The Shelby GT500 is based on the Ford Mustangas were the classic Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s. But the GT500 has such things as its own supercharged 500-horsepower V8, with components shared with Ford's $150,000-plus GT sports car.
The GT500 also has its own heavy-duty 6-speed manual gearbox, with no automatic transmission offered. While it shares the same basic suspension of the 300-horsepower Ford GT, the Shelby has retuned and upgraded key chassis components, powerful Brembo brakes and unique styling.
The GT500 comes as a $40,930 coupe and as a $45,755 convertible. The top Mustang GT coupe lists at $26,455 and the top GT convertible is $31,280.
The GT500 was developed by legendary racer/hot car builder Carroll Shelby and Ford's Special Vehicle Team. They joined forces to build a modern successor to Shelby's classic Shelby GT500 of the late 1960s.
The GT500 is destined to become a collectible. In fact, some are now even calling it an instant classicwith a brand-new car warranty. For one thing, the GT500 is easily the lowest cost 500-horsepower car offered by any car producer, although some dealers are likely to tack on a special charge because the GT500 is so popular.
Then there's the magic of Shelby's name. A top sports car racer in the 1950s, Shelby was forced to retire because of a bad heart condition around 1960. (He eventually got a heart transplant.) He then developed the famous Ford-powered Cobra sports cars, which beat Ferrari for a world championship in the mid-1960s.
The 1965-66 Shelby-modified GT350 Mustangs outran Chevrolet Corvettes on tracks. They then became more refined and comfortable because Ford wanted higher Shelby Mustang sales.
Magical Shelby Name
The Shelby name automatically enhances the value of any car, especially the Mustang. For instance, a 1968 Shelby GT500 convertible is valued at $221,000, with the coupe version at $180,000, according to the Collectible Vehicle Value Guide.
Shelby has told this writer that he's amazed at such high prices "for old high-performance cars that were driven to death long ago." But then, lesser high-horsepower muscle cars from the 1960s are selling for high prices.
Horsepower is emphasized here because the GT500 is a modern muscle car and high horsepower was the main attraction of 1960s muscle cars. They were the most colorful mass-produced American cars of that decade. But most were one-trick ponies, in that they were just fast in a straight line. Steering, handling and braking were marginal because suspension and tire technology weren't up to coping with all their power.
No 1960s muscle car had a V8 as sophisticated s the GT500's V8, which is an Eaton supercharged 5.4-liter engine with a neck-snapping 480 pound-feet of torque. Its dual overhead camshaft, 32-valve cylinder heads are directly from the Ford GT, which has 550 horsepower. Heavy-duty engine parts include forged pistons.
In contrast, the hottest conventional Mustang is the 300-horsepower GT, which has a 4.6-liter pushrod V8.
The GT500 can reach 60 mph from a standing start in 4.7 seconds and do 0-100 mph in 10.3 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, although the car could probably hit 170 mph if it had no speed limiter.
Fuel economy is an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 21 on highways, with premium gasoline required.
The V8 works with a 6-speed Tremec manual transmisson, It has a rather firm shifter and works with a long-throw clutch, although clutch action is on the light side.
Sixth gear is for relaxed cruising. Third or fourth gears are best for fast passing on highways, although I got decent passing times in my test GT500 even in fifth gear.
As with the Mustang GT, the GT500 lacks an independent rear suspension. The back end thus can be upset by a bumpy surface when snaking through turns. However, the GT500 has stiffer shock absorbers, springs and anti-sway bars, along with huge tires on big wheels.
While the GT500 lacks the crispness of a good sports coupe, it steers, handles and brakes quite well, with firm-but-good pedal feel. The ride is firm, but supple, with the convertible having a slightly softer suspension.
Lots of Weight
The GT500 is very heavyat 3,920 pounds for the coupe and 4,040 pounds for the convertible. One can feel the weight during quick maneuvers, and much of it is at the front.
However, a nose-heavy car generally is better suited for street driving and open-road cruising than a tail-heavy car because it tends to be more stable.
Many Standard Features
Traction control is standard, as are many comfort, convenience and safety features. So is leather upholstery, and an AM/FM radio with an in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 player.
A cobra snake emblem was one of the signatures of Shelby's 1960s Mustangs and Cobra sports/racing cars, as were "Le Mans" racing stripes, named after the famous sports car endurance race in Le Mans, France. The new GT500 thus has snake emblems, SVT logos, GT500 badges, Shelby escutcheons all over the inside and outside of the car, along with several discreet Ford ovals.
An interesting cosmetic touch is a prominent fake, race-car-style gas cap with the Shelby cobra emblem and "Ford" script on the trunk lid.
The GT500 coupe has Le Mans racing stripes, which can be deleted. The convertible isn't offered with the stripes, because they don't go well with the cloth top. Besides, there were no stripes on Shelby's original GT500 convertible.
Both coupe and convertible also have "GT500" script rocker panel stripes, which also can be deleted.
The GT500 looks more aggressive than the Mustang GT because of features such as a ferocious looking "shark mouth" front end with big grille openings and a raised aluminum hood to make way for the supercharger.
There's also a unique rear fascia with lower strakes inspired by the Ford GT's integrated rear airflow diffuser. The prominent rear spoiler adds to the car's racy look, but some drivers may dislike constantly seeing it when they glance in the rearview mirror.
Long doors allow easy entry to the front seats, if the GT500 isn't parked in a tight spot. The rear seat area is best suited to children and is a hassle for adults to enter or leave.
Front seats offer decent lateral support, but a car such as the GT500 should have better ones. I found the analog gauges to be very difficult to read in bright sunlight. Most controls are decently sized and easily reached. The "Shelby GT500" script and Cobra image are on the steering wheel hub to remind a driver that he is at the wheel of something special.
No Spare Tire
The trunk has a high opening, but is fairly large. Its lid swings well up and out of the way on hydraulic struts. But there's no spare tirejust a can of "Fix-a-Flat."
A prop rod is needed to hold open the heavy hood. But the engine compartment will be especially appreciated by car buffs because no large plastic cover hides the V8, as is often the case with most cars these days; one can see the attractive finned aluminum cylinder head covers that read "Powered by SVT" and the supercharger. A "Monte Carlo" brace across the engine compartment helps stiffen the car's structure, as it did on 1960s Shelby Mustangs.
In all, the Shelby GT500 is a worthy successor to the Shelby GT500 of the late 1960s. It should be as impressive as most expected it to be.