For speed enthusiasts who love the feel of the wind in their hair, Ford is unveiling the 2013 Shelby GT500 convertible at the Chicago auto show. Like the 2013 GT500 coupe that was shown at the Los Angeles show in November 2011, the muscle car benefits from a new engine good for a lofty 650 hp. Making the car’s launch even more special is the fact that it coincides with the 20th anniversary of Ford’s Special Vehicles Team.
Upgrades for the GT500 convertible are the same as applied to the hardtop model: a new supercharged 5.8-liter V-8, up from 5.4 liters in the old car, produces 650 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, sending its power to the rear wheels by way of a six-speed manual transmission and carbon-fiber driveshaft. The V-8 benefits from go-fast tweaks like high-lift camshafts, while the drivetrain scores a stronger clutch and transmission gears. Last year’s GT500, for comparison, offered just 550 hp and 510 lb-ft.
The engine upgrades are matched by new Brembo brakes with six-pistons front calipers; a Performance package that includes Bilstein adaptive dampers and a Torsen limited-slip differential; and an optional Track package that features extra coolers for the engine oil, rear differential, and transmission. Like all 2013 Mustangs, the Shelby GT500 receives a mild facelift comprising a new grille, narrower headlights, and redesigned LED taillights.
Ford claims the 2013 GT500 coupe can hit 200 mph — given a long enough straight — but it is keeping things more in check with the convertible, which will be limited to 155 mph. In addition, Ford has revealed that the 2013 drop-top is nearly four seconds quicker around Sebring International Raceway than the 2012 Shelby GT500.
The 2013 Shelby GT500 also is meant to celebrate the two-decade run of Ford’s SVT division, commemorated by special illuminated doorsills in the car. The SVT program began with the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra, which offered a then-impressive 235 hp from its 5.0-liter engine. Ford and SVT followed up with other performance cars including the SVT F-150 Lightning, SVT Contour, SVT Focus, Ford GT supercar, F-150 SVT Raptor, and the recent spate of Mustang Shelby GT500 models.
Going forward, America’s SVT and Europe’s Team RS will join forces as Ford’s Performance Vehicles Group. That will allow the company to sell its future performance models as global cars available around the world. The first example of this is the 2013 Focus ST, which could be followed by a car inspired by the Fiesta ST concept.