Pony Car Evolution: GT350CR Pro-Touring Shelby Mustang
Classic Recreations breaks away from the herd with GT350CR Pro-Touring Shelby Mustang.
In 1961 Carroll Shelby, a successful racing driver who won Le Mans in his overalls, had retired from racing and was looking for his next adventure. Shelby found his next purpose in life when he stuffed a Ford 4.7L V8 engine into British-based AC’s Ace sportscar, which was the birth of the Shelby Cobra. In 1962, Shelby American began operations in Venice, California building Cobras and only a couple years later, the first 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 race and street cars were built. In ’65 Shelby moved headquarters to LAX in Los Angeles and the 1965 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang made its debut and would become just as iconic as the Cobra.
Fast forward five decades and you’ll find that same original Shelby American spirit in America’s heartland, where Classic Recreations is running a state-of-the art facility handcrafting brand new classic Shelby continuation cars, but with modern adaptations. At the 2016 SEMA Show, Classic Recreations teamed up with Ford Performance to create a beefed-up Pro-Touring version of the GT350CR Shelby complete with a coyote engine, a Voodoo intake, aggressive stance and body lines and modern tech gadgets inside.
The GT350CR Pro-Touring Mustang starts life as an original 1965 or 1966 Ford Mustang and through the strategic use of new sheet metal and exacting technique, it is made as solid and straight as a brand-new car. Once the CR crew has a strong starting foundation, the real fun can begin. Starting with the body, Jason and his team begin massaging the Mustang’s classic lines into something more purposeful and aggressive.
They add a vented hood and a deep chin spoiler to aid cooling and give the front end a bit more attitude, while custom bumpers clean up the appearance and remove a bit of weight. They then remove much of the chrome that would be found on an original car and replace it with body color-matched trim. The body work is finally highlighted with a few coats of BASF Glasurit Oxford White paint and complemented with CR Blue racing stripes – a combination inspired by the famous Essex Wire GT350 race car.
As handsome as the exterior of the GT350CR is, the truly exciting parts lay under the car’s body panels. Gone is the Mustang’s pedestrian 289 cubic inch V8, and in its place now lives a 5.0L Coyote crate engine from Ford Racing that produces in excess of 550 horsepower with help from an induction system from the brand-new Ford Voodoo 5.2 liter flat-plane engine found in the 2016 GT350 and GT350R. Even at that power level, the engine is far from finicky thanks to the addition of a FAST electronic fuel injection system that helps keep everything running like a brand new car should.
The engine is bolted to a tried and true Tremec TKO T5 five-speed gearbox and utilizes a Centerforce clutch. The clutch, while not economy car light, is certainly much more reasonable in terms of effort than one might expect in such a high-performance vehicle. The gearbox feels like a typical TKO five-speed: deliberate, requiring some effort, but solid and pleasant to use.
One area where the GT350CR Pro-Touring really shines is in its suspension and steering, both of which come from Detroit Speed Engineering. The power assisted rack and pinion steering is perfectly weighted and incredibly direct which makes placing the car on a tight, twisty road not only relatively simple, but extremely pleasurable. The suspension feels tight and modern, but thanks to the careful calibration of the JRi shocks, the GT350CR doesn’t beat you up and rarely feels unsettled. The Quadra-Link rear suspension setup with adjustable panhard bar keeps the Ford nine-inch rear axle located precisely where it needs to be and works to cancel out any geometry changes that can make a live axle-equipped car a handful.
The experience of driving the GT350CR Pro-Touring Shelby is dominated by the roar of the Ford Racing 5.0L Coyote motor up front. The engine roars through a set of Ford Racing headers that empty into a custom stainless steel MagnaFlow exhaust system. Power is ample, but the primary sensation is one of torque, specifically a wave of torque pushing the car effortlessly down the road. Take someone who’s never understood muscle cars and put them in the GT350CR Pro-Touring Mustang, it will make them quickly understand their appeal.
Stopping such a powerful car can sometimes be a challenge, one with which the original equipment brakes couldn’t possibly hope to contend. To bring the braking into the modern era, Classic Recreations turned to the braking experts at Wilwood and ordered up a set of huge, six-piston calipers for both the front and rear of the Mustang. These clamp down on sizable vented rotors, which fit neatly inside the custom-made American Racing forged aluminum wheels. These new wheels, made especially for the GT350CR Pro-Touring Shelby Mustang, are shod in BFG Rival rubber sized at 245/35/R18 in the front and 305/30/R18 in the rear.
The interior of the Pro-Touring GT350CR reads at first glance as mostly traditional Mustang, but the half cage and racing harnesses hint at a deeper purpose. The interior of the GT350CR is comfortable though not overly luxurious. The seats are reasonably supportive, the gauges are clear and attractive, and the touch points all feel like they are designed to transport the car’s occupants back to 1966. The stereo is more than adequate though it seems superfluous with that great aluminum V8 roaring away under the hood. Air conditioning is a welcome addition, especially for those that live in warmer climates, and it works flawlessly while aesthetically feeling like it should be there.
Driving a car that is so clearly rooted in nostalgia is a treat for anyone, but oftentimes those cars that are so iconic can be a bit of a disappointment. Nothing about the GT350CR Pro-Touring Shelby Mustang offers up anything close to disappointment. As an instrument of driving pleasure there are few other vehicles that can match up to it – it’s classic, yet modern and comfortable, but exciting.
Engine: 32 Valve Ford Coyote
Forced Induction: Voodoo 5.2 liter intake
Rear End Manufacturer: Strange Engineering
Rear End Type: 9 Inch Solid Axle
Type: Power Rack and Pinion
Manufacturer: Detroit Speed
Steering Column: Flaming River
Power Steering Fluid: Royal Purple
Gauges: Classic Instruments Shelby
A/C System: Old Air
Head Unit: Vintage Sounds
Wheels and Tires
Wheel Manufacturer/Model: American Racing Forged Wheels
Front Wheel Size: 18x9
Rear Wheel Size: 18x11
Tire Manufacturer/Model: BFG Rival
Front Tire Size: 265/25/18
Rear Tire Size: 315/30/18
Paint Manufacturer: BASF Glasurit
Paint Color: YZ White/ CR Blue
Fuel Type: Unleaded
Fuel Pump: Vaporworx
Fuel Tank/Cell: Ricks Tanks
Fuel Management: Ford
Front Manufacturer: Wilwood
Front Caliper Specs: 6-Piston
Rear Manufacturer: Wilwood
Rear Caliper Specs: 6-Piston
Battery Location: Trunk
Battery Manufacturer: Optima
Header Manufacturer: Ford
Header Details: Stainless Steel
Exhaust Manufacturer: MagnaFlow
Chassis: Detroit Speed
Front Suspension Manufacturer: Detroit Speed
Front Suspension Type: Aluma-frame
Rear Suspension Manufacturer: Detroit Speed
Rear Suspension Type: Quadralink 4 bar with Panhard
Shock Manufacturer: JRI
Sway Bars: Detroit Speed