But until we find our way there, the only site to see in town is us.
The foothill community we’re not-so-quietly idling through looks the same, street after street. A pair of cool kids with summer bleached-blond hair couldn’t be more stoked by our aimlessness, pointing enthusiastically when we pass them. And we’ve passed them at least twice.
In another car, we’d have resorted to the stereo by now to make up for the idiot silence hanging in the air after I got us lost. There is one, of course, and it’s probably great, as the GT350 is packed to the gills with expensive looking speakers, but using it would be a crime. I’m sure it’s a necessity in Classic Recreations’ flat and endless motherland of Oklahoma, but in this car, and in these California foothills, a stereo just isn’t worth a damn. Come to think of it, same for the air conditioning.
Jason Engel gets it. He’s as pleased to be aimed toward the mountains as I am when we finally find our way, despite knowing that a stranger is minutes from piloting his precious prototype up a road with a bad reputation. We talk specs, loudly, windows open over the fantastic racket of a 427 cubic-inch crate engine exhaling through 2.5-inch pipes and side-exit exhausts. We stop talking on cue when there’s an opportunity to sneak in a rev-matched downshift. And then we’re out of the suburbs and into the mountains.
This GT350 encourages a casual mountain hustle. Nothing obnoxiously aggressive, just good and quick, as it’s softly sprung for public-road duty. Like everything else Classic Recreations has designed for the car, the suspension strikes a balance between comfort and precision. The modern five-speed transmission makes a perfectly timed three-two downshift under braking easy, and the experience is just wonderful. The car pops and burbles and slows enough to strain your belts (five points, if you’re so inclined). The 10-inch Wilwood discs are more than enough for the GT350. For that matter, so is the engine braking, and it’s far more satisfying. Nail that balance between engine braking and those Wilwoods and you’ll feel like a hero. Seconds later, you’ll be rewarded for your proper setup by a long and glorious pull through the corner exit in exactly the right gear. The soundtrack is perfect.
There’s no sense untouched by a stab at the throttle. Smells? Leather, and hot things getting hotter. Touch? Oh yes. There’s the head jerk that comes immediately with throttle input. It keeps you planted until you shift. Then there’s the static tug of the old-school belts when you’ve gone into the corner a little deep. Taste comes courtesy of sweat beading on your upper lip.
We pull off at an overlook and get down to the business of figuring out what this car really is. It’s still a little tough to describe, mostly because the formal name of the thing prohibits any casual reference. Here, for the record, is our best shot at it:
Classic Recreations Prototype 1966 Shelby GT350CR.
It’s a continuation car. One licensed by Shelby and made from a carefully curated and assembled collection of parts, all piled with care and attention onto a 1966 Mustang fastback. This car is a demonstration of what CR can do with its workmanship and know-how. It’s also a demonstration of how much money you can pour into a car. We’ll know the value of the thing soon enough; it’s due to cross the auction block this weekend in Monterey, but a quick look at the spec sheet tells us that we’re looking at a comfortably six-figured car. Engel is guessing it’ll go for over $200K at the auction. He’d know.
Classic Recreations didn’t leave much on the table when it built a prototype GT350. Any upgrade that could be had has been bolted up. The wheels are three-piece HREs, chosen for their weight, or lack thereof. The fuel-injected 427 cid motor is straight from Ford Racing and is good for 545 hp. The nitrous bottles, constantly sparkling at you in the rearview mirror and unleashed by an ominous switch on the dash, would probably be good for another 150 hp. Want more? Supercharge it. It’s an option. Still more? Try a turbo with an intercooler.
It’s a maniac, this thing. Someone else’s cost-no-object dream come to fruition. It’s heaps of bad-ass with shaved drip-rails and endless details. The more you look, the more you notice. It’s that kind of car. And now it’s for sale. Classic Recreations is good for 10 a year, just as soon as this prototype clears the auction block.
Engel loads the car back in the trailer. It looks good there, with sunlight bouncing off the plywood and warming the chrome. Someone lucky is going to be stopping his trailer too often on the way home from Monterey, just to enjoy the view.