Shelby muscles in on the bespoke car market

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Shelby American has created a one-off 1997 Mustang. Image: Shelby American Inc via AFP Relaxnews

Shelby American has taken the wraps off a “new” 1997 Ford Mustang, but don’t for one moment think that the car is just a painstaking restoration.

Instead, it’s a time-warp resto mod that answers the question: “If Shelby had been doing a hot version of the Mustang in the 1990s, what would it have been like?”

“We built this car for someone who believed the only limits should be his imagination,” said Joe Conway, co-CEO of Carroll Shelby International and CEO of Shelby American. That person, Joseph Tice of Central Texas, wanted a car that looked and felt like a brand new circa 1997 factory model but that could give the best modern hotrods a run for their money when he hit the accelerator.

“We literally took the Mustang down to the bones,” explained vice president of operations Vince LaViolette. “We hand built a supercharged 4.6L engine, rebuilt the transmission to handle it, transformed the suspension and added an incredible braking system.”

Though on first glance it’s impossible to tell—it looks just like a stock 1997 Mustang GT, albeit with an incredible dark red paint finish—every single one of the car’s systems, inside and out, received attention or was in some way overhauled. And because it is a complete Shelby recreation, it gets the company’s provenance and a serial number in the company’s official registry.

“It’s a total sleeper that can kick tail on the street and mystify people with its unique provenance,” said LaViolette.

Though the company has been modifying, hot-rodding and rebuilding cars since it was founded by the late, great Carroll Shelby, this project is a first for Shelby American in terms of the complexities involved and the attention to detail required.

It is a truly bespoke car, just like those being assembled by Aston Martin’s Q Division or Jaguar’s special operations department and the company is not scared of drawing direct comparisons between its latest creation and those of the Supercar and luxury GT elite.

“The success of this car certainly demonstrates the technical prowess and capabilities of Shelby,” said Conway, who is now examining the feasibility of adding bespoke building to its list of existing services. JB

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