The 850-hp 2013 Shelby GT500 Super Snake by Shelby American is not exactly a Pro Stock drag-racing car, but it’s so close that you’ll be explaining the difference to your local law-enforcement officials.
Because really, who hasn’t looked at the 662-hp 2013 Shelby GT500 and wanted 200 hp more?
Grounded in Reality
When you start out with a Shelby GT500, you’ve got something pretty good with which to work. It’s almost friendly, really. And according to test numbers we trust, it will get to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, plus it’s supposed to reach 200 mph if you can hold your breath long enough. It also has enough capability in its brakes, tires, and suspension to make such physics accessible to enthusiasts, not just pros.
Still, the Shelby GT500 has its issues. A tall final-drive ratio of 3.31:1 enables the car to reach 60 mph without grabbing for second gear and brings a very high top speed within reach, but it makes the car difficult to launch from a stop.
What you get is a quarter-mile in 11.9 sec @ 123.5 mph (according to testing we trust). Or you get tire smoke, which is the signature of a loser, not a winner.
Reality Is Over-rated
The engine shop at Shelby American knows how to get power, and the liquid-cooled, twin-screw, Kenne Bell supercharger between the cylinder banks of the 5.8-liter Ford SVT V-8 in our test car is the solution. This 3.6-liter blower moves a lot more air than the factory-spec 2.3-liter supercharger. The installation appears to be nicely done, with a high-performance radiator, an air-to-water intercooler with twin fans, aluminum header tanks for the radiator and intercooler, and a big snorkel-type air intake that breathes through the left-front wheel well.
There was a time when a Mustang hot rod wouldn’t be much more than this plus a shopping basket of appearance parts selected from the best booths at SEMA. Indeed, the GT500 Super Snake has plenty of emblems, stripes, and billet pieces, along with a zippy new hood, a very pretty aero splitter made from carbon fiber, Katzkin-upholstered seats with embroidered Shelby logos, and a pod of three gauges on the driver-side A-pillar. And why not? This is the kind of stuff that makes SEMA fun.
However, the GT500 Super Snake is meant to be more than just a Mustang hot rod, so the Shelby American package also gets you Wilwood brakes with six-piston calipers front and rear and an upgraded suspension with camber plates in front and remote-reservoir gas dampers in the rear. Our test car (not the one pictured) also has the optional Watts link instead of the standard Panhard rod. The forged-aluminum 20-inch wheels carry 255/35ZR-20 tires in front and 295/35ZR-20 tires in the rear. Most important, the final-drive ratio has been changed to 3.73:1.
The Street Drive
At first the Super Snake seems like a beast. The supercharger whines and so does the ring-and-pinion, and when the Borla cat-back exhaust gets its voice, well, it’s quite an orchestration. It’s also a little hard to see over the hood. The trip computer is telling us that we’re getting 16 mpg while cruising and 11 mpg while not cruising.
At the same time, the clutch is predictable but a bit heavy, the brakes have lots of bite, and the two-position setting for the dampers takes the sting out of rough pavement when set in Normal mode. Only the sticky action of the six-speed Tremec transmission’s short-throw shift linkage is a distraction, but at least the lever has a proper heat-resistant ceramic knob, not one of those chrome things.
Eventually you notice that you can drive the Shelby GT500 Super Snake in traffic. If there’s a gap in traffic way ahead of you and you want to change lanes, it takes about a second to get there. You’ll be fine as long as you remember to look far enough down the road, because 850 hp gets you to the horizon pretty rapidly. This car isn’t uncontrollable, but it is terrifically quick and fast.
If you like to drive a quarter-mile at a time, you might like to know that one of those magazines that specialize in testing Mustang hot rods slapped a set of Nitto drag radials on this car and went down the quarter-mile at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida, in 10.66 seconds @ 137.60 mph.
The Miracle of Hot Rod Engineering
We don’t pretend to be experts in Mustang hot rods, but we still think it’s pretty amazing that you can take your $54,800 Shelby GT500, hand over $39,995 to Shelby American, and drive home from the outfit’s facility at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with an 850-hp car that will blaze through the lights on the quarter-mile and then take you for burgers and fries afterwards.
First of all, it tells you that the speed parts business has reached a level of expertise and professionalism undreamed of just twenty years ago, and second, it tells you that carmakers are building hardware of equally impressive quality, because aside from all the stuff stuck on the outside of this Ford SVT V-8, it’s just as it left Romeo, Michigan. Thanks to Paul and Larry, who built it. Their signatures are on a plate attached to the left-hand cam cover where everyone can see them.
2013 Shelby GT500 Super Snake
- On sale: Now
- Base Price: $94,195
- Engine: 5.2L V-8 supercharged
- Horsepower: 850 hp (est.)
- Drive: Rear-wheel
- Curb Weight: 4000 lb (est.)