FORD SHELBY GT500 COMBINES UNMISTAKABLE COBRA STYLING AND POWER WITH NEW FEATURES FOR 2008
What happens when a performance legend from Dearborn reunites with a performance legend from Texas? You get the Ford Shelby GT500. The collaboration between Shelby and Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) continues to yield an instant collector’s Mustang that delivers 500 horsepower from its supercharged 5.4-liter V-8.
A modern interpretation of the big-block Shelby Mustang of the late 1960s, the 2008 Shelby GT500 uses advanced engineering to attain the kind of performance that made it the original the “King of the Road.” True to its heritage, today’s GT500 is available both as a coupe and as a convertible.
Serving as touchstone and inspirational leader for both the concept and the production versions of the modern GT500, Carroll Shelby was impressed by what SVT engineers had accomplished.
“It’s one thing to put 450 horsepower in an exotic supercar,” said Shelby. “It’s another to put that much power in something as affordable as a Mustang. The fact that they not only met their goal but pushed on to 500 horsepower is a remarkable achievement.”
Shelby knows something about creating modern supercars. He served as a senior advisor on the SVT Engineering team that developed and built the 550-horsepower Ford GT.
The Ford Shelby GT500 is built alongside other production Mustangs at the Ford-Mazda joint venture assembly facility, AutoAlliance International (AAI), in Flat Rock, Mich.
As expected of anything with Shelby’s name on it, the heart of the car is what’s under the hood. The Ford Shelby GT500’s supercharged 5.4-liter, 32-valve V-8 evolves from Ford’s experience with expanding its modular engine family. Output is a brawny 500 horsepower.
Power Requires Control
The Ford Shelby GT500 continues a legacy of all-around performance that made the original Shelby Mustang a world-class racer on tracks and road courses around the world.
The GT500 starts with the solid underpinnings of the Mustang GT. Mustang was designed from the beginning with performance derivatives in mind, providing an exceptionally rigid, well-engineered platform for GT500 chassis engineers.
SVT engineers retuned and upgraded key chassis components for the GT500. Improvements such as revised shocks, spring rates and upgraded stabilizer bars help the Ford Shelby GT500 stop and turn with the same authority as it goes.
The Ford Shelby GT500 features a MacPherson strut independent front suspension with Reverse-L lower control arms, and a solid-axle, three-link rear suspension with coil springs and a Panhard rod for precise control of the rear axle.
Engineers employed some of the biggest brakes in the business for the GT500. Four-piston Brembo calipers are fitted to 14-inch Brembo vented rotors up front, and 11.8-inch vented discs in the rear continue SVT’s tradition of great-braking Mustangs. Secure footing is provided by 255/45ZR high-performance tires in front and 285/40ZR high-performance tires in back. Wheels are 18 by 9.5 inches.
Unmistakable Cobra Styling
One glance at the Shelby GT500 shows this is not a typical Mustang. A sinister-looking front-end design includes wide upper and lower fascia openings with a functional lower air splitter. The upper grille opening sports the famous Cobra logo, floating off-center in place of a centered galloping pony found on other Mustangs. On either side, slanting headlamp openings add to the dramatic front appearance. New for 2008, optional High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps will be available for added visibility and safety.
The bulging hood has a set of matching heat extractors protruding near the leading edge, combining to provide improved airflow and aerodynamics. As air passes over the hood, hot air from the engine compartment is drawn out through venting attached to the extractors.
“The restrained, performance-oriented SVT design theme has become instantly recognizable to enthusiasts without the use of overly brash styling cues,” said Doug Gaffka, Mustang chief designer. “The GT500 takes a huge leap forward by combining the modern Mustang muscle car with the classic Shelby performance look.”
The Mustang design team drew inspiration from classic 1967-68 Mustangs, the models that transformed the mild-mannered pony car into a true muscle car with attitude.
The production Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe is punctuated by the classic Le Mans-style white overbody stripes that race along the top from nose to tail. The stripes recall the Shelby Mustangs that marked another important 1960s Mustang transition, when Ford put it on track to becoming a racing legend. The GT500 nomenclature is prominent in the lower bodyside racing stripe, another cue from the classic Shelby Mustangs of yesteryear.
In a touch also borrowed from the GT500’s past, no Le Mans overbody stripes will be seen on the 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible. The convertible version will sport a high-end cloth top similar to those found on pricier convertibles.
“There were no Le Mans stripes on Shelby’s original GT500 Convertible, so we decided to pay homage by not offering them on today’s convertible models,” says Gaffka. “We also went with a cloth top material as another measure of substance and exclusivity. The fabric used is the same used on the 2002-03 SVT Mustang Cobra, the Thunderbird, Jaguar and Ford’s other high-end convertibles.”
The unique rear fascia features lower strakes inspired by the Ford GT’s integrated rear airflow diffuser, and a rear spoiler reminiscent of a classic GT500. To mark the collaboration of two Mustang performance icons, the GT500 features both Shelby and SVT badging.
The fenders each sport an updated design of the famed Cobra emblem. The front grille houses an off-center snake in place of the standard running horse. “GT500” is emblazoned inside the side rocker stripes, and the name SHELBY is prominently written across the rear deck. The SVT logo can be seen on the wheel center caps, a signature SVT location, as well as on the doorsill plates. To top it off, the medallion between the taillights reads, “Shelby GT500” centered on the Cobra image.
Inside, too, flair and function abound. The locations of the speedometer and the tachometer are swapped from the Mustang GT to provide performance-oriented drivers with a better view of shift points while changing gears. Front seats have received additional lateral support to help keep the driver optimally positioned during cornering.
The interior is offered in a choice of two colors, Charcoal Black or Charcoal Black and Crimson Red. The charcoal/red offering features Crimson Red seating surfaces and door panel inserts. Seating surfaces are leather with both interior treatments. Snake logos embossed in the seatbacks finish the package.
The Shelby GT500 script and Cobra image are repeated on the steering wheel cap. Behind the wheel, the gauges wear light faces in keeping with SVT tradition. The chromed accessories inside the cabin have been replaced with a satin aluminum finish, including the aluminum shift lever knob that is nicely positioned for quick, positive shifts.
New for 2008 is the availability of a 7-color programmable ambient lighting feature. This new Ford option allows owners to choose colorful interior lighting to fit their mood. A dashboard switch controls the selection of ambient light via LEDs mounted in the front console, two in the footwells and two around the cupholders.
Shelby and SVT: The Legends Grow
With the look and legend one would expect from Shelby and the kind of power and performance enthusiasts have come to expect from SVT, the SVT-engineered Shelby GT500 points to proud new era in Ford’s performance future.
Shelby first put his name on a Mustang back in 1964 when he was asked to inject a dose of high performance into Ford’s brand-new pony car. The result was the G.T.350R, a lightweight, handling-focused race car that earned Mustang its first performance credentials. Subsequent Shelby Mustangs included a street version of the race car, the G.T.350, and what was known as the “rent-a-racer” Mustang, the G.T.350H, a joint project with the Hertz rental car corporation.
The ultimate Shelby Mustang of the era was the big-block G.T.500, and later the GT500KR, or “King of the Road.” Powered by a 428-cubic-inch “Cobra Jet” V-8, the distinctive GT500KR was one of the most powerful – and memorable – muscle cars of that period. Shelby Mustang production ceased in 1970 with a total volume of 14,559 units.
The GT500 launched a new series of Shelby-inspired Mustangs. Following the Shelby GT500 was the Shelby GT-H, available for rental through the Hertz Fun Fleets in 2007. These “retired” rental cars, that consistently saw bids of over $50,000 at auction, spawned a customer version of the GT plus the announcement of the GT-H convertible that will enter the Hertz Fun Fleet this summer. 2008 also marks the return of the GT500KR “King of the Road.” The most powerful production Mustang ever hits dealer showrooms in the spring of 2008.
Key Features and Options:
Standard features include : Supercharged 5.4-liter four-valve V-8 engine w/intercooler; stainless steel dual exhaust; SVT tuned front and rear suspension- with unique dampers and springs; Tremec 6-speed manual transmission; Power four-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes with ABS; Front fog lamps; “GT500” side stripes (convertible); Over-the-top “Racing Stripes” and “GT500” side stripes (coupe); Unique SHELBY badging on rear decklid; P255/45ZR 18 (front) and P285/40ZR18 (rear) performance tires; Unique GT500 front and rear fascias and aluminum hood (with dual functional air vents); Unique rear spoiler; 18 x 9.5-inch bright machined aluminum wheels; Shaker 500 Audio System (AM/FM stereo w/CDx6, 6-speakers &MP3); Front seat side air bags; BeltMinder®.
Available options include : Ambient lighting; HID Headlamps; Shaker 1000 Audio System (AM/FM stereo with in-dash 6-disc CD, MP3 and 10 speakers; SIRIUS® Satellite Radio; Touch Screen DVD-based navigation; Premium Interior Trim Package.