It’s a Hollywood fairytale—a supporting actress comes out of nowhere, steals the spotlight, and becomes the star of the movie. So it was in the year 2000, when “Eleanor”—the iconic 1967 Shelby GT500 from the Gone in Sixty Seconds remake—raced into movie car history, and captured the heart of Aaron Miller’s leading lady, his wife Lauren.
Years later, when the couple decided it was time to build a custom they could drive on the street, Lauren took the lead.
“I wanted an Eleanor, and it had to be right,” she said.
While the build took eight years, the story opens in high school.
“Lauren and I were just friends, but she was the only one I’d let drive my 1982 Firebird,” Aaron Miller said. “I built it when I was 14. My dad owned a salvage yard, and he’d set aside some of the nicer cars that came in. I begged him to let me work on a Firebird he had on the lot.”
Under his father’s direction, Miller dismantled the forsaken F-body piece by piece.
“He told me to go out, open the hood and come back in. Next he had me remove the intake and come back in. He kept this up until the motor was stripped. Then he had me pull the block, when I could’ve just removed the engine in one piece,” Miller said with a laugh.
When it was finished, the Firebird was total high-school hotness, complete with T-tops, custom graphics, Coys wheels, and a lot more.
“That car was an 18-year-old’s dream,” he said.
But as time ticked on, the Firebird fell victim to more grownup priorities.
“After college, Lauren and I started dating, and I sold the car to buy her an engagement ring,” he said.
Fast forward to 2009, and Eleanor—or at least the car that would become Eleanor—makes her entrance.
“We jumped off the deep end and bought a 1968 Mustang Fastback for $6,000. We thought it was a pretty good car, and we actually drove it onto the trailer. The previous owner said it just needed two quarter panels and a paint job,” Aaron Miller said.
Unfortunately, media blasting the Mustang revealed an unexpected plot twist.
“The car was just awful,” he said. “We had to replace a lot of body panels and a good part of the floor.”
Working together, the couple dismantled the pitiful pony car.
“I drilled out over 200 spot welds,” Lauren Miller said. “It was hard. We worked on it every night, and all day on the weekends. I was under the car running the fuel lines when I was nine months pregnant.”
Recreating a movie masterpiece brought an additional degree of difficulty to the project.
“We were building something that doesn’t really exist,” Lauren Miller said. “Things went from mild to wild real fast because we wanted it to look right. Everything had to be modified. When we changed one part, we’d have to modify the next five parts.”
In their pursuit of perfection, the couple amassed quite a collection of extra components.
“We went through three hoods just to get the movie-correct look,” Aaron Miller said.
Using the best pieces from several body kits, Eleanor took shape—slowly—and what you don’t see is just as important as what you do.
“The exhaust exits out of the side skirts, so we had to route the pipe through the torque boxes to keep it out of sight,” Aaron Miller said.
With the exterior in award-winning shape, the Ohio couple trailered Eleanor all the way to Florida, where Rusty and Brian Gillis applied a breathtaking Pepper Gray finish.
“I wanted the best paint job possible, and I knew Rusty and Brian would make it happen,” Lauren Miller said.
Accented with black LeMans stripes, and rolling on PS Engineering GT40 wheels, the end result is both picture perfect and striking.
Inside, the Mustang’s 2+2 seating arrangement features 1967 Shelby buckets and fold-down rear bench—just right for Aaron, Lauren, and their two young sons. The Hurst shifter is topped with the required Go-Baby-Go button, and eagle-eyed film fanatics will notice the glovebox carries Carrol Shelby’s signature. It’s not movie-correct, but it’s an awesome addition, nonetheless.
Every movie star needs motivation, and in this story Eleanor gets plenty from a 410 Windsor connected to a TREMEC TKO 600 gear box. The bored-out V8 sports an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold and Fast 2.0 EFI system.
By the script, the Mustang has the goods, but what’s it like on the street?
“It’s easy to drive, it shifts nice, and it stops nice,” Lauren Miller said. “In fact, we’ve only had it on the trailer twice since it was finished.”
Like all of life’s best things, the build was difficult, but worth it.
“A project like this is not for the faint of heart,” Aaron Miller said. “There are no instructions for a build like this. We called it our marriage therapy. But once we were finished and we put our boys in the back seat, it was all worth it.”
That sounds like a happy ending to us.
Frame: Stock with subframe connectors
Rear End: Ford 9″, 3:25:1 ring and pinion, and Traction-Lok differential, Moser Engineering 31-spline axles
Suspension: Rod & Custom independent front suspension, QA1 coil-over front shocks, Heidts 4-link rear suspension, billet aluminum coil-over shocks, and silver powdercoated springs
Steering: Lecarra steering wheel, Ididit tilt steering column
Brakes: Wilwood disc brake system
Wheels and Tires: PS Engineering GT40 wheels (17″ x 8″ front, 17″ x 9.5″ rear); BFGoodrich g-Force KDW tires (245/45R17 front, 275/40R17 rear)
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Keith Craft Ford 410 Windsor
Induction: Fast EZ-EFI 2.0 fuel injection system, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, Aeroquip braided stainless steel hoses and fittings
Ignition and Electrical: MSD Billet distributor, 6AL ignition control, and Blaster coil; Moroso 8.5mm ignition wires; American Autowire wiring harness; Powermaster starter and alternator; Optima RedTop battery; Taylor battery box
Exhaust: BBK ceramic coated headers, custom 2.5″ stainless steel exhaust, SpinTech mufflers
Transmission: TREMEC TKO 600 manual transmission, Superior clutch, QuickTime bellhousing, Hurst shifter with Go-Baby-Go button
Other Items: Be Cool cooling module, Eddie Motorsports billet hood hinges, II Much fuel vent valve
Bodywork By: Owners
Paint By: Rusty and Brian Gillis
Paint: Prospray Pepper Gray
Other Items: Custom fender flares, side scoops and skirts, fiberglass nose and hood, Shelby rear spoiler and taillight panel
Upholstery: Black Comfortweave upholstery, 80/20 carpeting
Upholstery By: Sean O’Neill
Other Items: 1967 Shelby bucket seats, rear seat, and roll bar, AutoMeter Sport-Comp tachometer, 1967 Ford AM radio
Special Thanks To: Jim Miller for his continuous support, Rusty and Brian Gillis at Gillis Performance Restorations