It's deceptively simple to make an ordinary car exceptional. Just eliminate the compromises intended to make it good for a wide array of tasks and emphasize the things that make it great for a specific job. Voilà: exceptional car.
But what about cars that were exceptional from birth? The ocean of technology under the bridge since Shelby first transformed ponies to snakes certainly says we can make even the best old car better. But the prospect of modifying one of the 2,048 GT500s Shelby and Ford produced in 1967 doesn't sit so well with some enthusiasts. "We were talking about the purists when they learn that we cut up a real, live Shelby," Gordon Phillips recalls. "It's gonna give somebody a heart attack!" With that, Shelby 00248 earned its name: Kardiac.
Understand one thing before you go for the forks and torches: Gordon didn't sacrifice a princess; his ended up in a British Columbia wrecking yard crashed and stripped of almost everything but its heritage. "The fella who hauled it out of there showed me pictures," Gordon says. "It was really just a shell of a car."
The car underwent a moderate reconstruction by the time Gordon bought it in 1996 but he says it wasn't exactly right. (The color wasn't faithful. This was the first GT500 to wear Brittany Blue). Though better, the later Super T10 and the 427 in it was historically incorrect. That gave him license to do what he wanted, which included tearing it apart the day after he got it home.
Gordon had the car bead-blasted, hung new quarters, and began rebuilding it with drag racing in mind. He delivered the 427 to his boyhood pal Terry Flebbe at Terry's Auto Lab in Quesnel, British Columbia. With a side-oiler block, a reservoir crank, and LeMans rods, the engine was good. Nevertheless, Terry made it better with JE pistons, CNC-ported Edelbrock cylinder heads, ARP fasteners, a COMP Cams' Magnum solid-tappet cam, and Dove Manufacturing roller rockers.
How the subframe connectors met the body changed the car's course. "I installed them in such a way that the average guy wouldn't know they were there," Gordon recalls. "So I wanted the rest of the car to look that way." That ultimately led him to JF Launier at JF Customs a bit south in Osoyoos, British Columbia.
You'd have to know the custom-car world for Launier's name to ring a bell. He has an eye: He reshaped a 1952 Kaiser, a somewhat ungainly looking sedan in its native form, to look more like a European-inspired sports coupe as its creator intended. He also has the skills: With hardly more than a MIG welder and handtools he turned a 1956 Chrysler into a hardtop wagon that earned a spot in the Great Eight at the 2008 Detroit Autorama. Though it's the final round to the Don Ridler Memorial Award, many regard it an award in itself.
"It's tricky to do justice to a car like this," Launier begins. "Because it's a real GT500 I'd rather make every part nicer than change things. I wanted it to be a tribute to the car it really is." He began modestly by building upon the subtle finishing Gordon started when he installed the subframe connectors. "We ended up welding up every pinch weld and filing everything to fit. Then we just started doing bodywork on the bottom until everything was perfect." But that was only the start.
"We subtly reshaped almost the whole body," he says referring to the work that he, Alan Lee, and Ted Hamar invested throughout the car. "We tightened everything up to make it look like that's the way it came," he says. "We brought the bumpers in closer, contoured them to follow the shape of the car, and relieved the rear ones for the exhaust. We basically shrunk here and stretched there to make the car one consistent shape from the front to the back. We have probably 200 hours into just eliminating the fibers under the Shelby hood. The things we did aren't enough to be considered body mods, but they're just enough to make the car look better. We didn't want people to see what we did; we just wanted them to wonder why it looks so good."