As the final decade of true post-World War II prosperity, the 1960s was an interesting time in America. The rising economic tide had lifted all boats, and an increasingly prosperous generation of young Americans embraced new technologies that allowed them to live more leisurely lives than the generations before them.
Space-race-inspired design and technological advancements in engineering and manufacturing in the automobile industry during the 1960s produced machines that became cultural icons, legends in their own time and well beyond. Ask anyone to name the most iconic car of the decade and most will give you the same answer – the Ford Mustang.
Born in an age with few limits, the Mustang represented the best of ’60s-era automotive innovation and highlighted America’s love affair with the open road. Decades later, the Ford Mustang has stood the test of time, holding its place as a symbol of coolness.
Park a modern Mustang next to a 1968 Fastback, however, and, aside from a few design influences, the cars are worlds apart. Furthermore, driving a 1968 Mustang today can be an eye-opening affair. With a three-speed manual transmission, a carbureted V-8 and suspension, braking and handling components engineered in the early 1960s, driving a stock classic pony car takes patience, compromise and even a little courage.
So, what does an enthusiast do, if they want to own their fantasy 1960s Mustang without all the downsides of ’60s-era engineering? They talk to Jason Engel.
A true Mustang aficionado, Engel is the founder of Classic Recreations, which is dedicated to building Shelby-licensed GT350 and GT500 and Ford-licensed Boss 302, Boss 429 and Mach 1 continuation cars that are faithful to the originals, with a generous helping of modern engineering and technology thrown in. The fact that Carroll Shelby, before his passing in 2012, personally approved Classic Recreations’ line of Shelby Mustangs didn’t hurt either.
Classic Recreations decided to create its own design of the ultimate Mustang Fastback, one that would appeal to a variety of enthusiasts, both young and old, with the perfect mix of classic style and modern technology. Its creation is called the Villain, and it lives up to its name. There are no half measures or short cuts. Every single detail, angle, surface and component has been thoughtfully considered.
Enthusiasts and Mustang spotters will recognize the sloping roofline from the iconic 1968 Fastback because every Villain starts with an actual 1968 Fastback steel body, which is restored to factory-new condition. Subtle touches elevate the Villain from a 1960s production-line pony car to a truly bespoke machine. There are no hard edges, no exposed rivets and certainly no overfenders. Instead, 3D molded composite body panels, accentuated by carbon fiber trim, highlight the Mustang’s timeless lines while also improving aerodynamics and reducing weight.
When it comes to power and handling, the Villain delivers in spades. A 427-cubic-inch V-8 Ford Performance crate engine that makes 545 horsepower, or a more modern Coyote Gen 3 5.0L Ford Performance Crate Engine that makes 490 horsepower and can be paired with an optional supercharger for 770 horsepower, provides tire-punishing power.
Power is sent to the wide rear wheels through a Tremec five-speed manual or optional six-speed manual transmission with a Centerforce DYAD twin-disc clutch (an automatic transmission is also available). The Villain may produce serious power and grunt, but it’s not a monster to drive because beneath its classic looks are thoroughly modern underpinnings.
The 1968 Mustang came with rear leaf-spring suspension, which doesn’t provide the modern sports car-like handling that Engel wanted. Tubular subframe connectors, coilover suspension front and rear, and power rack-and-pinion steering give the Villain the sort of handling today’s enthusiasts expect.
Equipped with the optional Pro Touring Track Package, the Villain gets upgraded Detroit Speed suspension, larger three-piece forged wheels (18 x 9.5 inches front, 18 x 12 inches rear) with matching Z-rated high performance tires (275/35/18 front, 335/30/18 rear), a mini tub to accommodate those larger rear tires, 6-piston Wilwood calipers and 14-inch slotted, vented and cross-drilled rotors. All of which makes the Villain perform more like a supercar than an antique in the corners.
Open the door and inside you’ll find leather high-back Procar Elite seats with five-point camlock seat belts, when ensure occupants don’t get too shaken when the road gets stirred. A leather steering wheel and a white, six-speed H-pattern shift knob provide a quick visual throwback to the Mustang’s roots. A modern Old Air climate control system keeps things cool while a CD player with Bluetooth is paired with a Kicker amp and speakers. A car like the Villain demands classic rock turned up loud, backed up by the glorious all-American soundtrack emitted by the Villain’s V-8 engine through the MagnaFlow stainless steel exhaust.
It’s easy to wax nostalgic about the 1960s, but there are entire generations of enthusiasts who weren’t around to experience that pivotal decade. Classic Recreations’ Villain is a 1968 Mustang reimagined through a younger enthusiast’s eyes. It has the look and bona fides of a genuine classic but without the performance and maintenance downsides that come with owning a car built 52 years ago.
The Villain is comfortable and compliant, but it doesn’t roll or wallow. Its engine, suspension, brakes and handling are sharp and responsive. It’s versatile enough for long road trips and days at the track. It has air-conditioning and a modern stereo system so that every drive doesn’t become a chore or a bore. No one will mistake the Villain for a mass-production car or a warmed-over classic, as seen in the accompanying photographs the first production Villain Mustang from Classic Recreations.
The Ford bloodline flows just as red and fast through the Villain as it did through the original 1968 Mustang. Whether you enjoy burning rubber, chasing lap times on the track or just looking cool as you go for a cruise, a Villain Mustang from Classic Recreations should be on your short list.
After all, it’s nice to take a break from being good all the time.
For more information, visit the Classic Recreations website.
PHOTOS Drew Phillips