If you're a driving enthusiast, you owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Ford Mustang. Once that pony car hit the market in 1964, affordable and stylish performance was finally in reach for the average American. Even though early versions weren't exceptionally fast, it didn't take long for Ford to pump the car up with some real muscle. Shortly after the first 'Stang hit the streets, Ford teamed up with racing legend Carroll Shelby to produce the high-performance GT350. Two years later, the fierce Ford Shelby GT500 showed up, equipped with a 428-cubic-inch big-block V8.
2008 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible
Only a few thousand of the original Ford Shelby GT500s were built from 1965-'70, and they've remained very popular with Mustang enthusiasts and collectors. (Although it was disfigured with a modern body kit, one of the more visible vintage GT500s was the silver replica Nicolas Cage drove in the remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds.) Hoping to build on this heritage, Ford recently introduced a new Shelby GT500. It's based on the ninth-generation Mustang and is the most capable production version ever built.
Current Ford Shelby GT500
The new Ford Shelby GT500 debuted for the 2007 model year. Under its hood is a supercharged 5.4-liter, iron block, aluminum-head V8 that makes 500 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 480 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. A Tremec six-speed manual gearbox routes all that through a limited-slip solid rear axle. No automatic transmission is available. At the test track, we recorded a 4.6-second 0-60 run and a quarter-mile time of just 12.8 seconds.
If there's a downside to this drivetrain, it's poundage. The Ford Shelby GT500 weighs close to 2 tons, which is about 400 pounds more than a Mustang GT. Much of that bulk comes from the drivetrain. This also means the weight gain is largely on the front half of the car, suggesting front-end flabbiness compared to the base Mustang's nimble character. In testing, however, we've found that Ford's engineers have done a good job of keeping the car reasonably nimble. Changes to the GT500 include a stiffened suspension and chassis, as well as more powerful brakes.
There's one trim level only, but coupe and convertible bodies are offered. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels with Goodyear F1 tires, a domed hood with functional heat extractors, a front air splitter and a ducktail-style rear spoiler. Both the coupe and convertible have a "GT500" stripe on the lower part of each side just like the original Mustang GT, and coupes add two large stripes down the middle -- an option on early GTs.
Inside, standard equipment includes air-conditioning, leather-upholstered sport bucket seats with Cobra logos, six-way power adjustments for the driver, a 500-watt stereo with an in-dash CD changer, cruise control and full power accessories. A choice of all black or black and red interior is available.