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."
Shawn Zackarius gave the Total Control Products suspension system the same detail treatment. "The lower links in the four-bar suspension didn't look like the rest of the system so we made new ones to match," JF says. "The steering was a giant issue," he says referring to header clearance. They solved it by reconfiguring the production headers.
They didn't stop there either. They cut apart and re-skinned Flowmaster mufflers to make them smooth. And if that sounds insane, consider this: They also skinned the Tremec TK0 600 transmission between their 3-inch pipes. "They look like a waffle, if you will," he observes. "So rather than cut individual pieces to fill those holes we just shaped a sheet of aluminum and welded it to the transmission case. Extra thanks to the people at Tremec for working with us on that."
JF applied the waterborne BASF Onyx HD paint system. "It's a custom mix based on a Nissan color," he says. "It took a lot of work to come up with a color that didn't make this look like another Eleanor." The pinstripe separating it from the silver stripes draws from the interior color.
Before Launier delivered the car to Lee Baxter in Westbank, British Columbia, he and Sean Caverly fabricated a dash. "You know how those stock dashes sag?" he asks. "I hate that." He and Caverly pulled a mold from a reproduction dash and laminated a solid one. "That way we could wrap it in leather," he maintains. The console, however, is entirely Baxter's work. "It's just a dynamite example of a center console," he brags. "It gave me an opportunity to drag the colors and graphics into the car to give it continuity." Baxter also laminated a headliner and inner panels before he clad everything in butterscotch-colored leather.
We're nothing if not for the graces of our friendships and Launier admits that he owes a lot to close pal Mike Curtis at Curtis Speed. "Part of the Shelby deal is the seatbelts and the cage, but we wanted to wrap the cage in leather," Launier says. "Steve McCor designed these really slick brackets that Mike machined for us. The leather just disappears into them. They're so cool."
Curtis also machined the road wheels in a loose likeness of the car's original Magnum 500 wheels. "Mike was pretty adamant about the steering wheel not looking like the wheels, and I'm totally with him on that; it's so 1990s. He repeated the spoke detail on one spoke of the steering wheel, and it's perfect."
Classic Instruments built the gauge cluster. "We started with the retrofit gauge series but we used our own color and logo," Launier says. "Classic really deserves a lot of the credit for that job."
Even Launier admits that the grille represents one of the car's most impressive pieces of hardware. "That's totally Mike," he says. "We wanted the waffle pattern, and he machined the Kardiac 500 logo right in it." But what's so obvious is the secondary shape. "The nose curves so Mike machined it with like a 300-foot radius in it to match," he says, still somewhat awestruck at the idea.
You could say that awestruck is the emotion Launier and Gordon were going for. "You get in a bit of a rut where you make one spot really nice," Launier admits. "Then the spot next to it has to be that nice. In a way it's easier to make it 9 out of 10 rather than 7 out of 10." And it worked; Gordon's Shelby gave Launier a second entry in the esteemed Great Eight, this time at the 2012 Detroit Autorama.
Of course it costs a great deal to strike awe into others, a cost that extends well beyond a dollar figure. In an ironic twist the prospect of actually using Shelby 00248 makes Gordon's chest tighten just a bit. "I guess I've got too much time and effort into the thing to run it about," he admits.
But we have another idea to help him overcome his fear. As it happens Gordon's wife, Carol, is a registered nurse. Wouldn't a defibrillator, painted and plated to match, make a fitting accessory?
BY THE NUMBERS
1967 Mustang Shelby GT500
Quesnel, BC, Canada
Type: 427 Ford FE
Block: 1966 side oiler
Bore x stroke: 4.23 x 3.784 inches
Rotating assembly: factory forged crankshaft, LeMans connecting rods, and JE forged pistons
Compression ratio: 10:1
Cylinder heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM, aluminum with CNC-profiled ports and chambers
Camshaft: COMP Cams Magnum mechanical flat tappet, PN 33-638-5
Valvetrain: COMP pushrods and valvesprings; Dove Manufacturing rocker arms with shaft-end supports
Induction: Borla Induction isolated-runner throttle bodies
Engine management: Borla Induction
Fuel system: production aluminum tank modified for exhaust clearance and in-tank Walbro pump
Exhaust: production 1⅞-inch long-tube steel headers disassembled and reshaped for steering rack clearance; 3-inch round and oval steel pipes with re-skinned Flowmaster Super 40 series mufflers; Thermal finishing by Kool Coat Ceramic Coating, Langley, BC, CAN
Ignition: MSD commanded by Borla Induction ECU, conventional distributor and coil
Cooling: Be Cool aluminum radiator re-tanked by JF Kustoms, Be Cool electric fan
Engine built by: Terry Flebbe, Terry's Auto Lab, Quesnel, BC, CAN
Curtis Speed’s Mike Curtis milled the grille insert in the image of the original. Only, un
Transmission: Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, skinned with aluminum sheet and chrome plated
Rearend: Ford 9-inch housing, case, and limited-slip carrier by Strange Engineering, Richmond 4.11:1 gears and Strange 35-spline axleshafts
Frame: factory unitized body construction with Shelby roll hoop and owner-installed subframe connectors
Front suspension: Total Control Products unequal-length control arms, sway bar, and double-adjustable coilovers
Rear suspension: Total Control Products four-link with lower links by JF Kustoms, Total Control Products double-adjustable coilover dampers
Steering: Total Control Products manual steering rack conversion
Brakes: 13- and 11-inch Baer rotors with four-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Curtis Speed custom, 18x7 and 19x8.5
Tires: Pirelli P Zero, 235/40ZR17 and 275/40ZR19
Seats: Scat Procar trimmed in butterscotch leather by Lee Baxter, Westbank, BC, CAN
Pedal assembly: Wilwood Engineering with Clayton Machine Works arms and pedal pads by JF Kustoms
Other: Roll-hoop safety belt mounts designed by Steve McCor and machined by Mike Curtis, interior grilles machined by JF Kustoms, Painless Performance wiring installed by Doug Blatchford
Rather than hide the pipes, the JF Kustoms crew drew attention to them. It gave them a sen
Rather than mimic the road-wheel design in the steering wheel Curtis repeated one spoke. T
The JF Kustoms crew created trunk panels in the image of those in luxury cars, but in the