Jason Engel, owner of Classic Recreations and CR Supercars, a company that recreates classic 1960s Shelby Mustangs with added modern performance and convenience touches, is a man that is obsessed with cars. He loves cars, everything about cars, fabrication, paintwork, engines, you name it, Jason loves it and he especially loves Mustangs.
I called Jason to chat to him about himself, his business and his love of cars and spent an hour and ten minutes talking to a man who I would best describe as PASSIONATE. His love for cars is intense and the joy that recreating auto classics brings to him is immense; he has had a 30 plus years love affair with cars and that is never going to end.
The conversation was way more than I can possibly put here, enjoyed by both of us, with lots of laughs and much common ground.
TM: Good afternoon, Jason, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to Torqued Magazine today.
JE: Hi Neil, you are very welcome. Actually it’s my birthday today and you won’t believe, I am cutting trees and kicking back, so I have plenty of time for chatting with you.
Happy birthday, buddy!!
Many, many Mustang enthusiasts have heard of and know Classic Recreations and many people know your name, but in doing my research, I found surprisingly little information about you, showing me that you are a fairly private person, but can you tell us, who is Jason Engel?
Yes, I am a pretty private person, but anyway, I was raised in the country here in Oklahoma and growing up I only had 2 friends. I spent a lot of time alone as a child and found ways to amuse myself.
We had a barn on our property and because my father was away from home working so much (he had a used car dealership), I spent many hours in there, playing with dune buggies, karts and things like that. You’re going to laugh at this, one Christmas my Dad bought me a kart and my one friend also got one, they were identical except for our names on them.
Anyway, the next day, after my father went to work, I took my kart down to the barn and sanded the paint off with Scotch-Brite, then painted it red, so it wouldn’t be blue like my friend’s. Then I got some black Camaro pinstripes and put those on. This will also make you laugh, I masked everything off with aluminum foil!! It took me some time to learn to use paper instead, like we do these days, I didn’t know any different.
The kart had a little 5 HP Briggs and Stratton motor and I discovered that when you open the throttle there was a screw that stopped it part way, so I took it out and learned that it was the governor and now that kart was so quick, I was killing my friend on his kart and he couldn’t understand what I had done and why my kart was so different to his, even though we got the same ones for Christmas!!
I think outside the box, I am creative, I find new ways to do things, I even pick new colors for home and design and do all of the decorating. I grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma and graduated high school there. I was lucky, there was some great classes for auto mechanics and I took them all. I wish that more high schools these days would push students to learn about automobiles, how to fix them, how they run. The world is all about cars, I have been a car freak my whole life.
I also love deer hunting and I will take my iPad, go off alone and sit in a deer stand and watch movies, that is precious, just unwinding like that, away from everything. During the Summer I go wakeboarding at least once a week and I go surfing whenever I can. So, who’s Jason Engel? That pretty much says who I am. I am down to earth and love what I do.
Your first custom job/build was a 1978 Camaro that your dad bought you. You were driving that all over the place at 70 MPH and having fun, did you also work on the engine, or was it just a paint job you did and whatever happened to that car?
Yes, my father bought that for me at auction for $800.00 and I did work on the engine as well as doing the paintwork. It had a Chevy Z83 truck engine in it, but it had no pulleys, so I went over to Riverside Salvage and myself and the yard owner went through the whole place until we found the right ones and I got the motor running. I put black pinstripes on the body, did the paint job, put about 8 sets of speakers in it and got a load of stereo equipment from the back of my father’s used car lot. I never stopped working on that car, it was badass I have to tell you!!
Eventually I sold it for $2000.00 at the same auction my father had bought it from. With the money, I bought a Baja Beetle for I think around a thousand bucks. Those cars were great, you could make them into dune buggies and go anywhere in them. I worked on it a lot and eventually sold that also.
When I was fifteen and a half, my father got me a Z28 Camaro, Elkhart conversion, it looked like a Batmobile and I kept that until I was 17, working on it all the time, of course. When I was 16, I wanted to buy a brand new car and I had saved $10,500.00 from detailing cars for all of the local car lots and my high school teachers. I was detailing 6 or 8 cars a week at $55.00 a time and when you are 16, living at home with no bills to pay, that money mounts up pretty quickly.
To my surprise, my father agreed to sign for me to get the car, a brand new blue 1990 Fox body Mustang for $14,600.00 with a 427 stroker motor in it. I am 41 now and I have had about 50 mustangs since that very first one. Mustangs are great, they are cheap muscle cars, they are badass, they are quick, pretty, sexy, everything and in my opinion, hands down beat Camaros all day long.
Your “big break” so to speak, came when you built the Eleanor Car in 2001. You had total faith in what you were doing, you were in the hole for 70 grand. Then you took it to probably the greatest car auction in the World at Barrett-Jackson and sold it for $141,000.00. Was that when you knew you were headed to where you are with Classic Recreations as it is today?
Absolutely, yes that was the moment Classic Recreations was born, I thought up the name sitting on the Polo grounds of Barrett-Jackson in Palm Beach. At the time I built that Eleanor Car Mustang, it was still a hobby to me, I maxed out all my credit cards to build it, didn’t have a clue if it would sell, I was scared stiff about making my next mortgage payment and feeding my family, but I had to prove myself, had to let everyone know that it’s not just the big names that can do it.
Next thing I know, a gentleman taps my on the shoulder and asks me if I can build him one!! I tell him, of course I can. I had to write my phone number on the back of Barrett-Jackson leaflets for people as I didn’t have business cards and I walked away from the auction with another 3 orders, got back home and set up an LLC and started working full time on builds.
That first job was a $145,000.00 order, the client owned a bank in Florida and he told me he would help me with my brand new business; not with money, but with a solid contract I could use for every build so that I would be fully protected and everyone would be happy. True to his word, he did that for me and I still use that very same contract right up to this day. That man and I became good friends and we still chat today when we get a chance.
You build quite a range of Shelby Mustang recreations, from the 700HP monster GT500 CR-900S starting in at around $219,000.00 through to the GT500 CR 545 to the iconic GT350 CR and now you have added a new division, CRSupercars to build the Villain, which one is your favorite to build?
I would have to say the 900S – not because of the money it makes; I make more money on the 350 to be honest, but because of the time it takes, the engineering challenges we had to overcome and the R&D we had to put in to perfect the drivetrain. The car took five and a half years to develop to where we could produce it and it actually runs on 91 octane gas – that car will beat anything in it’s class, it is so powerful and quick – anybody can stick a big block engine in a car, run it on 100 octane fuel and make it quick, but to do what we did, is automobile engineering at it’s finest.
You said a couple of years ago that you were interested in building Camaro recreations, do you still have plans to do that?
Come to SEMA in November, that’s all I am going to say for now.
I will most definitely try to be there to see what you have up your sleeve!! You have quite an extensive range of spares and accessories that you offer through your website, do you have plans to add to that?
Yes indeed, that is part of what I do, keeping the website up to date and adding to it. We are putting up quite a lot of new stuff in the coming weeks and months and I am especially excited about adding our own range of sheet metal for Mustangs so that builders can go ahead and build their own if they can’t necessarily afford for Classic Recreations to do it for them. There will be quite a big range of panels and body parts.
Getting back to you, what makes Jason Engel tick, what drives you every day when you get up, is it a love for Mustangs, for cars, for business or a combination? My thoughts, having spoken to you for a while already, are that it will be a combination.
Yes, you have it absolutely right, it’s a combination of all of those, I am a car freak, but Mustangs are definitely a real love. As I said earlier, they are a really cheap muscle car, they are so American, they are a car that I just love working on and I feel very privileged to be able to do what I do, do what I love doing and to be able to recreate these icons of the American automobile industry under license to of one of the greatest names ever in the world of cars, Carroll Shelby and to be the only company in the world doing it.
What would you say has been the key to your success and the success of Classic Recreations?
Patience, lots of patience, perseverance, self belief, I give it everything I have all of the time, there are no half measures, it’s all or nothing and most importantly, I have a great team. If it weren’t for my guys, there is no way I would be here today, doing what I love. Those guys are the very backbone of the company, they are why Classic Recreations can exist, they are a bunch of hugely talented badasses and I rely on them all the way.
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
I see us being a smaller company, more focused, more specific, kind of less mass production and more bespoke. Doing builds to order, for a clientele that truly appreciates the hard work that goes into recreating a real classic and values the history of the cars.
Finally, what car do you drive day to day?
We have the business on a farm out here in Oklahoma, so I drive a pickup – an FX4 Crew Cab Trimmer – I have done some work on it of course, but it is a utility vehicle, it perfectly serves my needs for the business and of course when I go out hunting. I have a few Mustangs still, 3 or 4 Fox body ones, but I drive the pickup almost everywhere.
Jason, thank you so much for your time, I could easily spend all day chatting with you, but really, thank you for letting us know a bit of who Jason Engel is.
To watch a short video about Jason’s latest creation, the “Villain” Mustang, head on over to:
And to take a look at some of the stunning Shelby recreations that the company has built,