Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR: First DriveS

No bondo. No scratched-out VIN plates. No tacky graphics. In a market that encourages brainless restomods, the Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR is that rarest of beasts: a thoughtful car. Not like thoughtfulness matters when you let 545 hp loose.

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Full Disclosure: Classic Recreations wanted us to drive the '67 GT500CR so much that they flew us to Oklahoma and fed us applewood-smoked brisket. As Texans, we can endorse the latter but reserve comment on the former.

The world of vintage rebuilds exists mostly to sell cars to Russian "businessmen," stuffed-wallet pension-funders, or bored CEOs who think it's cool to wear a Ferrari hat while driving a Ferrari. If the average restomod is boring, derivative, or outright criminal, it's only because that's what most buyers seem to want.

On that note, discovering that the Classic Recreations GT500CR isn't a knockoff fiberglass shell "updated" with a thousand LEDs is a pleasant surprise. Classic Recreations' vehicles are approved by Shelby American, they sport Shelby serial numbers, and they're signed by Carroll Shelby himself. After the company's bad experience with Unique Performance, it seems that ol' Shel is being more selective about who uses his name.

Because the CR is a "recreation" and not a kit, shop foreman Tony Matos and his crew start with a real '67 or '68 fastback Mustang and then take four months to visually revamp it. The idea, they claim, is to offer a look both familiar and fresh with modern conveniences. The CR's lustrous red paint, a 1989 model-year Volvo color, is a good example of this.

"I'm building a muscle car, not a new car," says Jason Engel, the company's founder.

Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR: First DriveS

The scoops, hood, and nose are all Shelby GT500-spec parts. The center lights are positioned like those on the Ford original, but are actually PIAA foglights, not split high- and low-beam lights. The lower section of the nose is from a GT350, cut to give a sleeker line.

Out back, the taillights are appropriate period pieces, and both the giant gas cap and wheels are Shelby parts. Noticing a pattern? This brings us to the best part of the car: the 427 V-8. This custom crate engine begins life as a 351-cubic-inch Windsor — an engine chosen for its reliability — and is then stroked to a 427 and fitted with a Mass Flo fuel-injection system and powder-coated ceramic headers.

The package is good for 545 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque, put down through a Ford Racing Tremec T-5Z transmission and a nine-inch Ford rear axle with a 3.70:1 ring and pinion. Viewed on a lift, the car presents a structure more architectural than vintage, complete with a thick layer of what's essentially high-quality black bedliner.

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To access this power you'll have to climb into the interior, which is thankfully uncluttered by modern conveniences. The seats are Shelby buckets, and the large wood and aluminum steering wheel offer a classic-car feel. The custom roll bar is both a throwback and a reminder of the power under the hood. Staring at the passenger is a dash with Carroll Shelby's actual signature — a tacky requirement that I'm sure the car's customers love.

Once behind the wheel, my gut reaction is nostalgia for an era I didn't live through, but the sound emanating from the side pipes quickly focuses your entire body on the right pedal. Mash it down, and power delivery is classic American V-8. The car takes off in a rush of noise and testosterone. Although the CR is still in the test phase, Classic Recreations claims that it will spit out a 0-to-60 time in the low fives, with 4.4 seconds on tap for the upcoming "Venom" model.

The rack-and-pinion steering is amazingly light for a car of this vintage. Flying down the road above 100 mph, the CR is steady, without the float or wander you'd expect. The chassis is well-braced, and both the front and rear suspension benefit from giant sway bars. The ride is firm and the chassis balanced, providing a ride both steady and comfortable. Adjustable coil-overs live up front.

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If this car wasn't still in the tuning stage — and hadn't undergone final assembly the night before we showed up — I'd be a bit more concerned about the brakes, which had a vague feel and a Forrest-Gump-slow bite. The same goes for the clutch, which offers a much higher take-up than I'm comfortable with.

The "intro" model we drove costs $119,000; if you have the cash, you can order a CR with 770 hp for $199,000. It's a lot of cash, but given that you're buying an official Shelby product, it's probably market-appropriate. Carroll Shelby could license a Power Wheels and charge $50,000 for it.

Ultimately, just about anyone dropping that kind of cash on a 'Stang recreation is looking to own a piece of history, not just a car. On that note, it's a lucky coincidence that the CR is a well-crafted, grin-inducing hot rod wrapped in a sexy retro body.

A reimagined classic worth the price of admission? Doesn't sound very retro to us.

Photo Credit: Zerin Dube [Speed:Sport:Life]