“People can’t quite figure it out,” says Donald Morton about his ’13 Retrobuilt 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500CS convertible. “At first, they think it’s old, but then they realize that it’s new.”
He mentioned people using cell phones to snap pictures and shoot video in gas stations, others running out of Starbucks to get a closer look, even getting pulled over by a highway patrolman in West Texas, but not for speeding. He just had to see the car for himself.
The black with red stripes convertible looks like a ’69-’70 G.T. 500, but it’s actually a brand-new ’13 Shelby GT 500 with a Retrobuilt body conversion that transforms the modern shape into a facsimile of the beautiful late-1960s’ Shelby. The mechanicals are modern Shelby GT 500, including the 5.8-liter V-8 that comes from Ford SVT with 662 horsepower. Morton’s GT 500CS nudges past 750 horsepower thanks to a 90-horse boost with a supercharger upgrade kit from Ford Racing.
“One night I was driving through Los Angeles County, just north of Calabasas, and this Camaro ZL1 tried me three times,” Morton admits. “It wasn’t even close.”
Morton didn’t give further details about street racing his GT 500 CS. Then he laughed as he recalled a similar encounter and triumph with an even more potent American supercar, a ’13 Corvette ZR-1 with 638 horsepower.
Horsepower numbers such as these are astounding to lovers of vintage American musclecars. The rating for the 428 Cobra Jet, as supplied in the ’69-’70 G.T. 500, tallied just 335.
With help from a licensing agreement from Shelby American, Retrobuilt is able to make any ’05 and later Mustang look like a Shelby warrior of old. Only this time, the owner can have his vintage looks with freakish horsepower, modern chassis, and all the luxuries of today’s Shelby GT 500.
Retrobuilt’s Clinton White Jr. said, “Mainly, we do conversions into ’69 Shelbys and ’69 Mustang SportsRoofs, which are the ones that resemble the ’69 Boss 302.” White may not have a licensing agreement with Ford to use the Boss name, but he does have an agreement with Shelby American. In fact, a few years ago, Carroll himself inspected a Retrobuilt Mustang and was very happy with the result. He agreed to license the conversion as the GT 500 CS.
According to Retrobuilt’s website (www.retrobuilt.com), Carroll said, “I know what it takes to build a car, and Retrobuilt has built a car!”
Car styling is subjective, of course. However, the ’69-’70 Shelby is certainly one of the most appealing Shelbys of all time. They just look so cool.
Morton has gathered strong evidence of this car’s popularity. Having put over 18,000 miles on his GT 500CS, he said, “This car attracts people’s attention like flies to a cow paddy, and I’m a rancher. It’s beyond rock star.”
Morton, apparently, has so far been the one enthusiast to put on his big-boy pants and build such a ride starting with a new Shelby GT 500 Shelby supercar. Other Retrobuilt customers have done their CS builds starting with a Mustang GT. When finished, both have similar exterior looks.
Why did Morton start with a Shelby instead of a less expensive GT? More horsepower is one good answer. “I already own a real ’69 GT 500,” Morton replies. “So I thought it would be special to make my ’13 better than a real ’69 G.T. 500.”
Morton has owned many different makes and models of American musclecars. He has driven many miles in his ‘66 G.T. 350H and ’70 G.T. 500 convertible with the Drag Pack option, one of only nine four-speed cars ever built. He also owns a ’70 Dodge Challenger convertible with the 440 Six Pack and a ’67 Corvette.
Morton is not one to let his cars sit. His enjoyment comes from driving. He mentioned a trip to Glacier National Park in the ’66 Hertz Shelby. He once got stuck in Death Valley in the vintage Corvette. The ’70 Drag Pack Shelby, with its digger gears, only gets nine miles-per-gallon, so long trips are not such a good idea. Morton now favors the reliable and fast Shelby GT 500CS for road trips.
To build these Shelby Mustangs, White Jr. said, “Basically, we change every panel on the car except for the roof. It’s a full body conversion. We remove the front clip and install a new front clip. We cover up the doors and quarters with different panels. And we use a different deck lid and tail end of the car.”
The CS is four inches wider, a foot longer, and 75 pounds heavier than a stock ’13 Mustang. For Morton’s build, Retrobuilt reupholstered the original black seats with ultra suede and two-toned the door panels for a little jazzier interior.
“One of the great things about a new Mustang is that the seats are incredibly comfortable,” Morton adds. “I love ‘em. Plus, I’ve got Sirius satellite radio, air conditioning, and all the comforts of a modern car.”
Of course, Morton’s ride also has the looks of the ’69-’70 Shelby, which he favors, along with big-time horsepower.
Morton has been so happy with his ’13 Shelby GT 500 CS convertible that he has ordered a new ’14 Shelby GT 500 in the coupe body style. He’s sending it to Retrobuilt for a second CS conversion.
Clinton White Sr. didn’t have to ask twice when he called to see if we’d be interested in spending some time with a ’69 Retrobuilt Mustang fastback, built on a ’06 Mustang GT, during our visit to Tulsa for the Mid America Ford and Shelby Nationals. “Yes!” was our immediate answer, not only for the opportunity to spend a long weekend in one of Retrobuilt’s conversions but to also avoid showing up at the major Ford event in a Nissan rental car.
With the Retrobuilt conversion, you get the best of all worlds—vintage Mustang musclecar looks with the power, reliability, and convenience of a modern Mustang. Walking up to the car to grasp the chrome ’69-style door handle is like walking up to a ’69 Boss 302, complete with Calypso Coral-type paint, black-out hood with Shaker hood scoop, and side C-stripes. Okay, we know that ’69 Boss 302s weren’t available with the Shaker, but they also weren’t available with air-conditioning, cruise control, and power windows. Climbing inside reveals a modern cabin, while looking out over the blacked out, Shaker scooped hood brings back memories of cruising in the late 1960s.
Otherwise, driving the ’69 Retrobuilt fastback, a car privately owned by Jerry Starling and Frank Roberts, is the same as driving a modern S197 Mustang GT. During our hour-long trips to and from the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit for Mid America’s open track, we tried our best to listen for squeaks and rattles from Retrobuilt’s added body panels. Nothing. The Mustang was tight and right.
Of course, the Retrobuilt Mustang attracts attention, not as a new Mustang but as an old Mustang. A waiter at a local steak house spots the Mustang in the parking lot and starts rambling about how he’s always wanted a ’69 Mustang. Stopping for a Red Bull at a convenience store turns into a Q&A session as other drivers stop by for a look at what they initially think is a vintage Mustang.
Retrobuilt has found its modern/vintage niche in the Mustang world.