We’ve all heard the saying that a car goes like a cut snake. Lorrin Mathews’s genuine Shelby Cobra really is a cut snake!
Why on earth would anyone chop up a genuine GT500? I bet that question is running through the minds of numerous NZV8 readers right now. We wondered too.
Lorrin Mathews’s answer is short, sweet and simple: “It’s my car and I can, so I did.” That’s a logic that you can’t argue with.
Before you get too upset, Lorrin is well aware what the car would be worth in mint original form, and has kept every single part that has been removed from the car, should he ever want or need to return it to standard.
With the car in the pile of things never to be sold, the chances of it being restored to its former state aren’t high. At the recent Fathers’ Day Drags, where we first spotted Lorrin’s mad machine, he was offered an unlimited blank cheque in return for the car and still said no, so clearly his will is strong.
Where exactly did the car come from? It’s not every day you find a GT500 for sale in New Zealand, or overseas for that matter. Much to the surprise of Mustang enthusiasts around the country, it has been in New Zealand for more than 25 years. But for the majority of that time it hasn’t seen the light of day. When the car was brought out to the photoshoot for this magazine, it was just its third outing in 20 years. Now that is what you call a well-kept secret, and the answer to why most people have never seen this vehicle before.
The restorers out there will be excited to learn that since the Mustang has barely been driven for that amount of time, its odo reading is remarkably low; the modifiers will be wondering why the hell he hasn’t been out using it.
Since buying the car from a cash-strapped mate when he was 21, Lorrin has been restoring it and fiddling with it. After watching too much Mad Max as a kid, he loves wild-looking cars.
With businesses, houses, race cars, race bikes, kids and marriages all coming and going over that time, the Shelby has waited patiently for its build to be completed, and now that it finally is, we’d suggest there probably isn’t another one like it anywhere in the world.
Shelbys were radical designs when they first came out back in 1967, and Lorrin saw no need to dramatically alter the way the car looked. In fact, it was the opposite. When purchased, the car had been painted an aftermarket colour and was fitted with a sunroof. Lorrin knew the car’s limited production run and its massive appeal meant it should look more original, and the colour needed to be returned to the factory white and blue.
While spraying on the new paint wasn’t hard, removing the sunroof was a bit more involved, and required a new roof skin to be fitted. Once the panel side was sorted, Cascade Auto Refinishers had the task of making the car look as good as it should. Although you wouldn’t guess it to look at it now, the paintwork was actually completed around 10 years ago.
The original wheels the car came with were safely tucked away in the workshop, and the hunt began for newer, more modern items for the car to roll on. After a conversation with Gary Carter from Carters Tyres in East Tamaki, a deal was done that saw Lorrin do the drainage on Gary’s new house and Gary supply the wheels for the Shelby. Not just any late-model wheels would work; Lorrin was after 19-inch Work brand wheels from the 2007 Ford GT. So while they look like they could have come off a Nissan Skyline or similar, they are far more closely related to the Shelby than you might think.
They measure in at nine-inches wide up front and 12 inches on the rear, so there isn’t much room to spare under the guards. Luckily, Lorrin had no intention of going overboard with the suspension, and he has just updated the components with newer items such as adjustable Koni shocks rather than aiming for a ground-scraping stance.
Having owned assorted race cars and ridden speedway motorcycles, Lorrin has a bit of a penchant for speed, and although the GT500 was the fastest Mustang of its day, it was never really going to satisfy his requirements. While ideas of stroked big blocks were thrown about, Lorrin stumbled upon something even better ” a 6-71 blower. Yes, the big air pump would upset the purists, but that only made it more appealing.
Knowing a supercharger would require the original bonnet to be cut up, Lorrin wisely set about creating a fibreglass mould of the original, which could be sliced and diced instead.
The motor that resides below the supercharger is the genuine numbers-matching 427 side oiler the car was fitted with as an option from the factory. Being a qualified mechanic, Lorrin assembled the motor himself complete with custom crankshaft, forged rods, 10.5:1 forged pistons and other tough as nails bits.
Why go from being a mechanic to a drain layer? “The sh*t washes off easier than the grease,” Lorrin says, laughing, “and that way I get to enjoy working on my own cars, as it’s not work any more.”
Speaking of which, recent additions to the powerplant are Shelby alloy heads, which Lorrin is rightly proud of. With the bigger valves and higher flow rates these offer over the originals, the car should now be pumping out even more than the 750hp it was previously creating, which makes it one very tough streeter indeed.
The transmission was a practical choice. “Toploader gearboxes are horrible bloody things, so we’ve replaced it with a five-speed Hollinger box, which is much better,” says Lorrin. Mating this to the engine is a twin plate 11-inch clutch, which will make for some interesting times when the car first sees traffic. Further down the driveline is a nodular nine-inch diff fitted with a Daytona traction-lock head and 31-spline axles, which should come in handy if and when the car hits the drag strip or circuit, which Lorrin’s quite keen to see it do.
Turns Heads Even Faster
While the package may not be suited for dropping the kids off to school, that’s one of the things Lorrin intends to do with the car now it’s up and running.
Surprisingly, he reckons that the Mustang purists who’ve seen the car have loved it. Then again, I don’t think he really cares whether they do or not. After all, it’s his car, he can do what he wants with it. And that’s exactly what he has done.
1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang – Specifications
Engine: 427ci (6997cc) side oiler big block, custom crank, Weslake rods, JE pistons, Moroso studs, 10.5:1 compression, Shelby aluminium heads, roller cam, Shelby roller rockers, 850R Holley carburettor, 6-71 supercharger, Teflon vanes, bug catcher, Moroso fuel pump, half-inch fuel lines, MSD ignition, twin four-inch exhausts, Borla mufflers, Hooker headers, aluminium radiator, twin thermo fans
Driveline: Hollinger five-speed manual transmission, steel flywheel, twin-plate clutch, 31-spline axles, nodular nine-inch diff, Daytona traction-lock head
Suspension: Koni adjustable shocks, Caltracks
Brakes: Standard four-pot front callipers, braided lines, stock rear drums
Wheels/tyres: 19×9-and 19×12-inch 2007 Ford GT Work wheels, 245/30R19 and 305/30R19 Pirelli tyres
Interior: Custom alloy harness bar, Auto Meter gauges, Alpine stereo
Performance: 750hp (559kW)
Lorrin Mathews – Owner Profile
Driver: Lorrin Mathews
Occupation: Drainage technician
Previously owned cars: Various race cars, ’66 Mustang, ’68 Mustang, GT351 Falcon, Anglias, Cortinas
Dream car: GT40 replica with a 427
Why the Shelby: I knew what it was and had the opportunity
Build time: Approximately 20 years
Length of ownership: 22 years
Lorrin thanks: “Grant Moro and Jim Neilson at Cascade Auto Refinishers, my wife Dale for understanding the many hours spent in the shed, my daughter Jade for the support.”
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy