New Old Mus­tangs

Automobile - - Contents - By Mike Floyd

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




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.



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

By MIKE FLOYD pho­tog­ra­phy by JADE NEL­SON

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.

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