Carbon fiber has long been the chassis manufacturing material of choice for the world’s most sought-after hypercars, such as the Koenigsegg Agera RS and McLaren Senna. Simultaneously, the Ford GT and GT500, Audi R8, and Chevrolet Corvette also feature the material in more-limited areas of the chassis and body. Each of these applications has the benefit of OEM-level economy of scale when it comes to containing costs, making it more realistic to use the material. So when custom car builder Classic Recreations takes the 1967 Shelby GT500 — perhaps the quintessential mid-‘60s muscle car — and executes its vision to build a modern example of the vehicle from carbon fiber utilizing the latest manufacturing techniques, the performance motoring world sits up and takes notice.
The vehicle, the Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR 900C Mustang, brings new manufacturing techniques to a time-honored vehicle and is a step forward for the hot-rodding industry. Classic Recreations’ visionary founder, Jason Engel, had specific motivations to undertake this impressive, detailed project.
“The first reason is to be able to build an identical product repeatedly. Our company is known for building the same product over and over again. Building them by hand is what I’ve done for 16 years, and we have some beautiful representations, but they’re not identical. If you took ten of them side by side, they’re not identical. A hand-built car will be asymmetrical,” says Engel.
“We wanted to be able to replicate the product. There’s a huge process that goes into that to make it work, and the result is that you have a much more accurate car. It’s really interesting, but you have to think if there are 6-axis cut molds on the fenders and quarter panels and trunk lids, they’re identical on the rest of the cars forever. We’ve digitized the car we’ve developed; it’s immortalized and there forever.”
Using these modern manufacturing methods on the carbon fiber body panels allows CR to produce a higher quality product in a timelier fashion. But let’s be real here: even though it will be more effective for the company to make cars with carbon panels, there’s a massive appeal for the buyer to own one of the more-exclusive custom vehicles on the market.
Once you get past the car’s stunning good looks, it’s time to consider how much the carbon fiber body panels change its overall behaviors.
During our conversation, Engel pointed out that he believes an overlooked advantage of carbon fiber body panels is the massive improvement in structural rigidity and sound dampening — it is three times better than steel.
“With the cars we’ve built, they’re much quieter and more comfortable inside the vehicle. The second reason to build these is for us to innovate new products. These are prepreg carbon fiber cured in an autoclave, not some wet-laid carbon that a shop-built with fiberglass molds. And the third reason is to lose weight and improve the power-to-weight ratio. The car is so much more nimble because there’s less unsprung weight. We had to drop our rear spring rate in half [from the company’s traditional steel GT500s]. It’s a rocketship,” he says.
Engel tells us that the Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR 900C is 600 pounds lighter than an equivalent steel ’67 GT500. When powered by the optional 810-horsepower supercharged Aluminator Coyote engine, it offers supercar-level performance packed inside its classic good looks.
Classic Recreations designed the vehicle so that the parting lines between panels are as small as possible to give the cleanest finished appearance. Each piece of the car’s body has matching weave patterns — one fender flows into the hood, flowing into the other fender. The pattern continues through the A-pillars to the roof and roofline and down into the quarter panels. By the way, he says the quarter panel molds are massive, as the quarter panel, B-pillar, roofline, and A-pillar are made up of a single piece on each side of the vehicle.
“It took a tremendous amount of engineering to get the weave pattern to match across the entire car,” says Engel.
After digitally scanning one of the cars built previously, a CAD artist looked at the entire vehicle, and corrected the areas that needed attention. Going back to the asymmetrical hand-built car concept, they found several places that looked fine to the eye but were not to the computer. After fixing the dimensions that needed attention, they engineered the parting lines into the design. The 6-axis machine cuts the plugs, and a carbon fiber mold is manufactured to produce each part.
“It’s not quite as simple as walking up to the car and making a mold from the fender. That’s the old way, called splash molding, but that’s not manufacturing. That’s not how you get a premier product,” he says.
Engel specifically mentioned the assistance of Neil Cummings, Co-CEO of Carroll Shelby International and CEO of Carroll Shelby Licensing, Inc., without whose contribution this project may have never come to life.
“He has been there through this entire project and I want to thank him for his assistance,” says Engel.
With the carbon fiber manufacturing process figured out with its manufacturing partner, SpeedKore Performance Group, the CR team can turn its attention to finding enough 1967 Mustang bodies to use as structural underpinnings for the body panels. Of course, since these cars are more than 50 years old, finding chassis cores that Classic Recreations can turn into supercars is a daunting process. Classic Recreations has a team of trained spotters that help locate suitable donor cars when necessary.
The manufacturing process is quite involved. The carbon fiber body panels are designed with minimal gaps, and no visible adhesives or other visual flaws can be present when the vehicle is complete. This standard sets the Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR 900C apart from all other hand-built muscle cars, regardless of manufacturer. The outer carbon fiber skin is bonded to the underlying steel structure to create the final vehicle shell. Then, the driveline, suspension, interior, and other pieces are installed by the company’s talented craftspeople to create what is truly one of the most breathtaking custom vehicles on the market, in our humble opinion.
Classic Recreations 1967 Shelby GT500CR 900C Spec Sheet
- Engine: Ford 5.2L Aluminator Gen 3 Coyote engine, 810 horsepower
- Transmission: Ford 10R80 10-speed automatic w/paddle shifters
- Supercharger: Whipple Superchargers 3.0L Twin Screw with Big-Mouth 132mm throttle body
- Seats: ProCar Leather Seats, 5-Point Camlock Seat Belts
- Gauges: Carroll Shelby Signature (red face)
- Wheels: Forgeline 3-piece 18×10 (F), Forgeline 3-piece 18×12 (R) wheels
- Tires: BFGoodrich Rival G-Force 275/35/18 (F) BFGoodrich Rival G-Force 335/30/18 (R)
- Front Brakes: 6-piston Wilwood calipers with 14-inch slotted, cross-drilled & vented rotors
- Rear Brakes: 4-piston Wilwood calipers with 13-inch slotted, cross-drilled & vented rotors
- Suspension: Detroit Speed Alumaframe (F) DSE Quadralink (R), JRi coilover dampers
- Exhaust: Stainless Works long tube headers, dual 2.5-inch mandrel-bent stainless steel pipes, MagnaFlow stainless steel mufflers