You know that bumper sticker “He who dies with the most toys wins?” While it might be perfectly at home affixed to the bumper of a BMW M6 or a Lamborghini Gallardo, such a wholesome piece of braggadocio would be hopelessly out of place stuck to the bumper of the thuggish Shelby GT500. A more appropriate piece of signage might be, “My muscle car can beat up your supercar.” If we are being honest, the sticker would read “I did your Mamma and she liked it.”
From certain angles, a lay person would have no idea that the Shelby GT500 is the most powerful and expensive Mustang ever to scream out of Flat Rock. The obvious tell is the gaped-maw with its deep, parking-block hostile air dam, and the pec implant known as the power dome hood. But the snakes on a ‘Stang are the best giveaway. The Shelby’s sheetmetal is festooned with no less than four cobras. Keen eyes will also clock the goofy-wide 285 tires nestled snugly in front of the rear-diffuser. The ten-spoke 18” wheels are sharply dressed and the blue skunk-stripes sufficiently gauche. The whole package adds up to a life-size Hot Wheel.
Once inside, Mustang aficionados will feel right at home, with a few noteworthy exceptions. A giant Cobra hisses humorously from the center of the steering wheel, adding animal animus to the two angry serpents stitched into the hard leather seats. If you have any doubts about the GT500’s patriotic fervor (and why would you?), just set the adjustable gauge colors to red, white and blue. The SVT badge in the center of the tach (switched from left to right for visibility) is the interior’s coolest feature. When you reach your (selectable) shift-point, it glows a fiery orange. Might I suggest 4,300rpm?
So how does a vehicle that lays down 89.999% of its righteous 500 horsepower sound? Like the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in an echo chamber. How does it feel? Like a head butt. Release the clutch and there is a moment of hesitation, almost as if the rear tires are asking, “You’re not serious?” And then BAM, you’re going 60, then 80, then much faster– until finally you are standing on the perfectly chosen 14” Brembos praying that nothing crosses your path before the speedo is once again displaying double-digits. The insane shrieking from the supercharger and the feeling of certain death from the abysmal suspension setup only makes you pray harder.
FoMoCo alleges that the Shelby hits 60mph in 4.5 seconds. I wager that you actually hit 60mph in 3.5 seconds. Again, the GT500 seems to muck about for a full second before it decides to go anywhere. Some blame is due to the ridiculously antiquated live rear-axle. Over certain pieces of pavement you are left wondering what happened to the ox. Fault also lies in the fact that 58% of the lardy 3920lbs. ride up front. Unlike the equally unbalanced RS4, there is no German precision engineering holding down the fort. What happens is entirely between you and your right foot.
It’s true: the GT500 isn’t clever, engineered, refined or dignified. It’s just plain old mean. If you were to autopomorphize Jack Lambert, you’d wind up with a GT500, missing teeth and all. I have never ridden in a cruder modern vehicle. It bangs and lurches and drunkenly slurs all over the road, especially when you are pointed straight ahead. Case in point; the headrests feature more squish than the rest of the seat.
Luckily, Ford’s go-faster crew have replaced the Mustang’s floppy, last-century five-speed with a short-throw six-speed Tremec device. While it’s a highly effective cog swapper, the gearbox feels as if it were crafted from bone and piano wire. Do I care? Hell no. The GT500 is more exciting to drive than any vehicle in memory. You like cars that wag their tails? Brother, have I got a dog for you! With the traction control (stupidly) switched off and a few degrees dialed into the tiller, you will swear on your mother’s eyes that a ski is mounted east/west where the rear wheels should be. Donuts? I was doing éclairs. They were delicious.
At heart Shelby’s GT500 is the modern muscle car that pistonheads have been clamoring for since Buick put the GNX out to pasture. Mindless, irresponsible power coupled with antisocial handling equals a big, dumb grin. At just a hair over $40,000 (not counting the well earned, $1300 gas-guzzler fine), the price is right. For what you ask? A two-plus-two that doesn't quite equal four, that can't take down corners with half the grace of cars with half the horsepower, whose engine note signals to anyone within earshot that the GT500's driver is a politically incorrect speed freak whose heart pumps premium unleaded? Yup.