Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H Racer Review

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman
ford mustang shelby gt h racer review

The new Shelby GT-H is not only one of the world’s most desirable cars, it’s also one of the rarest. Not rare in the Pagani Zonda F sense of the word (i.e. only the five wealthiest Kings of Europe can afford one). Rare because Ford’s limited total production to six hundred units, Hertz gets all of them, and at LAX at least, the GT-H is booked through October. Thanks to a manufacturer-sponsored press event (disclaimer done) your intrepid TTAC reviewer managed to get his mitts on the “Hertz rent-a-racer.” I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that pistonheads’ wives can consider their husbands’ birthday present sorted.

To create the GT-H, Ford once again asked legendary Texas tuner Carroll Shelby to raid the company’s "Go-Fast" parts bin. Yes, for the second time in forty-odd years, FoMoCo, Shelby and Hertz have cornered the weekend warrior rental car market. Predictably enough, Shelby Automobiles’ president Amy Boylan claims the GT-H “looks, accelerates, handles and sounds the way a high-performance Shelby-ized Ford Mustang should.” For once the hype doesn’t go far enough; this is the Mustang GT Ford should have built.

The GT-H is, as the Brits say, the dog’s bollocks. By lowering the car an inch and a half, the base Mustang’s good points– the long hood, the aggressive stance– are brought into sharp focus. Unlike Shelby’s famous white-with-blue-stripes combo, the GT-H’s deep-black with gleaming gold Le Mans stripes looks distinctly menacing. Even non-believers will be wooed by the nipple rings holding the hood down, the shiny aluminum grill with its off-center running horse, trick side scoops and big chrome Hertz badges. The view over the hood is sweeter than syrup; the GT-H’s power dome looks the business. Pull the sparkling pins, pop the hood and the dolled-up engine shows its pride with a bevy of Ford Racing stickers and some seriously sparkling plumbing.

Inside, the badge party continues with a big “Hertz Shelby GT-H” plate mounted on the sill. There’s even a numbered plaque between the air vents with Carroll’s signature– should you forget that you didn’t rent the painfully slow V6 model. The rest of the interior is sadly identical to the regular GT, though there is a big, ugly Sirius control unit glued behind the gear selector. The good news is that the “pick a color, any color” mood lighting is still available for when the sun goes down.

Never mind the interior; check out that burble. Thanks to Ford Racing parts– a muffler pack, an X-pipe like the one used on the even more powerful GT500 and a cat-back exhaust– the GT-H’s soundtrack at idle is a trip back to the days when dinosaurs gargled gas with glorious abandon. Crack the go-pedal and the GT-H’s roar is Slayer to the stock GT’s Dishwala. Take it to redline and you get the feeling you’re sitting inside an explosion. Ford GT Marketing Manager John Alguire told the junketed throngs that FoMoCo’s engineers spent plenty of time and money tuning the Hertz model’s exhaust-note. Good work boys, now go play with all the other models.

Not for nothing is all that noise. A new cold-air intake and some ECU chipping combine with the breathing bits to bang out 325 hp and 330 foot pounds of twist. That’s up 25 and 10 over the standard GT mill, respectively. It’s not a mammoth increase in oomph, but it’s enough to overcome the “yeah, but…” feeling GT drivers experience during full-on stoplight sprints. While you can only rent the GT-H with a 5-speed slushbox, it has most of the grunt most of the people need most of the time. Otherwise, aside from the holdover not ready for primetime brakes from the regular GT, you can’t switch off the traction control. It’s a real tease, too; the button’s there, but you can’t push it. Only weekend track day warriors determined not to win would rent the Hertz Racer.

Which is a shame. The GT-H handles much, much better than all the other Mustangs, including Shelby’s own GT500. Lowered springs, tuned-dampers, fatter sway bars and the prettiest strut tower brace ever installed on a production vehicle nimble-up a chassis that is usually hoggish. Even with the babysitter forever on, there’s enough grunt and oversteer to initiate tremendously satisfying, deductible-threatening power slides. At low speeds, too. The steering feels much faster, firmer and accurate and the ride is pleasantly, sportingly harsh. Hey, you’re only going to have the car a few days, right?

I also drove the pre-production Shelby GT, which is essentially the GT-H but with silver stripes, a five-speed Hurst shifter and bigger 18" wheels. Will this harder-core sister model decrease the GT-H's desirability or rareness? Not one iota. No matter who you are, you can't buy the rental model. Sometimes the truth Hertz.

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2 of 28 comments
  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Sep 27, 2006

    5 speed slushbox ? only 25 extra hp from all those modifications? meh, beats renting a Cobalt.

  • Xder345 Xder345 on Sep 27, 2006

    I just had a GT-H pass me yesterday on I-40 in Durham, NC. I almost got into a wreck because of it. I'm just cruising along in the Freestyle (GREAT vehicle by the way) on my way home from work...I notice some gold stripes in the rearview, then the hood pins register in the brain...and before you know it, it's flown by me must of been at 95 or so (I was running 80). I almost crapped myself. One because I am currently building a scale model of the original GT-H, and two, because I was paying too much attention watching it weave in and out of traffic and started wandering lanes... It really does look quite aggressive. The body mods have done something great to the car (the regular GT just looks so plain now) and the grill is fabulous...

  • Bader Hi I want the driver side lights including the bazl and signal
  • Theflyersfan One positive: doesn't appear to have a sunroof. So you won't need to keep paper towels in the car.But there's a serious question to ask this seller - he has less than 40,000 miles on some major engine work, and the transmission and clutch work and mods are less than 2 months old...why are you selling? That's some serious money in upgrades and repairs, knowing that the odds of getting it back at the time of sale is going to be close to nil. This applies to most cars and it needs to be broadcasted - these kinds of upgrades and mods are really just for the current owner. At the time of sale, a lot of buyers will hit pause or just won't pay for the work you've done. Something just doesn't sit well with me and this car. It could be a snowbelt beast and help save the manuals and all that, but a six year old VW with over 100,000 miles normally equals gremlins and electrical issues too numerous to list. Plus rust in New England. I like it, but I'd have to look for a crack pipe somewhere if the seller thinks he's selling at that price.
  • 2ACL I can't help feeling that baby is a gross misnomer for a vehicle which the owner's use necessitated a (manual!) transmission rebuild at 80,000 miles. An expensive lesson in diminishing returns I wouldn't recommend to anyone I know.
  • El scotto Rumbling through my pantry and looking for the box of sheets of aluminum foil. More alt right comments than actual comments on international trade policy. Also a great deal of ignorance about the global oil industry. I'm a geophysicist and I pay attention such things. Best of all we got to watch Tassos go FULL BOT on us.
  • El scotto No one and I mean no one on here is a UAW member or a salaried employee of the Big 3. Then again if someone identified themselves on here they would pilloried every time they posted.The comments on here are like listening to the overgrown children who call into sports radio shows.