We decide that Brian should drive first so I can get a feel for the car from the passenger seat. Climbing in requires some body contortions to clear the bolsters on the Carroll Shelby Signature bucket seat, but once in, the feel is tight and secure. I comment about the nice leather, but Brian explains that it's not leather at all; it's actually a leather-like vinyl material. Fooled me. The camlock seat belt latching mechanism, needed to accommodate the shoulder harness on the roll bar, adds to the race-car experience, but I find that it's a bit cumbersome when trying to hold the belts in place while thumbing the latch closed.
Brian twists the key and the 427 fires right up. Ah, the joy of fuel-injection. The engine idles aggressively but not obnoxiously, with just enough pulse through the side-exiting MagnaFlow mufflers to enhance the experience without rattling your teeth. As Brian backs out of the driveway and cruises slowly down his suburban street, I feel for clutch chatter or drivetrain bucking. Nothing.
Carroll Shelby Signature gauges...
Carroll Shelby Signature gauges with white faces provide accurate readings and an old-school vibe.
Brian Kirby's G.T. 500CR is...
Brian Kirby's G.T. 500CR is equipped with Kicker kick panel speakers, which kick out some serious sound in combination with the trunk-mounted amplifier and rear panel speakers. The A/C vent is part of the system from Old Air Products.
During my drive-time in the...
During my drive-time in the G.T. 500CR, the temperature gauge never rose above 210 degrees.
Even though it's mid December, the mid-day southwest Florida temperature has reached a balmy 80 degrees. With side exhausts and windows down, the noise level is remarkably calm, allowing normal conversation. It's so quiet that I detect a rattle from the rear seat area; Brian explains that he hasn't taken the time to retighten a couple of speaker screws. He then clicks on his constant traveling companion, an iPod Shuffle, and country band Little Big Town sounds good through the Pioneer stereo and combination of Kicker amps and speakers, located in the kick and rear panels.
I've experienced plenty of overheating old Mustangs, so while Brian is driving in stop-and-go Cape Coral traffic, I'm eyeing the G.T. 500CR's temperature gauge. It hovers between 205- 210 degrees thanks to the custom 31-inch Be-Cool radiator with twin electric fans. We stop for a photo shoot, yet the engine doesn't heat-soak through all the starting and stopping. Having photographed many Mustangs over the years, I've learned to watch for oil leaks or belching coolant on the pavement. There are no leaks from Brian's G.T. 500CR. The biggest problem is avoiding reflections in the mirror-like paint.
After the photo shoot, it's my turn to take over the steering wheel. The driver's door closes with a solid "whump" and I find myself once again fumbling with the seat belt latch. The seating position feels higher than usual; Brian explains that he asked Classic Recreations to raise the seats because both he and his wife are short. Although surrounded by modern equipment, the experience of driving an older Mustang is still there with the thin-rimmed wood steering wheel, 5-gauge instrument cluster, and Hurst-like shifter handle. Testing the clutch pedal, I discover that it requires very little pressure, not at all like a vintage Mustang with the typical high-performance clutch. Likewise, operating the accelerator pedal requires little effort, something that takes a few minutes to get accustomed to as I try to coordinate the lighter-than-expected clutch and throttle feel.
The trunk is show-quality...
The trunk is show-quality clean and detailed, but there's not much room for luggage with the 18-gallon fuel cell, Kicker amp, and enclosed battery. Note the tubing that routes fuel from the C-pillar LeMans filler to the fuel cell. The trunk lid is supported by modern lift cylinders
Brian's G.T. 500CR is an attention-grabber...
Brian's G.T. 500CR is an attention-grabber during fuel stops—93 octane, of course.
Just like the rest of the...
Just like the rest of the car, the rear suspension is show-quality. Brian's G.T. 500CR is equipped with a Total Control Products' coil-over system. You can also see the MagnaFlow muffler that has been modified for side-exit.
The power rack-and-pinion steering is precise and light, but not too light. There's enough road feed-back in the steering to provide a measure of road-feel and security. It's nothing like the overkill assist of an early Mustang with factory power steering.
Easing onto a main highway, I'm impressed with the butter-smooth release of the clutch as I accelerate into traffic before yanking the shifter into Second gear and stepping into the throttle. There's torque a-plenty from the stroker small-block. The vintage-look shifter is perfectly positioned and operates smoothly, emitting a satisfying "click-click" as it slips into each of the five gears. We get caught at several long red-light cycles, so we roll up the windows (non-power in Brian's car) and flip on the A/C. I glance at the temp gauge—no problem, the needle points to a steady 205 degrees.
In the stop-and-go traffic, the power-assisted Shelby/Baer 4-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping cushion. This is not my expensive car, so I don't put myself in position to try any fancy braking maneuvers.