By on June 13, 2016

2016 Shelby GT-H

“Please hold,” the woman with the handheld Hertz computer said, as if she and I were on opposite sides of a WATS call instead of standing twenty-four inches apart, “for a manager.” I didn’t have to hold long. The manager was a short Hispanic man with an all-business disposition.

“You have fun?” he inquired, kneeling to pay close attention to one of the odd little carbon-fiber winglets between the rear wheelwell and the doors. His tone implied that I could be in trouble for having fun, but also, perhaps, that I would have been equally remiss in not having fun. After all, this was a rental car that cost a staggering $343 per diem. In a country where the SNAP program provides a struggling family just $14/day for meals, what kind of bloodless, Zuckerberg-esque Asperger’s alien from the posthuman investor class would spend that kind of money to not enjoy this sullen-faced snorting Mustang?

“I had … ” and here I did some rough privilege calculus of the sort familiar to all college-educated German-Americans in the year 2016, balancing my Chester Barrie sport coat and the dull glitter of my platinum AMEX against my coarse features, Allman Brothers haircut, and visibly crippled left leg, just trying to figure out what I was allowed to say without committing a microaggression.

“… a bit of fun, yeah. But really, I drove it to the hotel and back. Mostly.”

“Is that so,” he said, like a pint-sized Torquemada, and with a quick, knowledgeable motion he swiped his finger across the gap between two spokes of the left front wheel. “Is that so.”

2016 Shelby GT-H

It took Hertz 40 years to commission a second and third run of the fabled Shelby GT350-H, the race-car-for-rent that spawned innumerable tales of derring-do and surreptitiously installed rollcages, but just 10 years to take another shot at the idea.

As with the 2006 Shelby GT-H and 2007 Shelby GT-H convertible, this 2016 coupe is an “authentic” Shelby, eligible for entry in the various clubs and registries devoted to Ol’ Shel and his eponymous automobiles once it leaves Hertz ownership and finds its way to a private owner. It is not a variant of the superbly desirable and competent Shelby GT350. Rather, the GT-H is simply a fully loaded 2016 Mustang GT treated to a brief tour of the Shelby aftermarket catalog. With the exception of a cat-back exhaust, a Ford Racing suspension kit, and a staggered set of Michelin-Pilot-shod 19-inch wheels, all the changes are cosmetic.

2016 Shelby GT-H

This is not to say that they are not hugely effective. Few among us wished for any more power from the current Mustang 5.0 liter anyway. I guarantee my Millennial readers that your yet-to-be-born children will one day aggressively question you about why you did not own a Coyote-powered Mustang in $THE_CURRENT_YEAR, the same way my 10-year-old self couldn’t understand why my father bought a Camaro RS 307 in 1968 and not a COPO, Yenko, or slick-shod Z/28.

The 2016 Mustang truly is one of the all-time great American cars, and if anything it’s a bit understated-looking in factory trim. The multiple Shelby changes — starting with the outrageous fiberglass hood that continually wobbles when the vehicle is in operation and many badges, spoiler, splitters, and whatnot — communicate the essential nature of this overpowered pony car very effectively.

2016 Shelby GT-H

If the formula of FRPP suspension, exterior aero, and black paint with Hertz stripes sounds even more familiar than earlier Shelby Mustangs would suggest, that’s because Ford did a “Hertz Penske GT” a few years ago. I misused one by running it around MSR Houston and found it a supremely satisfying muscle car for the racetrack. I had similar plans for this Hertz GT-H, which I picked up from the San Jose airport last Friday. You see, Mrs. Baruth was attending a Skip Barber school at Laguna Seca, and I thought I might be able to cajole my way onto the track for a few hot laps.

2016 Shelby GT-H

The problems started when I picked up the car. It had just 37 miles on the odometer. The young lady at the exit gate told me that I was the first GT-H renter they’d ever had. This made me profoundly nervous about holding it at redline for half an hour immediately afterwards. Don’t get me wrong — I understand that modern engines come off the line ready for anything, and I have a low opinion of people who think you need to meticulously break-in a car. With that said, no factory is perfect and if this Shelby decided to put a window in its block from full-throttle usage I wanted that to happen on US-101, not the Rahal Straight.

Not that I got much of a chance to let the Mustang run free on 101. A series of accidents and general Cali-traffic drama made my 70-minute trip to Laguna Seca a three-hour ordeal. By the time I got into the paddock, the track was booked for the remaining three hours of the day. Plus I needed to take some photos of Danger Girl in the Corkscrew, which effectively postponed any potential hooliganism to the evening.

2016 Shelby GT-H

As soon as the class was complete and the diplomas were handed out, I set out to drive some of the coastal roads around Monterey — and the faster, the better. I’d have to say that I’m in favor of all the changes made by Shelby to the GT-H. The suspension goes a long way to cut the body float that comes as standard equipment in plain-Jane GTs. The exhaust sounds absolutely blood-curdling when the shifter is moved from “D” to “S”. Everywhere you go, people are going to be looking for you before they can look at you, because the GT-H can be as noisy as a Ferrari 488 when all the buttons and switches are deployed correctly ,and it will herald your impending presence like a 32-valve version of John the Baptist.

This is a very large, very rapid vehicle, and it has nontrivial inertia. In real-world terms, it’s on performance par with the 2007 Shelby GT500, not that far behind the current C7 Corvette, and of course it will absolutely eviscerate any original Shelby Mustang you come across — big block or small. I can see why Hertz is nervous about letting people rent them. It’s not the fastest car that you can get from them — I think the “Dream Cars” arm of the company will put you behind the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG C63 or a 911 Carrera — but it’s probably unequaled at its ability to get people in trouble.

2016 Shelby GT-H

I suspect that this review will have two sorts of serious readers. The first sort will be considering the rental of a GT-H. To them, I say: go for it. It’s not really faster than the regular 5.0 that you can also rent from Hertz, but it’s really cool, it sounds really frightening, and — when you sign that rental contract — you’ll have a neat story to tell your grandchildren.

The second sort of reader will find this on Google two or three years from now when they are considering the purchase of a GT-H either directly from Hertz or in the secondary market. For them, I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm a bit. The premium demanded for the Shelby stuff isn’t reflected in the car’s outright performance. Nor are the 2006 cars exactly setting the resale world on fire 10 years later. From what I can tell, a 2006 GT-H is worth five or ten grand more than a regular GT, max. Cars with high mileage don’t even hold that much premium. The same is true, incidentally, of the “Shelby GT” that followed the GT-H at dealerships. When it comes to recent-production Mustangs, the Shelby name doesn’t carry a lot of weight. Aluminum-block GT500s are worth real money, but so are ’04 Terminator SVTs, and for the same reason: they’re intercontinental ballistic missiles without much of a guidance system.

2016 Shelby GT-H

We could close here, but there’s something that bothers me about the GT-H and I want to get it off my chest. I think it’s highly disingenuous of Hertz to simultaneously cash in on the legend of the original rent-a-racer and take significant steps to ensure that nobody does the same thing with the new car. The GT-H shouldn’t be an automatic-transmission car. It shouldn’t be white-gloved before and after each rental. It shouldn’t have extra language in the contract (or maybe that language is always there, and I just don’t notice it) warning of dire penalties for abuse. This should be a gift to the racers of the world, not an appearance package wrapped in a healthy dose of institutional paranoia.

Too much of that kind of world is with us, late and soon. Formula One doesn’t let its drivers wear watches, so Lewis Hamilton has a picture of a watch on his glove. We are constantly bombarded with marketing featuring the daring, the uncaring, the bold, and the beautiful — but if you decide to lift the wheel of your ZX-10R down a Florida freeway you’ll be slapped with a felony charge. We purchase products that are lovingly veneered with the promise of adventure and sex and gorgeous women — but if you have a threesome in your hotel room and sneak into the closed hotel pool after one in the morning so you can all jump in together then Toyota will never invite you to another press event as long as you live. That’s just a random example I made up.

Ninety-five percent of modern life is spent trying to make the purchase of a product stand in for an actual experience. Everything we do has to be curated, curtailed, measured, reduced in fat, gluten-free. Therefore, the more I think about it … the hell with the Shelby GT-H. It’s fake. It has the name of a dead man who was last relevant to the racing world 40 years ago plastered all over it like a discount-store talisman. It’s a meaningless recapitulation of a long-gone era. I recommend that instead of renting the GT-H, you rent a regular Mustang GT. Then track the shit out of it. Roll-race it after midnight. Enter it in a local autocross and mow down a line of cones with its precious fascia. Go have a story of your own, instead of paying three hundred-plus bucks to tamely re-enact something that happened before you were born.

So there were really only two important moments in my rental of the GT-H. The first one happened when Danger Girl and I sat in it on Scenic Drive in Carmel. I told her how proud I was of her for her pace in the Skippy open-wheeler. She told me how close it felt to flying a plane. We rolled down the windows, let the Mustang mumble beneath us, and watched the sun set.

The second moment was when that Hertz manager wiped his finger across the wheel and it came up clean. No brake dust. Was that because I’d taken perfect care of the car, or was it because I’d borrowed Skip Barber’s wheel cleaner after 10 laps of Laguna Seca before carefully driving the GT-H in clockwise and counter-clockwise circles to scrub the blue tread off the tires?

All I can say is this: that’s my story, and it’s not for Hertz to rent, lease, or sell.

2016 Shelby GT-H

[Images: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars]

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57 Comments on “2016 Shelby Mustang GT-H Review – What Were Once Vices Have Become Brand Virtues...”

  • avatar

    Great story as usual Jack.

    The Hertz Shelby is the natural evolutionary conclusion of the Barret-Jackson effect wrung large. All very careful brand management to cash in on a name and a story, hyped and laser-targeted at consumers who are predisposed to believe it.

    Its the dream car of the guy who has some awful special-edition Fox-body stashed in the garage, slowly accumulating layers of Armor-all, with the fantasy that some day it will be worth ‘something.’

    • 0 avatar
      Hogie roll

      Some day it will be worth a not insignicant amount of something.

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed the only foxbody worth something really is the early SVT Cobra low mileage examples command 20 or more thousand. Not bad for a car that can be bought for less than the same price as a well used Civic of the same vintage. Although to be fair evenough a low mileage well kept fox can still command a decent price.

        I think what people forget about the fox Mustang is that it is the go to Muscle car for the Gen-X crowd along with the 4th Gen Camaro/Firebird.

        As these guys get more disposable income the latest 80’s and early 90’s muscle will go up in value.

    • 0 avatar

      I rented an ’06 back in 2007 in Vegas. Glad I did but was it worth the money? Meh. I also saved the car’s number for you know what’s and grins and saw it on eBay last year with a BIN in the upper 30s. Pretty sure he’s still sitting on it. Can’t help but wonder what Hertz charged him for the privilege of owning a lightly modded automatic 4.6 liter GT.

      This is a cash cow for Hertz. They can gouge customers at the rental counter and again at auction. Don’t know if anyone’s really falling for it on the secondary market though.

  • avatar

    As a Mustang Monthly subscriber I’m already dreading the articles (30 years from now) hyperventilating about who has THEE most pristine, lowest miles, closest to factory 2016 GT-H. GOD I HATE THOSE GUYS. Cars were meant to be driven.

    Fortunately those articles are getting fewer and fewer in favor of Fuel Injecting a Gen 1/2 car or swapping disk brakes or installing an interior that might actually be comfortable for more than 15 min.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’68 fastback had three possible engine choices to replace the tired 302:

      1.) A built big block. Nothing screams “muscle” like a pounding FE.
      2.) A single-turbo Cleveland. Parts are plentiful and there’s power to be made. Or,
      3.) A 5.0L Coyote from a late Mustang or F150, running on a Ford Performance stand-alone.

      Guess what I chose.

      • 0 avatar

        Any of them would be a beautiful thing. I’d be happy with a four barrel intake swap and Atomic EFI to go with the MSD ignition on my 67 289. I don’t desire insane power just great drivability.

        • 0 avatar

          “I don’t desire insane power just great drivability.”

          Me too – hence, I have a Coyote from an F150 waiting to feather her nest.

          • 0 avatar

            can you even fit a Coyote between the shock towers? the 351C in my dad’s ’73 Cougar was a tight fit.

          • 0 avatar

            Jim, yes, with a different subframe. Some units get by with keeping the top part of the shock towers intact, others do away with them completely a la the Mustang II suspension. I haven’t yet chosen a route.

      • 0 avatar

        My FE-powered 67 GT fastback, while plenty fast, was an evil-handling pig. Brakes, even with the upgraded discs, were way less than adequate. I honestly don’t have much nostalgia for the oldies given how much better and safer the new cars are.

        • 0 avatar

          When you get down into the guts of it, the first gen Mustangs were Falcon/Fairlane. The Falcon chassis/suspension was designed to be: Cheap to manufacture. Fairly reliable. Cheap to repair. Cheap to manufacture. Live rear axle, elliptical leaf strings in back. Coil-over A-arm in font. Very flimsy unibody. The things just flexed and wobbled too much to be made into a real sports car. The very early (light) Falcon based Mustangs, equipped with a small-block and the Shelby suspension mods, handled OK, nothing more. Like you’ve already said, the big-blocks were just evil handling….so evil that real world race car driver, Steve McQueen, needed a top stunt driver to fling that green fastback around the streets of San Francisco without causing too much carnage. The 1st gen Mustangs were beautiful cars. They could be made to go real fast in a straight line. They were not sports cars.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s why I generally prefer small bock V8 pony cars. They are easier to live with day to day and better all around cars.

          • 0 avatar

            According to the director, Steve did all his own driving except for the very last scene of the big chase. A stunt driver performed the final wipe-out, landing just a few feet from the camera.

  • avatar

    We have to face something guys.

    Companies don’t make enthusiast cars for us, the Tribe of Car Fans.

    They make them as cash cows and revenue streams.An actual enthusiast car with big power,little computer intervention and a lightweight chassis is illegal for mass market sale. We won’t see real,raw performance cars again for a quite some time.

    The Shelby GT-H isn’t the only fake. The Mustang GT is too. So’s the Camaro ,and most definitely the Challenger. BMW hasn’t made a true performance car in years. Yes-they have power. They need every bit of it to move their 4000lb bodies, overburdened with touchscreen computers and more airbags ,sensors,telemetry monitors and software then the NASA Space Shuttle.

    Because we are not a pioneer society anymore. We are a society of caretakers, to borrow a line from Chris Nolan’s Interstellar. Caretakers aren’t about charting new courses. Caretakers are about preserving and enshrining the past, within socially responsible limits.

    As such ,most consumer class modern “high performance” cars are rolling monuments to more adventurous days gone by.

    • 0 avatar

      Mustang GT and Camaro SS are fake? Lol.

      I get that it’s cool to romanticize a past we never lived, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The original Mustang was a secretary’s car, as I believe was the Camaro… and let’s just face facts; they sucked. All the ///M cars of the aughts, when BMW hit its peak, had the same stability controls and the like. Motorcycle deaths are up, not down. And all of these cars have defeatable stability control, the disabling of which has prompted memes of Mustangs and Corvettes crashing for no reason.

      Plus back in the “good old days” cars were slow, unreliable and way more likely to kill you. Some things have been lost but overall I’d say the Mustang is the best it’s ever been, by a very wide margin.

    • 0 avatar

      Most buyers don’t track their cars, and don’t even spend most of their time on curvy mountain roads. If you are sitting in traffic for your morning commute, a nice stereo is more valuable than a faster 0-60 time.

    • 0 avatar

      For the discerning “pioneer”:

    • 0 avatar

      What are you talking about?

      Never in history has this kind of performance been so accessible. Someone making an average salary can afford to buy a brand new car that’ll pull 0-60 in the 4s, corner at nearly 1g, and do it all reliably for 100k miles while handling predictably (usually with adjustable stability control settings) and cossetting its occupants in a pillow factory’s worth of airbags if things go awry. The Mustang has a freaking burnout setting!

      The biggest problem I see is that human ability and roadways/traffic aren’t up to exploiting the potential that these things have. Today’s performance cars aren’t as engaging anymore because they’re not at the edge of their performance envelope at 80 MPH like the cars of yesteryear were.

    • 0 avatar

      For every one 4-speed 1969 Boss 302, Boss 429, or Mach 1 428 CJ, there were about 500 standard or Grande Mustangs with a 250 or 302 2- bbl and a slushbox. The masses are always going to buy boring non performance cars. They always have and they always will. Performance cars will always be a small niche market.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with everything you said except the middle paragraph about actual cars. Have you *driven* a Coyote-engined Mustang? It’s genuinely fast, cheap, and fun. It doesn’t obliterate its tires the same way an ’69-71 Boss 302 will, but it will still overwhelm the rears pretty easily.

      Nothing fake about that.

      • 0 avatar

        The only reason it wouldn’t obliterate the tires like a Boss 302 would be because the GT’s tires have far, far more grip. The newer car straight stomps the Boss by well over 2 seconds from 0-60. At the end of the quarter mile it’s still ahead by over a second and about 15 MPH. Top speed? I could only find the Boss 429’s figure, and it’s nearly 40 MPH slower than what the new car is electronically limited to.

        And here we’re comparing a very limited production 60s car, of which less than 2,000 were produced, to one that can be readily found in every Ford dealership in North America.

        I’m going to once again bring out my favourite modern-day performance benchmark: the lowly 2016 Miata with its 155hp (rated) engine.

        Miata 0-60: 5.9s
        Boss 0-60: 6.9s

        Miata 1/4 mile: 14.6 @ 95 MPH
        Boss 1/4 mile: 14.6 @ 98 MPH

        Or you can compare the Boss to today’s base-model, secretary-special Mustang, which is quicker than the hairdresser car. Either way, today’s “fake” performance cars are looking pretty good, and we haven’t even talked gas mileage, crash safety, roadholding, braking, reliability or durability yet.

        • 0 avatar

          Legend definitely trumps reality with 60s muscle. A new Accord Sport with a 4 banger beats a ’70 Boss 302 in acceleration for sure, and probably in braking and handling too.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    So who was the other guy in the threesome?

  • avatar

    $343 per day should also include some random sexual act. That’s robbery!

  • avatar

    I’m so sick of Shelby Mustang bull$hit that’s been huped & romanticized to death, and this is the penultimate example of the whys that will finally change my normally shy, reserved and non-opinionated disposition and prompt me to let unleash my inner Sam Kinison:

    [In Sam Kinison voice/audible levels]

    If this is worth $343 or whatever per day to rent than f*ck Hertz, f*ck common sense, & f*ck Canada, because it’s a dime-a’dozen GT with special paint, a louder “performance” exhaust system, some tighter suspension parts, and bigger brake pads, MINUS THE ALL IMPORTANT MANUAL GEARBOX, which defeats EVEN THE POINT OF DRIVING A DIME-A-DOZEN MUSTANG GT!

  • avatar

    Talent does what it can, genius does what it must. Everyone else buys some form of substitute.

  • avatar

    Nice article Jack. You managed to make me homesick, I spent nearly ten years in the Monterey Bay area (Salinas, to be exact), and moved to Salt Lake City last summer. I regrettably, have not found any roads that are like the ones back there. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough>

    Anyway,I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but Laurales Grade Road is one of my favorite roads. It connects Highway 68 with the Carmel Valley, and it’s easy to find: if you’re coming from Salinas on 68, take a left at the stoplight before Laguna Seca, if you’re coming from the Peninsula on 68, take a right at the stoplight AFTER Laguna Seca, obviously. Lots of turns and curves. When you come off it, you’ll be on Carmel Valley Road, which if you head east on it, becomes just as fun and will dump you out on Highway 101; but if you’re a tourist, head east towards Carmel-By-The-Sea and Big Sur.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m still in that neck of the woods.

      Another delightful drive “sort of” in the area is Highway 25 south of Hollister, and follow it until it ends at 198 south of King City.

      152 over Hecker Pass and 129 are now constricted by some really heavy construction. In normal times, both are great roads..if you can have them to yourself.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    Hey Jack. Good read as always, but I wanted to take the chance to thank you for turning me on to Club Eaglerider.

    I would never have trusted the pitch if it had come from any personality less august than yours. But now that I’ve had my first rental I’m a convert. It’s the polar opposite of that mustang. For about $80 with the zero-deductible insurance, road side assistance, and every other thing, they sold me not the asterisk-laden stand-in, but the whole goddamn experience and then some.

    I took the MSF course three years ago. That was the only time in my life I had operated a motorcycle before. I’ve wanted to, but I don’t need another money-pit hobby. They threw me the keys to a Bonneville, said “have fun,” and I put 565 miles on it in 24 hours. Riding it home was insane. I felt like an autistic kid at an orgy – too much sensory input, I can’t keep track of what my limbs are supposed to be doing, everyone is judging me, but it’s beautiful and wonderful and never needs to end.

    I’ll try the Chieftain next.

  • avatar

    $343 per day and you only get 2 pedals !!!!

    Poser jewelry.

  • avatar

    I like old Shelbys as much as the next guy (there was a 1967 GT 500 in my home town that I lusted after in high school) but a lot of the Shelby myth is just that — a myth. The man seriously cashed in on the early cars with real racing success by selling tons of cars later that weren’t really deserving of the name. By 1968 “Shelbys” were no longer being modded by his company but by a third party hired by Ford, and actual racing was pretty much out of the picture.

    The Shelby company is again building some interesting cars, but this rental lot appearance package special isn’t one of them.

  • avatar

    Jack Baruth: The Hank Moody of auto writing.

  • avatar

    So did everyone else miss the reference to Mrs. Baruth or did I miss it in a previous article/post? In any event congrats to JB.

  • avatar

    “Ninety-five percent of modern life is spent trying to make the purchase of a product stand in for an actual experience. Everything we do has to be curated, curtailed, measured, reduced in fat, gluten-free. …”
    It’s a great thing when you can get worthwhile insights about life in a car review.
    Excellent work, Jack.

  • avatar

    Just hypothetically, if someone took one around Laguna, what kind of time do you think it would be capable of in the hands of a track instructor?

  • avatar

    Still the best writing on the blogosphere.

  • avatar

    It’s nice and all but did it have satellite radio?

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