Review: 2007 Ford Shelby GT500
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Just don't call the long-awaited Ford Shelby GT500 a Mustang.
The Shelby GT500 is based on the Ford Mustang—as were the classic Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s. But the GT500 has such things as its own supercharged 500-horsepower V8, with components shared with Ford's $150,000-plus GT sports car.
The GT500 also has its own heavy-duty 6-speed manual gearbox, with no automatic transmission offered. While it shares the same basic suspension of the 300-horsepower Ford GT, the Shelby has retuned and upgraded key chassis components, powerful Brembo brakes and unique styling.
The GT500 comes as a $40,930 coupe and as a $45,755 convertible. The top Mustang GT coupe lists at $26,455 and the top GT convertible is $31,280.
The GT500 was developed by legendary racer/hot car builder Carroll Shelby and Ford's Special Vehicle Team. They joined forces to build a modern successor to Shelby's classic Shelby GT500 of the late 1960s.
Then there's the magic of Shelby's name. A top sports car racer in the 1950s, Shelby was forced to retire because of a bad heart condition around 1960. (He eventually got a heart transplant.) He then developed the famous Ford-powered Cobra sports cars, which beat Ferrari for a world championship in the mid-1960s.
The 1965-66 Shelby-modified GT350 Mustangs outran Chevrolet Corvettes on tracks. They then became more refined and comfortable because Ford wanted higher Shelby Mustang sales.
Magical Shelby Name
Shelby has told this writer that he's amazed at such high prices "for old high-performance cars that were driven to death long ago." But then, lesser high-horsepower muscle cars from the 1960s are selling for high prices.
Horsepower is emphasized here because the GT500 is a modern muscle car and high horsepower was the main attraction of 1960s muscle cars. They were the most colorful mass-produced American cars of that decade. But most were one-trick ponies, in that they were just fast in a straight line. Steering, handling and braking were marginal because suspension and tire technology weren't up to coping with all their power.
In contrast, the hottest conventional Mustang is the 300-horsepower GT, which has a 4.6-liter pushrod V8.
Fuel economy is an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 21 on highways, with premium gasoline required.
The V8 works with a 6-speed Tremec manual transmisson, It has a rather firm shifter and works with a long-throw clutch, although clutch action is on the light side.
Sixth gear is for relaxed cruising. Third or fourth gears are best for fast passing on highways, although I got decent passing times in my test GT500 even in fifth gear.
While the GT500 lacks the crispness of a good sports coupe, it steers, handles and brakes quite well, with firm-but-good pedal feel. The ride is firm, but supple, with the convertible having a slightly softer suspension.
Lots of Weight
However, a nose-heavy car generally is better suited for street driving and open-road cruising than a tail-heavy car because it tends to be more stable.
Many Standard Features
A cobra snake emblem was one of the signatures of Shelby's 1960s Mustangs and Cobra sports/racing cars, as were "Le Mans" racing stripes, named after the famous sports car endurance race in Le Mans, France. The new GT500 thus has snake emblems, SVT logos, GT500 badges, Shelby escutcheons all over the inside and outside of the car, along with several discreet Ford ovals.
An interesting cosmetic touch is a prominent fake, race-car-style gas cap with the Shelby cobra emblem and "Ford" script on the trunk lid.
Both coupe and convertible also have "GT500" script rocker panel stripes, which also can be deleted.
There's also a unique rear fascia with lower strakes inspired by the Ford GT's integrated rear airflow diffuser. The prominent rear spoiler adds to the car's racy look, but some drivers may dislike constantly seeing it when they glance in the rearview mirror.
Front seats offer decent lateral support, but a car such as the GT500 should have better ones. I found the analog gauges to be very difficult to read in bright sunlight. Most controls are decently sized and easily reached. The "Shelby GT500" script and Cobra image are on the steering wheel hub to remind a driver that he is at the wheel of something special.
No Spare Tire
A prop rod is needed to hold open the heavy hood. But the engine compartment will be especially appreciated by car buffs because no large plastic cover hides the V8, as is often the case with most cars these days; one can see the attractive finned aluminum cylinder head covers that read "Powered by SVT" and the supercharger. A "Monte Carlo" brace across the engine compartment helps stiffen the car's structure, as it did on 1960s Shelby Mustangs.
In all, the Shelby GT500 is a worthy successor to the Shelby GT500 of the late 1960s. It should be as impressive as most expected it to be.