Shelby GT500KR gives Mustang a bigger punch

June 09, 2007|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

Baby boomers with a penchant for performance and who get all misty-eyed for the good ol' days have Ford to thank for pandering to their nostalgic yearnings.

The company continues to create derivatives of its iconic Mustang with a nod to the past and enough raw power to broil the tires and confirm the neighbors' suspicions that you are indeed at the high point of a mid-life crisis.

The latest nostalgia-inducing Mustang offshoot is the Shelby GT500KR that's due to arrive in limited numbers in the spring of 2008.

If you weren't around more than 40 years ago, or you've never sat on Grandpa's lap for a muscle-car history lesson, here's the executive summary: Carroll Shelby, a successful race-car driver from the 1950s and early '60s, teamed up with Ford to build, among other vehicles, modified Mustangs designed to whip the competition at the racetrack and enhance the car's street credibility. Shelby became a folk hero of sorts, and the Mustang became one of the most successful automobiles ever made.


Since the current-generation Mustang was launched in 2005, Ford has introduced the Shelby GT-H, which pays tribute to a run of specially modified 1960s Mustangs built by Shelby for Hertz Rent-A-Car, and the GT500, another Shelby blast from the past with 500 horses under the hood.

The GT500KR (King of the Road) is a punched-up version of the GT500 with 540 horsepower that pays homage to a one-year-only model that came out in mid-1968. Back then, the KR produced 400 horsepower from its 428-cubic-inch V-8. This model quickly entered into Mustang lore, and collectors have kept the flame alive, paying ridiculous sums for the few remaining originals.

Today, Ford and Mr. Shelby, now in his mid-80s, have included a number of performance and visual upgrades to create the reconstituted King of the Road, which should be considered a direct assault on Chevrolet's 505-horsepower Corvette ZO6 model, at least until that model is updated and upgraded (yes, the horsepower war is alive and kicking).

In the case of the KR, extracting 540 horses from a small V-8 displacing just 5.4 liters (331 cubic inches) would be a tough chore, but there's help from a supercharger that forces in additional air and fuel to make the engine think it's actually much bigger than really is.

The result? As much as 510 lb.-ft. of torque (30 more than the GT500 serves up) is directed to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

The KR's extra thrust is primarily the result of revisions to the GT500's ignition and throttle calibration, a new cold-air intake system and a special performance axle ratio for quicker acceleration.

A new shift mechanism topped with a retro-styled "cue-ball" shortens the distance between gear changes by 25 percent.

Ford's Special Vehicle Team, in collaboration with Ford Racing and Shelby, upgraded the GT500's chassis and suspension to KR specs with unique springs, front and rear anti-sway bars and a stiffening brace inside the engine compartment between the shock towers.

The idea, according to Ford, is to skew the KR toward all-out driving performance whereas the GT500 is built more as a general-duty machine. The KR will be rougher and tougher, but pure enthusiasts will find more to love.

Racy dress-up items include 18-inch polished wheels (larger show-car wheels pictured), a leather interior with Shelby's signature embossed on the headrests and special "GT500KR" exterior identification. That's in addition to a special lightweight hood, unique ground effects and a tidy front air "splitter" located below the bumper.

If 540 horsepower isn't enough, Shelby's own company will transform your non-KR GT500 into a "Super Snake" in honor of a one-off car Shelby built for a Ford dealer in 1967. Buyers can choose a 600-horsepower version with a Ford warranty, or one with more than 725 horses on tap without a warranty.

In the meantime, Ford dealers will be happy to accept deposits on the 1,000 KRs scheduled to be built next year. If raw acceleration is your passion and spiking fuel costs of little consequence, the King of the Road promises to give you the royal treatment, Shelby style.

Copyright 2007 Wheelbase Communications

The Herald-Mail Articles