During this process, the GT350's original Candy Apple Red paint was discovered. Finishing the car in its original hue would've been the correct course of action for an owner contemplating resale, but John had already owned the car for more than 30 years. He liked it in blue, and rather than paint it for someone he might never sell to, he decided to keep it the way it was when he acquired it. The color Ricky Jackson laid down is the correct '66 Sapphire Blue Metallic for GT350s, and was also available on Thunderbirds that year as Bright Blue Metallic.
Both the stock engine and transmission were also rebuilt, but John opted to crate them up for safekeeping. "When we started putting the car back together after paint, we decided it was going to be kind of boring to drive around with the stock Hi-Po and an automatic transmission," Heath says. That would also allow John to drive the car with a clear conscience and not prevent him from stomping on the throttle, for fear of throwing a rod through the valuable block.
To stave off any chance of boredom, John turned to a familiar company and sourced a Dart-based, Roush 353IR crate engine, producing 486 hp and 423 lb-ft of torque. On first glance, the Inglese eight-stack fuel injection sitting atop the Roush motor looks period correct, which was the look Heath wanted. "Hiding all the wiring and fuel injection was by far the hardest part of the build," Heath says. John seems pleased with the outcome. "He kept the engine compartment black and basic, but mixed what appears to be period correct equipment so nicely with modern tech, but not sparkly, shine-in-your-face modern tech," John says.
Selecting a transmission for the Roush motor also proved to be a difficult task. "John really wanted a five-speed, but I didn't want to cut the car up to put a five-speed in it," Heath says. "The only five-speed that would bolt into the car is a T-5 and it wouldn't hold up to the motor." Heath ended up tracking down a correct, date-coded four-speed Top Loader, but there was some debate as to what type of flywheel would be used to mate the transmission to the engine.
Several people tried to talk John out of an aluminum flywheel on a street car, including Heath. "It goes to 6,500 rpm instantly, and it's kind of hard to drive," Heath says. "There's just no mass, so as soon as you let the clutch out, it just grabs and takes off. It's really hard to get used to, but once you do, it's fine." John knows his choice goes against the grain for street cars, but he seems happy with the outcome. "I've never had a lightweight flywheel on a street car before and gosh, is it fun!" John says. "I've always wanted one, because they rev quick, and sure enough, it really is cool." John even made Heath a believer. "The car responds well with it, and I'd do it again on another street car, as long as it had enough motor to pull it."
John admits it takes a certain degree of concentration to hit Second gear without tagging the 6,800-rpm rev limiter, but the experience is well worth the effort. "When Heath handed me the keys after he first drove it, he said it was the fastest-revving car he'd ever driven," John says.
Rolling stock seems to be one of the more high-profile areas of vehicles in recent years, but John elected to keep things low-key in that department. "We had a long debate about the wheels," John says. "Brake upgrades were something I didn't want to do, and Heath said even though the Shelby brakes are bigger, we couldn't put a 17- or 18-inch wheel on the car, because the rotors would just look too small. Instead, John went with stock-sized 15-inch T/A-1s from PS Engineering, surrounded by BFGoodrich g-Force Sport rubber.
The end result has been polarizing. A few Shelby elitists are probably upset John's car isn't just as Carroll built it, but most are not. "The purists get upset when they see the car and look at you with a crossed eye," John says. "Then, there's another faction of people who understand that cars are built to be driven." Count us in the second group!