Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Back from the boneyard

Sparked by the popularity of Gone in 60 Seconds, a classic Shelby returns: the G.T. 500E

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WHEN Gone in 60 Seconds hit theatres a couple of years ago, you had to know that despite its high-powered cast the movie wasn't going to be an Oscar contender.

Trotted out as a loose remake of the 1974 H.B. Halicki production bearing the same name, Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall were merely along for the ride in this ice-cold, hot-wired, cut-to-the-chase, stolen-car flick.

Disparaged as lame and lifeless by movie critics, auto enthusiasts went as far as to call the vehicle damage resulting from the chase scenes as the desecration of a classic. The reference is drawn from the abuse and destruction of a somewhat stylized version of the Shelby G.T. 500 nicknamed Eleanor that appears in the movie. What did emerge from this Hollywood joyride was a new star, as Eleanor captured the hearts and attention of car buffs and inspired newcomers to the hobby around the world.

The movie used 11 cars built by Cinema Vehicle Services. None were real Shelby cars and most were cosmetic lookalikes based on the '67/'68 Mustang fastback model, while two or three received upgraded shocks, suspension and braking systems to handle the movie's performance driving scenes. Most were consumed through the movie's production, but it's reported the film's producer Jerry Bruckheimer has one and another was owned by composer/actor Kid Rock until it perished in a recent garage fire.

With the car's popularity it wasn't long before Douglas Hasty, president and CEO of Unique Performance built a prototype "Eleanor" Shelby G.T. 500E based on a body kit purchased from Cinema Vehicle Services. Although built initially for Hasty's personal use, the demand for additional cars was overwhelming as it won awards at numerous shows.

The problem was producing a car that hasn't rolled off of the assembly line for decades. With Carroll Shelby, Shelby Licensing, Unique Performance and Sanderson Sales & Marketing, the plan is to unleash 400 continuation Shelby G.T. 500Es. The purpose is to expand the line of Shelby performance vehicles, as well as introduce them to a new generation of enthusiasts.

Where Shelby had taken unfinished Mustangs from Ford in the '60s and transformed them into winning road cars at Shelby American, Unique Performance began following the same tradition using '67 and '68 vintage Mustang bodies and equipping them with the best cutting-edge powertrain, suspension, braking and comfort components on the market, while retaining the classic good looks of the original 1960s Shelby cars.

Performance options

Many performance and cosmetic options can be chosen for the G.T. 500E and each is meticulously assembled to the customer's specifications. Available in six base colours with six different stripe colours, the buyer has a choice of 12 colour combinations. Various Shelby-tuned Ford V8 engines are available as are Tremec T5 five-speed and T56 six-speed manual transmissions, along with specially developed Brembo four-wheel disc brakes, Total Control Products rack and pinion steering and a coil-over suspension system that enables the car to handle like it's riding on rails. Add to this side-exiting exhaust, custom Shelby seats, light packages, air-conditioning, high-end audio, various wheel and tire combinations and a nitrous oxide system to further enhance performance and you have a true limited-production performance icon. Another bonus is because the G.T. 500E is an authentic Shelby vehicle, they will be included in the Shelby American Automobile Club registry, providing a provenance that ensures its value as a collectible.

With prices starting at $80,000 US, the Shelby G.T. 500E is definitely for the discerning buyer. The base model utilizes a 302-cu.-in. (5.0-L) V8 producing 325 h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. while the performance version is equipped with a stroked version of the 351 Windsor V8 yielding 408 cu. in. (6.5L) and producing 450 h.p at 5,500 r.p.m. Of the 400 cars being produced, 75 are reserved as Super Snake models incorporating Shelby's supercharged, all-aluminum 427-cu.-in. (7.1L) V8. Punching out a staggering 750 h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. this is a street car definitely not for the faint of heart. Bobby Mikus, general manager at Unique Performance, says production is already nearing 100 cars including 17 of the Super Snake models.

If that isn't enough, Mikus confirmed further continuation models are in the works, including a very limited number of G.T. 500E convertibles and the release of a 1965 G.T. 350R model within the next 12 months.

In order to accommodate production of the new models, on Oct. 18, Unique Performance will open a new 30,000-square-foot facility located in Farmers Branch, Tex. near Dallas.

I had an opportunity to view the performance version of the Shelby G.T. 500E while it was in town for the 4th Annual Cruz-In-Downtown and was amazed at the fit and finish of the automobile. I know this was once someone's used Mustang, but the finished product rivals the quality of the finest European coachbuilders. The result is a modern performance car with unparalleled performance and timeless good looks. Inspired by the movie and built by a legend, Eleanor is definitely a lady with the right stuff!

Additional information about the new line of Shelby products is available at www.sandersonsales.com or by calling (800) 418-4543.

PHOTOS DARCY FINLEY/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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