Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H Racer Review

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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  • 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...

  • DenverMike Pininfarina I know it's not related to this, I just like saying it.
  • Matt Posky I don't understand the appeal of fake meat and this seems to operate under a similar premise: You don't want the V8 because someone says it's bad for you. But you can have something designed to mimic the experience because that's what your body actually wants. The styling is cool I guess. But I don't understand why EVs don't just lean into what they are. Companies can make them produce any wooshing or humming noises they want. Buiding an entire system to help you pretend it still has a combustion engine seems a little lame.
  • DenverMike I'm sure it would have a volume control. It's nice to sneak into my neighborhood at 2am quietly. Or creep out, 4am. I don't get much sleep OK, but I always keep my V8 exhaust stock, as much as I love the sound of others loud. My stereo would make it pointless anyway.
  • FreedMike I’d love to see more tracks, or off-road parks if that’s your jam. But for those of us who’d love to take part in this kind of thing, practicality is the limiting factor. Racing has always been expensive, and most people don’t want to do it with their daily drivers - I’d love to see what my GLI would do on a track, but not at the cost of voiding my warranty, or potentially wrapping up the car (which I’m pretty sure would put me on State Farm’s Keith Moon-trashing-the-Holiday Inn list). As a practical matter, you have to have a vehicle that is intended to be used for racing, and the ability to fix it; most folks don’t have that kind of money or skill set.
  • Dukeisduke Oh, so it *is* a hatchback. Last night, I watched the replay of the reveal with Tim Kuniskis presenting the car, on Instagram. A "fly-through" of the car on the pre-rollout video made it look like they were going through an open hatch, so it had me wondering. The car attracted a lot of negative comments on IG, on feeds of guys who were there live.This is probably the least "electric car" electric car.