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Mustang GT500 roars with 500 horses

July 28, 2006|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

Five-hundred horses seems like more than enough firepower for your next daily driver. But that's exactly what you'll find under your right foot when piloting the Ford Shelby GT500, a very special Mustang that has been fortified with an abundance of sizzle and style.

The GT500, available in coupe and convertible body styles, is the latest product of Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT), a kind of back-lot skunk works staffed by serious performance enthusiasts and all-out gearheads. Under their guidance, a host of everyday cars and trucks has been turned into pulse-quickening road sizzlers that also manage to look pretty darned good.

For the GT500 project, SVT called on Carroll Shelby for inspiration as well as his expertise. As you might recall, Shelby stuffed a Ford V-8 under the hood of a British sports car in 1962 to create the Cobra roadster. He then went on to modify Mustangs with his own particular brand of snake venom.

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Paying homage to that era is the GT500, a car named for the 1967-'68-vintage Shelby Mustang that was considered a very quick ride in its day. Back then, it took a seven-liter V-8 to make this pony gallop across the pasture.

For the newest version, SVT used its experience with other projects, including the mid-engine, megabuck Ford GT supercar. In fact, both the GT and the Mustang GT500 use the same 5.4-liter supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8 combined with a six-speed manual transmission. Although producing 50 fewer horses than the formidable GT, you can expect thrilling acceleration with that kind of power housed in a 3,900-pound rocket ship.

Keeping all those unbridled horses under relative control is a set of four-piston Brembo-brand disc brakes with 14-inch rotors in front and 11.8-inchers in the rear. You also get a computer-modulated traction control system that can be turned off whenever you wish to hit the race track or delight onlookers with some smoky burnouts.

The GT500's prodigious output is matched by its unique bodywork and trim. In front, a wide-mouthed grille that maximizes airflow sets the car apart from regular-strength Mustangs, while a bulging aluminum hood covers the supercharged motor. This unique piece also features a pair of heat extractors that serve to draw out the power-robbing hot air from the engine compartment.

In back, a Ford GT-inspired airflow diffuser has been fitted below the bumper, and a spoiler inspired by the original GT500's shape is attached to the rear deck lid.

The interior also receives special treatment, including more heavily bolstered front seats plus a unique steering wheel and a new gauge package that flips the speedometer and tachometer position so that the shift points can be more easily read. The leather-covered seats also include Shelby's cobra snake logo embossed into the material.

The GT500 is finished off with a hot-looking set of SVT 18-inch alloy wheels (which closely resemble those of the two-seat GT) and a pair of wide racing stripes for the coupe that extend the length of the vehicle. On the convertible version, the top side remains racing-stripe free (both models include side stripes, however), which was the case on the first GT500 soft-top of 40 years ago.

Upgrading your base Mustang purchase to full-on GT500 status will get you just about every available option. However, you can upgrade to a premium 1,000-watt 10-speaker audio system as well as fancier interior trim.

And for anyone who feels that stripes should only be seen on military fatigues or fancy suits, Ford will obligingly delete them in favor of a solid-color paint scheme.

At close to $42,000, around $16,000 more than a Mustang GT, the Shelby GT500 sits perched on a lofty price pedestal. But if a 500-horsepower stallion with accommodations for four passengers and their luggage is on your must-drive list, then this late-summer-arriving thrill ride awaits your down payment.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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