Shelby team reunites to launch OVC Mustang

Launching a continuation Mustang at a clothing retailer may seem an odd call. But it turns out that cars and clothes have a lot in common

Whether it's racing overalls or James Dean in a leather jacket, somehow cars are inexplicably linked to clothing. That made a humble sounding T-shirt and jeans display the ideal place to launch a new run of Shelby GT350 Mustangs. With the possible exception of alcohol, it's in the world of fashion and in the automotive industry that the word 'vintage' carries the most gravitas.

A little more than 50 years after Carroll Shelby and his band of designers, fabricators, racers, and hot rodders built the original racing versions of the 1965 Shelby GT350 Mustang, a small nucleus of that group is putting the band back together. Together they will design and produce a Ford Motor Company and Shelby American authorized ‘tribute’ or ‘continuation’ run of those R-Model Mustangs.

The team, named the Original Venice Crew – so called because the first round of those cars, back in the day, was built at a shop on Princeton Street in Venice, California – will offer production versions of the popular GT350 ‘competition model’. Only 36 of these cars will be built, each incorporating several aerodynamic and other enhancements by Shelby American designer Peter Brock.

Each will be hand built at the Shelby facility in Southern California, just as the original team did in 1965. The new OVC shop resides in the former location of the Carroll Shelby Engine Company. Modeled after the 1960s offices at the original Venice facility, it features a desk for the late Carroll Shelby replete with one of his famous Stetsons.

For January only, the OVC Mustang stars as the inspiration behind an innovative and engaging retail experience exhibit staged at the new Tees + Jeans gallery, also in Venice, California. Junk Food Clothing and Levi’s recently conceived this new retail concept that weaves in basics with the growing trend of personalization. The installation and gallery exhibit opened to the public, with a well-attended opening party held last week.

The space, which is a permanent location, includes a merchandise assortment of Junk Food T-shirts in addition to Levi’s classics such as trucker jackets, cut-offs and skirts, among other items, not to mention Levi’s reconditioned – but still legitimately patinated – jackets and pairs of jeans costing hundreds of dollars each.

It's divided into thirds with the front of the house serving as the gallery place for the theme activations, with the kick-off homage to the birth of skateboarding and Venice local Craig Stecyk, who wrote and featured in the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, and replaced by the Original Venice Crew Shelby Mustang theme for January 2018.

From there, shoppers can move to the middle section of the store stocking the variety of clothing where they can make their selections before moving on for tailoring and customization. About 90 percent of the assortment can be personalized within roughly 20 minutes, DiGiacomo says.

It is interesting that the space has an historic automotive connection beyond Shelby American, as DiGiacomo advises that Gerry Wiegert used this exact building in which to construct the original Vector W-8 supercar.

During the opening night presentation, OVC team members Jim Marietta and Ted Sutton, along with a couple of Venice area historians and authors, led a casual Q&A session talking about the early days of Shelby American, the history and inspiration behind the new OVC GT-350, and reminisced about when Shelby first set up shop in the now trendy Southern California town.

Each OVC Mustang is individually built to order, as there are a few options and choices to make in terms of engine and rear suspension design. Brock redesigned the original car’s lower front fascia spoiler for better aero, and to more closely replicate what he intended to do back in ‘65. The special rear window was also partially re-configured for better visibility and a neater, cleaner install.

Every OVC Shelby build begins with an actual ‘K-Code’ 289 ‘Hi-Po’ Mustang fastback, as did the originals; in this case the cars are stripped to the nubbins, fully reconditioned using Ford factory or Shelby American parts, and built back up to racing spec. And since each example is based on a real Mustang with a VIN, they can be legally registered and street licensed.

One particularly interesting option is a newly-produced independent rear suspension that was originally designed and envisioned for this car back in the day, but nixed last minute due to cost.

The fit, finish and quality of the new OVC build would set standards at any Concours d’Elegance; the cars are beautiful and of jewel-like quality in every way. The car’s performance and suspension development work was done by three guys with major Shelby experience: Vince LaViolette, Shelby American’s current product development chief, well credentialed racing writer Rick Titus, and John Morton, a former Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am champion racer with many years of Shelby American tenure.

All guests at the gallery opening received a specially curated OVC Shop Manual containing an interesting variety of original Shelby American graphics and photos; the pages of which instead of being stapled together, were, or course, stitch-bound in the Tees + Jeans tailor shop.

How much for all this speed and beauty? $250,000 buys you this new piece of Shelby American speed, style, and history.

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