To the automotive laymen, this series of numbers and letters may come across as nonsense – a string of unconnected gibberish, and auto jargon. To the seasoned gearhead, however, it is a revered code easily deciphered into a simple answer: raw, untamed power. The 1967 GT500CR 900S, currently under the expert care of Frankenstein Motorsports in Pensacola FL, perfectly personifies this type of power. The vehicle, a replica ‘clone’ of the car driven by Memphis Raynes, played by Nicholas Cage in the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds, is a thing of pure, primal beauty.
“800 HP, 351 CID V8,” answered Frank Knight, owner of Frankenstein Motorsports when asked just what makes “Eleanor” so special.
In the film, Raynes steals 50 cars in one night. The movie culminates in an exhilarating chase scene featuring the GT500 and its notorious ‘Go-Baby-Go’ nitrous button, also found in the ‘clone’ version of the car, although not directly connected to the working nitrous system. The car itself finds origins in the ’67 GT500 Cobra – a firmly Mustang creation that was allowed Shelby status through various upgrades and bodywork approved by the Shelby America, a notoriously exacting organization known for its precise series of standard and requirements.
“Back when they were first coming out, the Shelby was more akin to tuner cars,” Frank admitted, alluding to the connection between the company and the custom hot-rod lineage of American automotive history. “This newer Eleanor only came about through the butcher of the original Mustang – really a nothing car of its day, and – through many alterations and precision tuning – was officially granted ascension to Shelby status.”
This upgrade included the integration of a Ford engine, modern brakes, and suspension, as well as the addition of a stroked 351 Windsor with nitrous capabilities. All modifications to this new “Eleanor” were done at the world-famous Shelby site and boast an official Carroll Shelby signature prominently featured in the car’s interior.
“There’s a real legacy of turning lackluster to performance level when you look at all Shelby has done over the years,” Frank went on, “…and the Eleanor is one of the chief examples of this ongoing dedication and craftsmanship.”
Halfway through our interview, however, it became clear to us both: there was no way to know precisely what the car really was without riding in it.
On the morning of the test ride, Russell Schwalier – automotive technician at Frankenstein Motorsports – only had a few words of warning: “The car likes to turn the tires,” he said with a grin, and we were off.
Within minutes, the veteran tech’s words proved to be quite an understatement. The car perfectly showcased the car’s power – putting the familiar weight of sudden acceleration so firmly in our chests that pushing up from the leather seats seemed a near impossibility.
The ride itself was smoother than expected, with minimal road vibration at cruising speeds between 55 and 65mph. Schwalier demonstrated the car’s handling through its world-class acceleration, saying the car “does best” with tires that grip the road to counter the car’s innate desire to move. After twenty minutes of cruising and secretly enjoying jealous glances of our fellow motorists, the ride was over, and we were back at the shop.
“First and foremost are the cars,” Frank said, joining us after the ride to give a tour of the work-floor. The shop-owner expressed excitement over a planned location upgrade, growing business, and possible television offers.
“We encourage owners to be involved in their cars,” Knight said, stating that some owners even have keys to the shop, and are welcome to work on their projects.
“The art of restoring, or creating new custom builds from vintage vehicles, scares some shops, and they won’t do it – but we make it our primary focus,” the shop owner concluded, with a tone of well-earned pride. “They’re apprehensive, but we make extraordinary work part of our everyday commitment.” Whether showcasing a true, reworked classic like the GT500 “Eleanor” or starting a complete performance and structural rebuild on a ’47 Ford pickup, Frankenstein Motor-sports promises world-class service and a deep love of everything automotive.
The Ford Mustang has a strong standing in classic Americana with roots extending back to April 17, 1964, when Henry Ford II officially unveiled the iconic vehicle bearing the name of a WWII fighter plane. Analysts initially projected 100,000 unit sales the first year; however, Ford received 22,000 orders on the first day. Locally, the Gulf Coast Regional Mustang Club – enthusiasts dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and enjoyment of the legendary vehicle – collaborate regularly in support of the Ronald McDonald HouseTM and the Hadji Shriners Children’s Transportation Fund.
“The car likes to turn the tires,” he said with a grin.