2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR

Move over Leonardo Di Caprio. For three days, I was king of my neighborhood in one continuously sideways, smoking-tire, keening-supercharger, wild-Mustang stampede. Insert key, stand on gas, crank in opposite lock, and the Shelby GT500KR drives animals to cover and mothers to full toddler embrace mode.

With the fifth-generation Mustang about to gallop into history, it was the ideal moment to enjoy this $80,000, 540-horsepower stallion on steroids. The beauty of Ford's pet pony is that it's always up for one more trot around the corral.

Ford Racing's Power Upgrade Pack adds a supposed 40 horsepower to the 'normal' supercharged and intercooled 5.4-liter V-8 engine's 500 hp at 6000 rpm. That's a bit like loading lox on a bagel already layered with cream cheese, because the rear Goodyear tires are so severely overloaded.

A half-throttle jab will get you nicely sideways in first gear. The six-grand redline jumps up fast and you're crashing into the 6250 rpm fuel cut long before you're ready to yank the Hurst-like shift lever through its half-inch stroke to second. And that chattering sound? It's not your teeth. That would be the rear suspension stuttering in protest over handling way more torque than any five-link solid axle should be expected to manage.

Assuming dealers can move them, only 1000 KR editions were made for 2008, leaving 571 more examples for the 2009 model year to match the original 1968 run. To satisfy export markets hungry for horseflesh, Ford tacked an extra 175 cars onto the production plan.

Hardware upfits include a composite-skinned hood, Brembo front brakes, and a full set of suspension springs, dampers, bars, and braces engineered by what's left of Ford's SVT department, coaxed by Ol' Shel' (Carroll Shelby) himself. In case you've forgotten, this is the racing hero who won LeMans driving an Aston Martin in 1959 and the dude who created the Cobra legend.

Homage is paid in full here. A cursory scan of the GT500KR's exterior décor reveals no less than 13 Shelby plugs plus 4 hissing cobra badges, 4 GT500KR labels, and 4 SVT honorable mentions. The Ford block letters are inscribed only once in small type on the decklid. It is, after all, a four-letter word.

For $80,000 (or less at a starving dealer), you get a fast, versatile, fun-to-drive sports coupe with high keepsake potential. Quarter-mile runs in less than 13 seconds with a trap speed over 115 mph and a 0-to-60 sprint in the low 4-second range should be no problem. Young adults fit fine in the back seat, the interior is nicely accented in etched metal and hard plastic, the front buckets are comfortable enough for the short stints between posing stops. This is a car capable of holding its own against anything a Dodge Challenger or Chevy Camaro brings to the street in factory trim.

For their next muscled-up Mustang, Carroll Shelby and SVT need to raise their game. I'd recommend taller gearing to curb the fruitless wheel spin at launch. Another trip down development lane is needed for that side-stepping, chattering, and generally naughty rear axle. Firming up the seat's side bolsters would also be an excellent idea.

But don't fiddle with the motorboat idle burble, the shifter that clicks through the gears with light switch efficiency, and the blower whine that woos you straight to the redline. Before guzzler taxes and the price at the pumps go totally crazy, we could all use another fast trip down muscle-car lane.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor

New Car Research

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