If you've got an itch for a classic Mustang Fastback, you may want to give Classic Recreations a call. The Oklahoma-based company, which has made a name for itself building award-winning muscle cars licensed by Shelby, recently handed me the keys to its latest creation - a prototype 1966 Shelby GT350CR (serial number SCR350-00P) with a nitrous-injected 427-cubic-inch small-block Ford Racing engine sending power to its rear wheels through a Tremec five-speed manual gearbox. Yeah, it's the sort of machinery that whets my appetite.
As you might suspect by looking at the company's name, the team starts with a standard stock 1966 Mustang Fastback and then tears it down to the chassis in preparation for a full rebuild into what they call a Shelby GT350CR. This particular restoration includes the fitment of the aforementioned 7.0-liter V8 with BBK Long Tube ceramic-coated headers, Magnaflow mufflers, coil-over suspension and rack-and-pinion power steering. Stopping power is provided by Wilwood brakes, in the form of four-piston calipers over ventilated and cross-drilled iron rotors, and the mechanical upgrades are finished off with four brightly polished 18-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich g-Force T/A tires (245/45ZR18 front and 275/35ZR18 rear).
Inside the passenger compartment, occupants are treated to Carroll Shelby Scat Rally Series 1000 seats, five-point Camlock belts, three-spoke aluminum woodgrain steering wheel with tilt column, a full complement of gauges and full carpeting. An Old Air Products air conditioning system blows ice-cold breezes, and a powerful audio system with external amp and subwoofer ensure a sweet background track to the V8's wild bellow.
Classic Recreations met us with its beauty in Southern California, so we turned its striped nose toward Los Angeles' classic Mulholland Highway for an evening run.
- A brief walk-around of the Mustang before the drive reveals an attention to detail that will leave countless onlookers waving and asking questions. The metallic blue paintwork is excellent and the craftsmanship inside the engine bay, passenger cabin and trunk are show-worthy. In particular, I really like the epoxy-coated sheetmetal and satin-polished aluminum components under the hood, the functional and easy-to-read Shelby gauge cluster and the lightweight HRE wheels, which provided a nice compromise between classic and modern design.
- It's hard not to be intimidated by the Shelby GT350CR. Its purpose-built seats, polished metal shifter and competition harnesses have me looking around for my helmet moments after buckling in (in truth, the harness really needs a pass-through in the lower cushion to fit properly). The mechanical feel of the manual lever and clutch mechanism drives the racing message home. That said, the cockpit is comfortable and spacious. Thin A-pillars provide excellent forward visibility, and the view out back is clear, but sightlines over the shoulders into the rear quarters are challenged by the blocked windows.
- The controls are 1960s-era simple, primarily consisting of a few polished knobs that require a simple push-pull to operate and the windows manually crank. The optional NOS system, fitted to the test car, automatically engages if enabled by its red dash-mounted switch (the tank is full, but sadly I will never have an open opportunity to use it).
- The 427-cubic-inch V8 drives and sounds every bit as good as it looks. It idles with an angry demeanor and then backs up its bark with a ferocious bite. There is plenty of power in each of the lower gears to initiate immediate wheelspin, leaving rear tire life completely up to the operator (the company quotes a 0-60 sprint of 3.7 seconds, but based on available grip, I feel that number is a bit optimistic). Kudos to Classic Recreations for putting an open side pipe on both the passenger and driver side of the car, as the two provide stereophonic rumbles and backfires reverberating throughout the cabin. While the climate control works perfectly, I would never roll up the windows for fear of suppressing the exhaust noise - it's addictive.
- Despite the upgraded and modernized coil-over suspension with oversized sway bars and race-tuned ride on sticky BF Goodrich rubber, this Mustang is still more of a cruiser than a carver. Initial turn-in is on the slow side and the coupe drives with a large demeanor that requires plenty of anticipation in the corners. When compared to other ungainly muscle cars of its era, its handling would certainly be considered impressive, but today's multi-talented sports cars would run circles around this Pony in the canyons.
- Classic Recreations is making only 10 of the legacy cars each year, and buyers are offered a grocery list of options to customize each to their specifications. While it wouldn't be my first choice in a canyon or race track, bring this muscle car to a drag strip, crowded boulevard, summer beach or car show and it will simply shine - we had to pull impressed gawkers away in order to leave a Mulholland overlook.