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4 Jul 2014

Shelby Mustang GT500E - The Eleanor

Shelby Mustang GT500E


Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis

What is the greatest thing to come out from America? Is it McDonalds, Baseball, or maybe Elvis Presley? No! It’s their legendary American muscle cars. 

The sixties and seventies were undoubtedly the best automotive years for the United States. Detroit was the industry’s capital and car production fuelled the development of the sky scrapers, warehouses and factories for which the city became renowned. Each day thousands of hand built sports cars rolled out from the shiny factory doors. The big muscle cars dominated the American roads – super dream machines with huge capacity engines and high power outputs. And then there was the one car that stood out more than others. Do you want to guess it? There is nothing that typifies American muscle more than a Ford Mustang.

What started off as a small compact car project back in 1964 based on a Ford Falcon, ended up becoming the biggest hero of the muscle era. The Mustang, named after the WWII P-51 fighter plane, was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company and it was the second most successful model after the Model A. During the muscle car period, the Mustang was the innovator of the “pony car” class; sports cars with a coupe body, long, wide bonnets and short boot. The popularity of the car was further increased when the racing driver, entrepreneur and engineer, Carol Shelby, got involved with the Ford Company. A new project for a sportier Ford Mustang, called Shelby GT series, was born.

With each new generation model, the Mustangs grew larger and heavier until they lost their initial appeal. Years later the Ford’s general manager admitted "The Mustang market never left us, we left it." There was no surprise that the first generation Mustang, produced between the 1964 and 1973, remained the ultimate Mustang for many, including the owner of this stunning Ford Mustang.

When Jonny’s Mustang was bought it was by no means in the superb condition it is in now; the story of this car is not as shiny as the car itself. 5 years ago Jonny decided to finally fulfil his lifelong dream and build his very own Ford Mustang. After an extensive research the choice was narrowed down to the 1967/1968 Fastback model. The price for a Mustang Fastback shell alone in the US is enormous, so finding the right one proved tricky. Eventually a car, or a rusted out shell to be precise, that required extensive metal work was tracked down in NC at a local custom garage called Piedmont Mustang.

A few days later the shell was acquired and the deal was made; the garage agreed to carry out the majority of the shell restoration work and suspension repair works. With payments made upfront it was looking well, until one day the company went bankrupt and the calls stopped. Flight to the States was imminent and with the help of a local friend, Jonny was able to retrieve the shell, salvage any parts that were bought, place everything into a container and ship it across the Atlantic to do the project himself. More than $6,000 out of the pocket with missing parts and some half finished repairs off it went in the container across the Atlantic, the future didn’t look too bright for this previously glorious American muscle. Luckily he never gave up on it, and for the next 5 years his garage became his house.
Choosing the particular Mustang was the easiest part of the project – it was no ordinary Mustang he wanted, it had to be “the Eleanor”. In 1973 the independent movie maker, actor and stunt driver Carl Heliki produced the movie “Gone in 60 seconds” where the main character, a car thief, was ordered to steal 50 cars overnight. The star of the movie was the car 50, code named “Eleanor”, a Shelby Mustang, which was the thief’s nemesis.  Eleanor was a 1971 Mustang Sportsroof dressed in a 1973 clothes. The movie, and the modified car itself, was never a huge success, compared to the remake in 2000. The new Eleanor was based on the more appealing Shelby Mustang GT500 model. It was based on the design by the world famous Hot Rot designer Steve Stanford, but built, further developed and customised by the well-known designer Chip Foose. The GT500 was equipped with a custom bodykit, go-baby-go gear knob and other upgrades. It became so popular it received a star fame, receiving multiple awards, including one of “Top 100 most influential cars”. The custom Eleanor kit was licenced to be sold and manufactured by some garages under the name Shelby GT500E with E representing the trademark Eleanor. 

Since the original plan to get it restored in the states failed Jonny carried out the majority of the work himself. Because he was basically starting with a blank canvas he had to try to create a vision of the car he wanted then go and build it. Thankfully the vintage mustang scene is huge in the USA and not only can you find “New Old Stock” parts, Reproduction parts but most parts of the car can be upgraded and modernised to a certain degree. The car had to strike a balance between speed, comfort, reliability and looks. He drove a factory original mustang before starting the project and the drive could only be described as “disappointing” It lurched massively in corners and despite all the noise and the looks the original cars where lacking. So the 1000s of hours of research started into this “Resto-Mod” and the gains, sacrifices and cost of each upgraded had to be assessed.

There were a few things he learnt very soon as he admitted: “Budgets and deadlines are two words that should never be used in the same sentence as the Mustang.” The project took nearly 5 years, but the results speak for themselves. With the support of his girlfriend and friends, this Mustang returned to its former glory and can now proudly call itself the king of the Irish roads. Jonny admits that “Building an American muscle car in Ireland is a nightmare, there are no garages with the experience, knowledge or parts to help. Everything and I mean everything had to custom built, altered and adjusted.”

When the initial plan was drawn, Jonny knew from the start, the car has to be modernised to be able to be used and enjoyed. The 1967 Mustang was famous for poor handling, poor brakes and unreliability. The modern extras that he had to have included a heated windscreen, modern 5 speed gearbox, power steering, ventilated brake discs, coilovers, modern wiring and stereo system, heat and noise isolation, leather bucket seats.
When it came to the colour he took over a year decide....It was 50/50 between the Grey with Black stripes and Black with Grey stripes. There are pros and cons for both colours. The grey is more correct to the movie car and shows the body lines very well but he felt it was a little too "standard".....The black is harder to paint to a show car finish and on dull days the body lines are not as clear and its harder to keep....but when the sun is shining on a long summer evening it is hard to beat the black. It "Pops" and suits the character of the car.
One thing you’ll notice is the chrome shine from all over the car. Everything shines. “Chrome parts have a magical power over me. Even when I can’t afford to buy them, I do.” Some of the plans had to be abandoned due to the high cost involved and the time it would require. This included a right hand drive conversion, electronic fuel injection, rear independent suspension and supercharger install. Despite this the car has met and exceeded his expectations. Its fast, comfortable, reliable and turns heads everywhere it goes. 
The project became more than building a car. I made friends during the process, the car tested my patience, skills, will power, motivation and finacnes to the abolsute limit but all of those things fade very fast when I am driving around in the car. All in all it was worth it.
During the photo-shoot there was not one person that wouldn’t have stopped to take a look at the car, take a picture with it. It is a true masterpiece and I was honoured to capture this beautiful car. I wouldn’t even try to talk about the individual parts on the car as the list of the parts is endless.

You can read the whole story and see all the images from the build on Jonny’s blog:


1967 Ford Mustang Fastback

Ford Black with Silver Super Snake stripes

Eleanor 4” hood w/locking hood pins
Eleanor upper & lower nose
Eleanor Rocker panels
Shelby upper & lower side scoops
Shelby trunk & End caps
Front & Rear fender flares
Rotunda racing mirrors
Shaved antenna
Billet/lockable flip open gas cap
PIAA front lights (3 sets) headlights
Shelby rear LED lights 

LED Amber Indicators – Front and Rear
PSE GT40 wheels 8"x17 front 9.5"x17 rear
Goodyear F1 Eagles Z- Rated 245/40/17 front and 275/45/17 rear


428FE professionally rebuilt by M Automotive Machine, SC
Bored to 030 over, crank shaft turned .020 under
New Speed Pro Pistons
Comp Camshaft
Edelbrock high capacity water pump
Edelbrock RPM FE Aluminium Intake
Canton 8 qt. oil pan
Powermaster Ultra Torque starter
Powermaster 140 amp Chrome alternator
Concept One billet pulley system
Concept One Power Steering pump w/mini reservoir
770cfm Holley Street Avenger Carb
Braided fuel line (AN-8 supply, AN-6 Return)
MSD Billet Distributor
MSD 6AL Ignition control box
Polished Aluminium radiator w/Billet overflow, twin electric fans
Ceramic coated (inside and outside) long tube headers
JBA performance exhaust system w/H pipe, Spintech mufflers and side exhaust through the rocker panel
Tremec TKO 600 5 speed overdrive transmission
Kevlar/Kevlar Clutch
Lakewood Scattershield Bellhousing
McLeod Hydraulic Clutch assembly
Hidden wiring (where possible)

Rod and Customs adjustable Front Coilover suspension
Rod and Customs front cross member
1 1/8” front sway bar
Caltrac traction bars and racing shocks
Ford 9" w/3.50 Detriot Locker differential
Weld in Sub frame connector
Ididit tilt steering column
Shelby GT500 18 Rivet steering wheel
Power rack & pinion steering
Wilwoodslotted and cross drilled 4 wheel disc brake system (11" front, 11” rear)
4 point roll bar

Entire interior/underside Sound Proofed with lizard Skin Sound Control and Ceramic Insulation
Additional interior sound proofing and heat control - Dynamat and Heat Shield
New vent grills, vent sliders, door grills, courtesy lights, quarter panels
Leather bucket seats with Racing single buckle harness
New rear seat chrome trim
Shelby GT500E centre console with logo
Shelby signature gauge Console (200 MPH speedo, 10K tachometer)
Billet throttle, clutch and brake pedals
Remote power door locks
Remote power trunk release
Alarm and tracking system
Morel 6 speakers sounds system with Amp with Bluetooth music streaming
Bluetooth handsfree phone
Trunk mounted Mustang billet battery box and Optima battery
Carpeted trunk area


  1. Stunning Car !
    It is a credit to Johnny, all the hard work he put in is now for all to see :)
    I visited on a few occasions with our car club and you could see the extra
    buss he got when he saw the other cars. He did an amazing job that would be
    a credit to any pro build house anywhere.Congrats on the photos they look great
    and really show the car for what it is.
    Alan :)