They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. So if your nemesis decides to take a step back from the “pony wars” who better to copy and learn from than yourself?
That’s exactly what Ford had to do being that they are the lone star when it comes to modern-day 500-plus horsepower muscle cars. Chrysler didn’t beef up their Hemi SRT-8 enough and Chevy decided to put the Camaro Z28 on ice. So long live the Shelby GT500 and its 540 supercharged steeds!
Whether your passion runs deep from Steve McQueen’s great car chase in “Bullitt” or salivating over Eleanor (the 1967 Shelby GT500) in “Gone in 60 Seconds” (a ‘67 Fastback was used for shooting purposes) there is a Mustang for every muscle car craving fanatic. While celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2009, what greater way for Ford to kick off Mustang festivities by welcoming an all-new Shelby to the stable? It’s tougher, faster, more advanced and of course adds today’s modern intelligence.
Yet, there are still styling cues and throwback touches like the shark nose look inspired by Shelby AC Cobras of the 60s. The fascia is flush to the aluminum power dome hood to produce better aerodynamics and allows the fascia to define the aggressive style of the entire frontal area. Ford went this route because the all-new 2010 base Mustang inherited some Shelby styling like the squashed nose and meaner headlights, meaning the GT500 had to be one step ahead of the game.
A revised spoiler is utilized for downforce while a unique lower valance houses the wide dual 4” exhaust tips. The Shelby signage is now embedded across the center of the trunk in between the tailamps. On the prior model it was off to the side.
A signature philosophy of any Shelby vehicle is that it has to be faster and handle better than the previous model. Halfway through the development program the team started working on the KR (King of the Road). Some may remember how special the original 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500 KR was!
So many advancements in the impending KR found its way in the 2010 GT500. “We’re proud of the many enhancements jointly developed by the Ford and Shelby Automobiles team that we’ve incorporated into the new model,” said Carroll Shelby, founder of Shelby Automobiles. “Building on what we learned to create the Shelby GT500KR, this new car offers a great combination of power, handling and braking.
It is truly a special car that is a great deal of fun to drive.” Launched in January at the Detroit Auto Show on Carroll’s 86th birthday, expect to see the new GT500s on the road later this spring with a base price of $46,325. The $850 destination and delivery and $1,000 gas-guzzler tax is not included. Options include HID headlamps, Electronics Package, White Tape Stripe, and Shelby GT500 car cover.
Ford’s Special Vehicle’s Team (SVT) will instill a “one car, one truck” strategy from here on out. The F-150 SVT Raptor releases this summer. With such focus SVT went straight to work by offering a revised 5.4-liter DOHC supercharged V8 with 540-horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It draws cold air directly from the grille and is the reason why the Cobra emblem moved grille positions (from left to right).
The GT500 also receives a new exhaust system and a new clutch. Power is put into place through a Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission. The white “cue-ball” shiftknob, actually offered by a billiards company, is quite clever and feels assertive. The transmission’s short throws are perfect for aggressive acceleration for such things as drag racing. Yet, it takes time getting use to the shift gate as some of the gears feel similar.
A live rear axle is maintained opposed to going with an independent rear suspension (IRS) as the new Camaro uses. SVT wanted to appeal to its loyalists who prefer a live axle. It’s also cheaper. But I don’t like my car being thrown around by a small bump in the road. Give me an IRS. Goodyear Eagle F1 super car tires wrap around the 19×9.5 forged and machined alloy bladed rims. Ford worked extensively with Goodyear for the right specs for the GT500.
During our track day session at Infineon Raceway we worked the Goodyear’s through a figure eight course, road circuit and drag strip demo. Some of us even burned the tread off the Goodyears during some lengthy burnouts! We also experienced the vehicle’s Launch Control which is always on and doesn’t require any special set-up for engagement.
Around the track, the car handles unlike any modern muscle car I’ve driven (we didn’t drive the new Camaro on the track). It’s interesting to see such perfection in previously thought of straight-line vehicles. A “Three-Mode” AdvanceTrac electric stability control system (on, sport, off) takes a lot of the vehicle’s control out of the driver’s hands. Turn off the system and you better have skills like McQueen!
Stiffer springs by 13% in the front and 7% rear and Brembo 14” front and 11.8” rear rotors with 4-piston front calipers add to the GT500’s performance. Ford has also found a way to increase highway mpg by two miles per gallon (14 city/22 highway)
The interior of the GT500 meets the demands of enthusiast who wanted a better Shelby interior. Previously, the cabin wasn’t special enough. But even the base Mustang’s interior is far better than Camaro or Challenger’s.
The Shelby offers stitched-in leather stripes on the seats to match the striped exterior and added Alcantara faux-suede on upper and lower seat bolsters to keep the driver planted, and on the steering wheel and shift and brake boot. “MyColor” ambient lighting has 125 custom colors for gauge backlighting. The SVT logo always stays red.
A new “SYNC” telematics system with 911 calling and vehicle health diagnostics, voice activated navigation and SIRIUS Travel Link uses a massive touch nav screen with state-of-the-art mapping that competes with the Japanese.
As stated, if competitors are going to compete with the Shelby GT500 then please be sure not make “Fool’s Gold” out of yourself. Long live the Cobra King!
Kimatni D. Rawlins is publisher of www.AutomotiveRhythms.com