New Old Mustangs
Welcome to two distinct takes on a Mustang that helped usher in the muscle-car era, created legends on the track, and enhanced visibility for a man named Shelby. We spend a day at the track playing with a recreation of the famed GT350R.
JOHN MORTON BLIPS the throttle as he manhandles the Mustang’s large, thin wooden wheel. He sets up the car into the wide, right-hand sweeper traced by small orange cones with the nonchalance of a man who’s turned a car in anger hundreds of thousands of times. We hit the apex, and he pours on the throttle, unleashing all of the V-8’s 289 cubic inches and working over the four-speed manual as we barrel down the short front stretch of the Streets of Willow circuit.
Morton prefers Big Willow, the track next door to Streets at the famed Willow Springs facility about two hours northeast of Los Angeles. It’s easy to understand why. It’s a much faster, longer circuit. It’s where years ago he tested a car just like this and raced a car just like this. A Mustang built in Venice Beach, California, near the shores of the Pacific. A GT350R much like this one.
The new/old car Morton is hustling around Streets might as well be one of the race-prepped Shelby GT350Rs
Morton and others like Jerry Titus campaigned at Willow, Riverside, and elsewhere across the country, and men like Peter Brock helped design and the then-17-year-old Jim Marietta wrenched on in 1965. Built by the Original Venice Crew (OVC), this one is close to the real thing but with new independent rear suspension.
Back at the staging area, our own race ace Andy Pilgrim is about to strap into a GT350 Mustang, built by Revology, that looks very much like the Wimbledon White and Guardsman Blue-striped OVC machine Morton and I are in, only without the roll cage, race seats, and other oldschool high-performance flourishes. Instead, the Nappa leather inside is sourced from the same supplier Porsche uses, the floor is swathed in plush wool carpet, and the headliner is done in Alcantara. It has comfortable bucket seats, and a navigation/infotainment system complete with a backup camera. Pilgrim pushes the stop/start button, and its Ford Performance-prepped 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 with 435 horsepower mated to a Tremec T56 close-ratio six-speed manual clears its fuel-injected throat.
Automotive industry veteran Tom Scarpello, who spent the better part of two decades primarily at Ford and Nissan
AUTHENTICITY WAS A PRIMARY GOAL OF THE VENICE CREW. THEY DECIDED
TO OFFER 36 RECREATION CARS, THE SAME NUMBER THEY BUILT BACK
IN THE DAY.
in various roles including manufacturing and product planning, founded Revology Cars in 2014 out of Orlando, Florida, with the goal of creating a series of Mustangs with modern conveniences while celebrating the past. The approach is resto-mod at its core, but much more than that, Scarpello’s vision as “Chief Revologist” has been to create a company that takes a world-class, assembly-line approach to building cars he learned during his career. The official stamp of Shelby Automobiles and Ford makes Revology all the more legit.
When it comes to being legit, you can’t be much more in Mustang circles than folks like Morton, Brock, and Marietta. These are men who spent their salad days being cajoled, cussed out, and inspired by Carroll Shelby, building cars on a wing and a prayer in Shelby American’s impossibly cramped, 10,000-square-foot shop in Venice.
One night during a good round of bench racing, the guys started reminiscing about the three dozen GT350Rs they built back in ’65. Corners were carved. Brock never got a chance to sculpt the front end how he wanted. Then there was the car with the independent rear they never got to finish. It was a huge success at the track, but it could have and should have been better. What if they did it all over again how they really wanted to do it? “What if” became “why the hell not,” and the Original Venice Crew was formed.
Authenticity was a primary goal of the Venice Crew. They decided to offer 36 recreation cars, the same number they built back in the day, using the same 1965 K-code Mustang they built up (higher spec 289 V-8 and front discs) as the base car. Finding the donor cars hasn’t been easy, but so far they’ve located a couple. OVC, which builds the cars at the Shelby facility in Gardena, California, drops in a reworked version of the 289 pushing about 420 horses with a four-speed Borg Warner manual as the gearbox. Prices start at $250,000, and although that isn’t chicken feed, like Revology they have the official Ford and Shelby backing and a lineage that can’t be manufactured.
Marietta, who wasn’t even out of high school when he scored that fateful job at Shelby, has become the unofficial OVC spokesman, though he’s quick to say it’s a team effort. About seven guys work on a car at any one time, and it takes about four months to complete one. He walks us around OVC’s 98i-coded GT350R and calls out several details. “You see this here,” he says, pointing to the rear fender. “These are hand-flared. They’re a little rough, but that’s the way it was.”
He shows us the hand-welded plenums fitted over the carb and the gas tank filler in the trunk, and the changes to the front end and rear window that Brock made to the fastback to aid aero and cooling, which helped lead to the use of a smaller radiator. “When Peter Brock says you should do something, you probably should,” Marietta says, breaking into a wry smile.
You can get your OVC Mustang with the solid axle or the aforementioned independent rear. Duane Carling is the man behind the development work of the car’s IRS. It’s a magnificent-looking piece of engineering we saw a couple of weeks before the track day. As the story goes, back in ’65 the team was almost finished developing the IRS car when Shelby pulled resources away to the Daytona Coupe and GT40 projects. The suspension was put on a shelf and forgotten about. It was eventually carted off to longtime Ford racing partner Holman Moody with other assets after Ford ended the Shelby Mustang program in 1969 and later sold to a private owner. Carling tracked down the gentleman who had it and sent him a letter inquiring about it.
“WHEN PETER BROCK SAYS YOU SHOULD DO SOMETHING, YOU PROBABLY
John Morton imparts some of his immeasurable wisdom to Automobile editor-in-chief Mike Floyd about how the OVC GT350R behaves on the track.
INDEPENDENT DAY The “i” in the 98i on the side of the Original Venice Crew’s Mustang GT350R recreation stands for independent suspension
The Revology and OVC teams spent the day bench racing and getting feedback about how their cars were doing out on the circuit.
The Original Venice Crew’s approach to its GT350R is one of faithful recreation. The only nods to the modernization are to meet new safety rules.