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Exclusive Interview with Classic Recreations Owner Jason Engel

classic recreations owner

Classic Recreations is a restoration/custom shop that rebuilds world-class Shelby Mustangs in Yukon, Oklahoma. The cars are customized according to customer desires, and are handcrafted works of art that are as fast as they are beautiful. We recently sat down with owner Jason Engel to find out about what makes his Shelby Mustangs special.

ZeroTo60Times:
How did you get started with Classic Recreations? What was the inspiration?

Jason Engel:
“I got started with Mustangs when I was about 16 years old. I’ve always liked them, as the affordable muscle car. At that age I just didn’t have the funds for something like this [CR Mustangs]. The fastback mustang has always been a very desirable car, no matter what.”

About a decade back, Engel rebuilt a classic mustang into a modern performer, and sold it for a profit at Barrett-Jackson. He thought that would be the end of it, but he received several orders for similar cars.

“That’s what really started Classic Recreations. We met Shelby 6 or 7 years ago. I’ve always been a fan. We hashed out a licensing agreement, for the GT500 CR and here we are.”

Times:
That licensing agreement, why was that important to you?

Engel:
“It’s important to me to have a legal right to build a Shelby car, and for it to be a real one. To actually use these marks that have been used since the ‘60s. There are a tremendous amount of people out there that copy or clone, and it’s nice to be able to identify our cars as real, authentic, not fake or clones. I believe it’s an important aspect of investment value of our cars. Mine are real.”

Times:
What is the difference between Classic Recreations Mustangs and the guy building one at home in his garage?

Engel:
“I’m a huge fan of a guy building his own car. I think it’s awesome someone has the passion to do that. I go to car shows, and I see the clones somebody’s built in their garage and quite frankly, I find it flattering. I think it’s awesome.

What I don’t think is awesome is a company building a clone for profit. What separates us from that is we’re a production facility, we have R&D, and we spend the time and money to find what fails and make it better. That’s what separates us from the place making one or two cars a year. We believe in our hearts that the cars we produce are second to none. When you keep producing the same product for over 6 years like we have, it tends to be a better product.”

Times:
The Mustang is an American icon, but you said earlier that about 1 in 4 cars heads overseas. Why is there such a draw worldwide for a uniquely American car?

Engel:
“I believe its Shelby. They want an authentic Shelby vehicle they can drive every day. Its fuel injected, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes. You know, modern amenities you expect in modern cars. I think in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, they buy these cars because it’s something really cool to drive, it’s very reliable, and it’s an investment. They don’t lose that 20% that they might lose on a European sports car. That doesn’t happen. These cars command more money than what [the customer] bought them for.”

Times:
Is there a connection to the Gone in 60 Seconds remake from 2000, and its starring “Eleanor,” a GT500?

Engel:
“The Eleanor wasn’t an authentic GT500. They called it that several times in the movie, but… I think it’s a beautiful car, I believe it brought attention to the Mustang fastback, but I don’t think it did anything for the Shelby side of it. The Shelby brand stands strong on its own and I think the GT500 inspired that car [Eleanor] and several others. Do I think the Eleanor is a great car? It’s a beautiful car, but it’s not a Shelby, and never will be. That car we did build under license, and I’m very proud of the fact we did that. We’ve moved on. We now build a real authentic Shelby compared to a copy or clone or whatever.”

Times:
Is there a modern equivalent car that compares to CR Mustangs in look and performance?

Engel:
“I’m anxious to see the [2016 Ford Mustang GT] 350-R in person. I’ve seen pictures of it. Man, that car looks sick. I do believe that’s gonna stand up. You’ve still got the [2015 Shelby GT500] Super Snakes, which Shelby automotive does to a new car, and as far as power is concerned, they’ll blow one of the original GT500 cars off the road. Does it have the styling of that car? Not really. I think with the new 350R and the new Mustang, they’re pulling a lot of the old heritage back into the car, which is awesome.”

Times:
How custom can a CR buyer get?

Engel:
“We have two brands. Classic Recreations, which build the Shelby car, and we have CR Supercars, which does the Villain, the Camaro, and anything custom. You can order whatever. You can order one with a new powerwagon Dodge Cummins diesel, whatever. CR Supercars was designed to cater to the customer. With the Shelby cars, same thing goes. [However] we aren’t gonna get away from the actual aesthetics of the car. I’m not gonna change that.”

Times:
Camaro? Can you tell us more about that?

Engel:
“We’re anxious to do that. We’re known for doing Mustangs, and I want to be known for that, but I want to prove to the world we can do something other than Mustangs. We’re hopefully going to debut that car this year at SEMA. It’s a ‘69 Camaro based car, Detroit Speed suspension, Forgeline 3-piece wheels, LS7 powered. It’s our take on the ‘69 Camaro, so we’re anxious to introduce that.”

Times:
In 2010, the local DA interfered with CR and other restoration shops due to Oklahoma having vaguely worded laws regarding the process and legality of building essentially new cars from old cars. Has there been any progress in that area?

Engel:
“It’s such a gray area in restoration work around the globe. How can you restore it? What can you do, what can’t you do? I think the crazy thing about the whole restoration process is, I believe the restoration shop or builder would have to have intent to be accused of it. If you have intent of doing something wrong, then I can see what the purpose is, but if you have no intent of doing anything wrong, you should be able to restore your car.

“So we helped write a law, it was really neat. I got to be involved with some state legislators, representatives, got to go down to the capitol and speak. What I found really interesting about that is Democrats and Republicans all came together and smiled. They were asking questions and that was really cool, we’re talking about muscle cars and everyone was interested. It wasn’t like one side or the other. It was a Republican authored bill, but there was only one nay. That was it, and they [the nay voter] weren’t even there. And even the gentleman that authored the bill said that’s amazing. We came together and saw that something is cool, and we all agreed. That was an experience I’ll probably never forget.”

“[it was] enacted in the state of Oklahoma now, it’s the re-body law. Hopefully I helped. I do believe the law will be adopted in other states. It has been in a few, and hopefully it keeps spreading. And with the help of SEMA, I really think this is smoothed over.”

Times:
Anything you would like to add?

Engel:
“I work for the fans. Even the guys that don’t buy our cars. Without them we wouldn’t exist. I’m serious. Those fans are the ones that love the cars, love our products, tell us the cars are kick ass, and those are the guys that fuel our fire. And most of them can’t buy our cars, and that’s okay. Without our crew, there’s no way we could do this. This isn’t just me. Without every one of these guys in this shop, there’s no way we’d be here today. It’s pretty cool we can all come together and create.”

 

From one teenager wanting a cool muscle car, to a crew of two dozen skilled craftsmen making undeniably awesome machines, Jason Engel has propelled Classic Recreations to one of the biggest names in recreation/restoration cars. With talent, and focus, Engel and crew work to turn junk into supercars, and by listening to customers and fans, they’ll be busy working for a long time to come.

Jason Engel Interview Video:

By Andy Jensen – Contributor


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  • This was a blast of an assignment. Really cool people out at CR, and absolutely gorgeous cars.





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