The classic tunes still rock when Carroll Shelby grooves the melody and Ford's SVT garage band hammers out the rhythm. The group's latest riff is a pair of Ford Shelby GT500s-one coupe, one convertible-capable of rattling root beer mugs on cruise night and spanking Chevrolet Corvettes on the drag strip. They're classic muscle cars from the eight-track era tuned up for another go: bragging rights to 500 hp, room for double dating, and the security blanket of a full factory warranty.
Thanks to lessons learned during Ford's GT supercar project, the power comes easily. As we reported a year ago, one howling supercharger, four whirring camshafts, thirty-two valves, and 5.4 liters of ripping V-8 are jammed beneath the Shelby's humped-up aluminum hood. Unfortunately, those waiting patiently for the GT500 will be digging deeper into their pockets than we previously forecast. Part of Ford's Way Forward belt tightening is a Special Vehicle Team responsible for earning its keep. Although complete pricing hasn't yet been announced, the base Shelby GT500 coupe starts at $41,950, and the droptop should cost about $46,000, including gas-guzzler taxes.
If 500 hp for $42,000 sounds to you like a half-priced BMW M5, we need to revisit the inner workings of a muscle car. Sacred blueprints from the 1960s are honored here, so alterations to the basic Mustang are intentionally modest in scope. The chassis still rides on struts up front and a solid axle in back. Take solace in smoky burnouts and the towering trophies you'll haul home every Saturday night from your local drag strip.
One fundamental muscle car requirement is looking hot with the hood open or closed. Here, the Shelby GT500 sets new standards. The chintzy plastic "beauty" cover that manufacturers habitually deploy over a messy engine bay thankfully is absent. In its place is a massive Roots-type Eaton supercharger standing tall for all to admire. The cylinder-head covers are genuine finned-aluminum castings sporting "powered by SVT" identification. The heads themselves are the exact same free-breathing, four-valve, twin-cam components that help the Ford GT's V-8 wring out 550 hp.
The only scrimping is buried deep in the engine bay. The block is an iron casting that has served faithfully under the hoods of countless Ford pickups and SUVs. SVT engineers also spared the expense and complexity of the Ford GT's dry-sump lubrication system, although they did at least fill their 5.4-liter, long-stroke cylinder case with premium moving parts: the steel crankshaft, I-beam-section connecting rods, and aluminum pistons are all forged components. The engine delivers its 500 hp at 6000 rpm. The broad torque curve peaks with 480 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
The shark mouth feeding the hungry engine is opened wide enough to ingest roadkill. Twin hood vents, a horizontal splitter attached to the front air dam, and a rear spoiler help reduce aerodynamic lift. Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires-255/45WR-18 in front, 285/40WR-18 in back-mounted to 9.5-inch-wide, cast aluminum wheels inspired by the Ford GT's optional forged rims provide an appropriately meaty stance. Four-piston Brembo calipers clamping fourteen-inch rotors peek through the front wheel spokes.
To prevent onlookers from confusing this with an ordinary 'Stang, there's a liberal sprinkling from Ford's jewelry box. We counted seven snake emblems, seven SVT logos, four GT500 badges, three Shelby escutcheons, and two Ford ovals adorning interior and exterior surfaces. In lieu of a Mustang badge, there's a silk-screened horsey galloping across the windshield. Le Mans-style skunk stripes are exclusive to the coupe. If that's too over-the-top for your tastes, you can delete them. Choosing the delete option is a smart move, because the white-striped red coupe we drove on back roads in Northern California popped up on law enforcement radar more vividly than three cherries in a Vegas slot machine. Those serious about speeding should select the evil black or super stealthy alloy (charcoal bordering on black) monotone exterior hues.