When Carroll Shelby painted two white stripes the entire length of a Mustang in 1964, he not only introduced a dramatic styling cue, he opened a new era of performance cars to the world. Today, Shelby again stripes a new Mustang in collaboration with the Ford Special Vehicle Team (SVT), creating the 450-plus-horsepower Ford Shelby Cobra GT500.
"We had a great relationship years ago, and here we are working on projects together again," says Carroll Shelby. "I can't tell you how proud I am. We came up with another winner in my estimation."
The return of Shelby's stripes on a Mustang is one of a number of cues that play on more than a century of performance history between SVT, Shelby and the Mustang. The GT500 is based on the hot-selling 2005 Mustang that's won international acclaim for its magical blend of classic 1960's Mustang design elements like the fastback shape, long hood and short rear deck with a modern stance and proportions.
SVT, with Shelby's guiding influence, is employing its leading factory-tuning expertise to bring power and performance to the GT500, and will bring it to the streets with a production model that will go on sale in 2006.
"When you take a car with the power and personality of the legendary Shelby Mustangs and infuse it with the modern engineering expertise of SVT and back it all up with racetrack-proven performance then you understand the appeal of the GT500," says Hau Thai-Tang, director, Advanced Product Creation and SVT. "No other company has a Mustang, and nobody has the performance credentials of Carroll Shelby SVT brings them together to offer a performance car that nobody else can match in terms of speed and emotion."
Shelby and SVT offer appeal across generations of Mustang enthusiasts
Unlike some cars that appeal only to a small group of enthusiasts, the Shelby Cobra GT500 combines the reputation of Carroll Shelby and Ford SVT to appeal to enthusiasts across generations.
Carroll Shelby first put his name on a Mustang back in 1964 when he was asked to inject some high performance into the brand-new pony car. The result was the GT350R, a lightweight, handling-focused race car that earned the Mustang its first performance credentials. Subsequent Shelby Mustangs included a street version of the race car, the GT350, and what was known as the "rent-a-racer" Mustang, the GT350H, a joint project with the Hertz rental car corporation.
The ultimate Shelby Mustang of the era was the GT500KR, or "King of the Road." Powered by a big-block 428-cubic-inch "Cobra Jet" V-8, the 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.
For those that grew up during the '60s, even the original price for a 1967 Shelby GT500 of $4,195.00 was quite a stretch. Those lucky enough to have experienced time behind the wheel of an original, or may have been able to add one to their personal collections, are holding a piece of automotive history. But for those who only have been able to lust after the Shelby Mustang legend, they may now have another chance to make their dream come true.
SVT brought performance back to Mustang in 1993. After 12 years, nearly 80,000 high-performance Mustangs and total production of nearly 145,000 vehicles, SVT has established a reputation for delivering some of the most desirable high-performance Mustangs since the 1960s.
Those who grew up with posters of SVT Mustang Cobras and SVT F-150 Lightnings on their walls know that the SVT logo represents serious performance. SVT owners consistently report back in owner surveys that one of the top reasons behind their purchase decision is "SVT reputation." SVT has built a performance credibility steeped in consistent execution of performance capabilities in its products.
GT500 marries style of Shelby, engineering of SVT
It's easy enough to add racing stripes to a car but, to faithfully uphold the legendary Shelby look of the GT500, SVT chose to completely finesse the already aggressive lines of the 2005 Mustang from nose to tail. In the power brand's tradition, these design changes emphasize functional improvements to the car's performance capabilities.
"The classic Shelbys looked great but, at the end of the day, they earned their stripes because they could perform," says Doug Gaffka, SVT chief designer. "The Shelby look works perfectly with SVT and Mustang because all three have performance at their core."
In addition to the famed overbody and lower bodyside stripes, unique bodywork reminiscent of classic Shelby Mustangs and special Shelby badging help bring the legacy to life on the GT500. A reworked front fascia with functional air splitter provides improved airflow and aerodynamics. Stylized headlamp insets offer a more aggressive look, and new symmetrical upper and lower grilles provide larger air openings for increased airflow into the engine bay.
Underhood, the GT500 features the most powerful engine ever fit in a Mustang by the factory. The 5.4-liter, supercharged V-8 developed by SVT delivers more than 450 horsepower, and 450 foot-pounds of torque. SVT engineers also developed the chassis, building on 12 years of experience tuning high-performance SVT Mustang Cobras. The result is a marriage of classic muscle-car styling and modern engineering.
Shelby Cobra GT500 a product of Mustang and SVT enthusiast lifestyles
For 40 years, Mustangs have held the title of America's favorite performance car. More than eight million have been sold since its introduction in 1964. Along the way, the Mustang has become a lifestyle in and of itself, inspiring Mustang car clubs across the world.
Likewise, the SVT Owner's Association (SVTOA) has helped Ford SVT transcend a simple logo to become an integral part of enthusiasts' lives. With more than 25,000 members in nearly 50 chapters across North America, SVTOA holds the standard car-club fare of local dealer-supported car shows and cruises. But, SVTOA provides another very important ownership function: honest to goodness track time.
With the view that the best way to enjoy a high-performance vehicle is to learn to drive it in high-performance situations, a series of SVTOA "On-Track" events helps to introduce interested SVT owners to the joys of amateur road racing.
Held on private race tracks across North America, SVTOA "On-Track" events help drivers exercise their car or truck in ways that wouldn't be possible on public roads. Some of the events even become vacation destinations for the entire family. This kind of club experience goes beyond the typical weekend show or once-a-month get-together. More than just the celebration of a car, being a member of SVTOA and driving at the limit on a road-racing course is the celebration of the car enthusiast lifestyle. Like SVT products themselves, it all centers on a passion for driving.
Although it's true that club membership and track racing doesn't appeal to all owners, one thing that is universal is a love of Ford performance vehicles. The Shelby Cobra GT500 will fit nicely in this family of loyal Ford performance enthusiasts.