classic Ford and enhancing the performance in order to have that much more fun in it. Phoenix, Arizona's Chuck Young might as well be the poster child for MM&F, as he not only owns a real '68 Shelby GT350, but he's also modified it extensively in an effort to improve every aspect of vehicle performance.
Back in 1969, Chuck's first encounter with a Shelby Mustang was a very short-lived one. He had come home with a bright red '68 Shelby with saddle interior, but a subsequent conversation with his spouse convinced him that it wasn't the most family friendly vehicle, so a week later, he traded it in. Since that time, Chuck has owned a '64 Shelby Cobra, and a '68 Mustang GT with a 390ci V-8, but he has always longed to get his hands on another red Shelby Mustang. In 1997, Chuck picked up this all-original '68 GT350 with less than 70,000 miles on the clock.
"It wasn't running when I bought it," recalls Chuck. "The car had sat for a long time, and the fuel system needed to be replaced, the brakes were rusted-it was a total mess." Chuck also told us that the car had been repainted at least once in its as-delivered Candy Apple Red hue.
You could say this is where the road took a different direction. Whereas many a Shelby Mustang fanatic would go for the restoration, and probably the auction route, Chuck forged ahead with the necessary repairs to get the Shelby road worthy, and then proceeded to drive the all-original, numbers-matching Pony for the next several years.
In June 2005, Chuck decided he'd had enough of the wheezy vintage Mustang power, and set the stock J-code 302 aside. "It wasn't exactly a speed demon," noted Chuck.
The new plan called for a healthy 347ci stroker engine, and eventually a Paxton supercharger, but as the engine came out of the car, the motor swap quickly snowballed into a full-tilt restomodification.
With the original engine, transmission, and rearend now collecting dust in Chuck's garage, the body was dropped off to Chuck's friend Heath Elmer, whose company Heath Elmer Restorations (Mesa, Arizona), treated it to a rotisserie restoration with hundreds of hours in bodywork to get the flanks pin straight. The undercarriage, engine compartment, and interior were all restored to factory specs using NOS parts, but that's where the concours work ends.
"The idea was to make it fast, make it handle, and incorporate the latest high-tech parts and equipment while keeping the look of the car as near stock as possible," says Chuck. "The utmost importance was placed in not destroying the car while changing it." The goal was not to cut or weld anything, though an exception to the latter was made with regard to Troy Clark's installation of Total Control Products' subframe connectors.
The engine swap that started the snowball effect is based on a Ford Racing B50 8.2-inch-deck block that was machined by Duffee Motorsports in Phoenix, Arizona. A DSS Racing billet aluminum main support girdle and windage tray support the Eagle forged steel crank and rods, and Mahle forged pistons. AFR 185 cylinder heads and a Lunati camshaft designed for a supercharged application were combined with an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold and 13/4-inch headers to produce a stout 461 horsepower on the engine dyno.
When it came time to fit the stroker between the frame rails though, the intake was swapped for a Performer RPM piece, and the headers were traded for a set of 15/8-inch custom tri-Y headers from Stainless Works. The heads and intake were also sent to Extrude Hone for a round of media porting, and with a Holley 650 carb bolted on top, the powerplant has produced a healthy 400 hp at the wheels on a Mustang chassis dyno.
With the stock transmission sidelined, Chuck ordered up a Tremec TKO600 five-speed gearbox, a Pro 5.0 shifter, and a 10.5-inch King Cobra late-model clutch assembly. A JMC hydraulic clutch and master cylinder now squeeze the Ford Racing disc against a Fidanza aluminum flywheel. Right behind the 3-inch aluminum driveshaft you'll find a beefy Currie 9-Plus rearend housing. It's been fortified with a 3.89 gears and a Detroit Truetrac differential.
As you can imagine, Chuck was quite unimpressed with the factory Shelby handling, especially considering most of the current crop of front-wheel-drive econoboxes would probably run circles around it. Adding more power to an underwhelming suspension would only exacerbate the situation, so Chuck bolted in a Total Control Products power rack-and-pinion to start with. Following that, the frontend also saw the addition of a coilover front suspension from Global West. QA1 coilover shocks combined with Eibach springs now work with a 11/4-inch front antisway bar to make sure that the Mustang handles like a modern Quarter Horse.
The rear suspension was also modified extensively, starting with the five-leaf mid-eye springs. Competition Engineering Slide-A-Link traction bars are employed along with a pair of QA1 adjustable shocks. The suspension renovation put this Pony in the modern era of handling performance, and with that, there was only one area left to upgrade-the brakes.
Baer Brakes has long been associated with Mustangs, so they are right at home on Chuck's GT350. Factory parts set aside, Chuck installed Baer's Track front system, which utilizes 13-inch rotors and two-piston calipers, while the rear kit features 12-inch rotors and single-piston calipers. It's worlds apart
from the factory brakes, both in performance and looks.
One other area that stayed relatively stock in appearance is the interior. Just like the outside of the car, Chuck wanted the appearance of the factory Ford/Shelby look on the inside as well. The only modifications made to the cabin space are the five-speed shifter patterns on the shift knob and the console.
After the mechanical work was completed, Chuck spent the next two months or so sorting the car out, and making sure that in the end, it would be turnkey reliable.
"I'm not at all sorry what I did," says Chuck. "I've gotten some criticism over it, but it's my money and my car. They're no fun if they are just sitting there, and this one is a hoot to drive now with the five-speed, different rearend, better power, and new suspension. I'm not afraid to take it any place." We think Chuck made the right call. Carroll and his crew built these cars a long time ago to be driven and driven hard, which is just what our man Chuck is doing today.
"It's hard for me to do anything concourse wise. I guess there's too much hotrodder in me." Sounds like a rebel with a cause if you ask us.
Chuck Young's '68 Shelby GT350
- Ford Racing B50 8.2-inch deck block, decked and line-honed
- 4.030-inch bore
- 3.400-inch stroke
- Eagle forged steel crankshaft
- 5.400-inch H-beam connecting rods
- Mahle forged aluminum pistons
- Lunati hydraulic roller camshaft, 114 LSA, 288/288 duration, 0.598/0.598 lift
- Crane Gold Race 1.7:1 roller rocker arms
- AFR 185 cylinder heads, 2.02-inch intake valves, 1.60-inch exhaust valves, Extrude Hone ported
- Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake manifold, Extrude Hone ported
- Holley 650-cfm HP Double Pumper carburetor
- MSD Billet distributor
- Tremec TKO 600 five-speed manual
- Ford Racing 10.5-inch King Cobra clutch Pro 5.0 shifter, Fidanza aluminum flywheel Aluminum driveshaft
- JMC hydraulic clutch and master cylinder
- Currie Enterprises 9-Plus, Detroit Truetrac differential, 3.89 gears
- Stainless Works custom tri-Y headers with 15/8-inch primaries, 21/2-inch secondaries
- Front: Global West adjustable coilover, QA1 shocks, Eibach springs, TCP power rack-and-pinion steering, 1-1/4-inch front antisway bar with aluminum pillow-blocks
- Rear: Five-leaf mid-eye springs, QA1 adjustable shocks, Competition Engineering Slide-A-Link traction bars
- Front: Disc, Baer Track 13-inch rotors, two-piston calipers
- Rear: Disc, Baer Track 12-inch rotors, single-piston calipers
- Front: Vintage Wheel Works V-50, cast aluminum with polished lip, 17x8
- Rear: Vintage Wheel Works V-50, cast aluminum with polished lip, 17x8
- Front: BF Goodrich G-Force TA, P235/45R17
- Rear: BF Goodrich G-Force TA, P255/45R17
- Factory Ford Vinyl, Shelby woodgrain dash, steering wheel and console, Shelby rollbar, five-speed shift pattern on shift knob and console, Tilt-away steering column
- Rotisserie restoration by Heath Elmer Restorations, Factory Shelby equipment, Spies/Hecker base-/clearcoats