The name “Eleanor” elicits a polarizing response in the Mustang world. For some, the hero car of the popular movie remake in 2000 is little more than an imitation Shelby. For others, the car represents an eye-catching upgrade to many so-called “tribute cars.” Count Joe Wok among the latter. He was just a kid from a small town just north of Seattle growing up on a 500-acre ranch with the normal chores of a farm. Tending cows, running heavy equipment, and of course, bucking hay at an early age every summer.
“I also played sports through high school,” Joe told us, but eventually his attention would focus on other things. “I was really getting into cars and girls but I knew I had better a better chance with the cars. There was always cars and trucks to drive at a young age, but it was my dad’s ’32-’36 Fords that got my attention.”
Furthering Joe’s passion through his teen years was his ability to gain high school credits for working at the local gas station. “It quickly became a hangout on Friday and Saturday nights for friends to bring their cars in and work on them” he recalled. “The station had two lifts, which back then, was a huge deal. It was through this connection that I landed a coveted clean up/detail position at the area body shop.”
Not one to let an opportunity slip by, Joe would hone his craft eventually becoming a master painter with over 15 years of experience under his spray mask.
Acknowledging his dad’s Blue Oval allegiance, Joe admits his personal taste is a bit different. “I love all types of cars,” he explained. “Over the past 30 years I’ve owned, bought, built and sold over 60 cars and trucks. They each have something cool to offer.”
Joe concedes there are a few he regrets selling. Among them are a ’69 Camaro RS/SS, a ’70 Challenger RT, a ’97 Dodge Viper GTS and his first car, a ’69 Mach 1. However, his ’67 Eleanor won’t be one of them.
“I always had an affection for the older muscle cars, especially the Shelbys — GT500s in particular,” Joe said, but like most of us couldn’t afford one.“I fell in love with the star of the Gone In 60 Seconds movie, not Angelina, but the hero-car Eleanor. There was something about that car that grabbed an held my attention, the lines, the stance, and the overall appearance.”
He was bitten. Joe would embark on a five-year journey to find a suitable donor car and build his own Eleanor. “I wanted to make the car 90-percent movie correct,” he confessed. “I know she isn’t a factory Shelby, but that doesn’t matter to me.”
To that end, Joe took liberties with modern running gear, engine, and amenities. “I know purists may cringe, but I enjoy it. It’s amazing to me is the people who identify with the car, even at our local coffee shops or gas stations.”
Admitting he gets a kick out of the notoriety Joe said, “People walk up smiling and say ‘Eleanor!’ asking if they could take a few selfies or pictures of the car. “I try to spend the time to chat with them because you can see the enjoyment on their faces,” he added.
As the Seattle resident waits for the weather to break so he can once again share his movie car, Joe encourages others to “Follow your passion, go with what makes you happy what ever brand, make or model that may be.” His Eleanor may not be a real Shelby, but it is a work of art at the hands of a talented craftsman. And, when he drives it, you can bet he’s a baaaaad man.