Ford Shelby GT500 Review

ford shelby gt500 review

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.

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  • Flaw3284 Flaw3284 on Apr 13, 2007

    yes sir just because it cant handle doesnt mean anyhting most american muscle cars can

  • MATTHEW MATTHEW on Nov 20, 2007

    My daily driver was a 69 Mach I when I was sixteen. I still get goose bumps when i see one.

    Do you know how bad me and thousands like me wanted one of the old shelbys. It was a dream that got further and further out of reach as the prices went up. Well Ford made that dream come true with this Shelby.

    Most of them were sold for 20k over sticker.

    I actually own an O8 Shelby and bought it after reading all the bull about the car not handling. Well the car handles fine. You have to know how to handle that type of car.

    What’s more everyone I meet is as excited about the car as I am. They love it at car shows.

    The car is in your f—–g face horespower. Its obnoxious. With a few small modifications it can turn 800hp.

    You may need all that talk about finese when you try to talk your wife in letting you buy a car, however when you get what you really want it will be the GT-500.

  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.