A small bump in the road traversed at the slightest discernible angle on dry pavement at 50mph will send the Shelby GT500’s rear end sideways with enough violence to engage the traction control. If you don't care, God bless you. I fully understand and appreciate your perspective: muscle cars are about power, not finesse. Finesse is for people who aren’t willing to risk their childrens' future to experience a few moments of high horsepower hoonery. Fine. But include me out.
Don’t get me wrong: I love monstrous horsepower. Whether it’s the painful jolt of a Carrera GT or an Enzo stretching the time space continuum, I’m a fervent fan of fast. But I also like to write about it. That means I only deploy as much horsepower as the car can handle without hitting solid objects. First, that requires stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off braking power. Second, it requires a suspension that's several orders of magnitude better than the one fitted to a 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. While the GT500 has sufficient stoppers for a nose-heavy, morbidly obese, 500hp two-door– provided you don’t mind standing on the brake pedal– it serves-up less chassis control than a [very] Flexible Flyer.
Let’s think about this. There you are at a stoplight. It turns green. You give it some. With its live rear axle suspension, the GT500 judders like a giant's attacking the entire car with a humongous pneumatic drill. Switch off the traction control and you're treading asphalt in a cloud of tire smoke. If you accelerate hard over a crap road, the juddering morphs into full-on pavement surfing. And don’t get to thinking that the bone shaking is reserved for those times when your right foot ignores your left brain. If the GT500 cruises over a stretch of broken pavement, it's another surfin' safari.
I know: who cares? It’s a 500hp rear wheel-drive muscle car! That’s like saying it’s OK to shag Adriana Lima even if you know she’s got herpes. Maybe you’ll catch it, maybe you won’t. Why worry when it feels so gooood? ‘Cause it will right until the moment it doesn't. In fact, the only way avoid tree trouble with the ferociously fast GT500’s loosey-goosy handling is either A) drive it on Germany’s glassine roads or B)– nope, that’s it. The TV actor who took the GT500 to Chrysler’s homeland because he couldn’t “find a speed limit he liked” actually made the trip because he couldn’t find a road he could keep it on.
Oh, and the GT500 may be electronically limited to 155mph– enough to get you spanked on the autobahn by any number of lesser-horsed automobiles– but take it from someone who had to get to Beantown in a hurry, I would NOT want to be the one testing Nanny’s leash. I could have made more rapid progress in an Acura TL. Ah, but the TL is an anodyne automobile, a gussied-up Honda Accord with about as much soul as chicken pot pie. The Shelby GT500 is a fire-breathing Mustang hopped-up by the master, with more spice than the homemade hot sauce at Leonard’s Pit Barbecue, 5465 Fox Plaza, Memphis, Tennessee. While I prefer the Mustang GT’s shark-like snout to the GT500’s center-mounted bookshelf, I’ll grant you that the Shelby is one sexy looking beast– from the outside.
From the inside, it’s a rental car. Forty large (without the sucker’s premium) buys you precisely nothing in the interior style department. You’re still ensconced in a car (as Frank Williams puts it) lousy with cheap. The cabin is dour, suffused with nasty ass plastic and bereft of the slightest joyful attention to detail. For example, the vanity mirrors are sub-Barbie quality and the electric driver’s seat reclines manually.
Even the bits where Ford could have made a real statement– the stereo, steering wheel, seats and shift knob– are po’ faced and pathetic. How much would it have cost to make the GT500’s interior special? At such low volumes, why don’t Ford’s "designers" simply ship the uber-Stang off to some aftermarket company to fit top notch ICE, a racing wheel, Recaro seats and a Hurst-style shift knob? Maybe they could even do something about that rear axle…
Now I know many of you are itching to wail on me in the comments’ section with all sorts of blather about retro cool and manly men doing manly things in maximum Mustang muscle cars. Not to mention the economic arguments: bang- for-the-buck and halo car. Besides, if people want to buy them, why not sell them? Because retro is one thing, repeating the mistakes of the past is another. The GT500 may be a die-hard (one hopes) enthusiast's catnip, but it also reveals the ongoing supremacy of Ford's beancounters, and the company's continued inability to produce a fast, affordable rear wheel-drive car that handles as well as it goes.
Read Jonny Lieberman's original review here.
Listen to my debate with Jonny by pressing PLAY below.
(Click on "Play in Popup" and continue reading as you listen.)