If you're a driving enthusiast, you owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Ford Mustang. Once that pony car hit the market in 1964, affordable and stylish performance was finally in reach for the average American. Even though early versions weren't exceptionally fast, it didn't take long for Ford to pump the car up with some real muscle. Shortly after the first 'Stang hit the streets, Ford teamed up with racing legend Carroll Shelby to produce the high-performance GT350. Two years later, the fierce Ford Shelby GT500 showed up, equipped with a 428-cubic-inch big-block V8.
Only a few thousand of the original Ford Shelby GT500s were built from 1967-'70, and they've remained very popular with Mustang enthusiasts and collectors. As expected, the modern version is obviously a much better car in terms of comfort and overall performance. However, potential buyers of the modern-era GT500 should know that the first few years of the car were let down by disappointing handling capabilities. Newer GT500s are much more appealing by virtue of revised suspension tuning and massively more powerful engines.
Current Ford Shelby GT500
The Ford Shelby GT500 is the ultimate performance version of the Mustang and is available in both coupe and convertible body styles. As the top horse in the stable, it boasts a number of significant upgrades. Chief among them is an all-aluminum, supercharged 5.8-liter V8 that cranks out 662 horsepower and gives the coupe a top speed of more than 200 mph (the convertible is electronically limited to 155 mph). That powerhouse is hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox and spins the rear tires through a limited-slip solid rear axle. There is also an adjustable launch control system (allows the driver to select preferred launch rpm) as well as adjustable steering assist.
Standard feature highlights for the GT500 include 19-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, xenon headlights, leather sport bucket seats, the Sync multimedia voice-control system and an audio system with a CD player, auxiliary/USB audio jacks and satellite radio.
Option highlights include a glass roof for the coupe, a navigation system (with HD radio and dual-zone climate control), an upgraded sound system and a handful of performance packages (should a standard GT500 somehow be lacking). The latter include such ultra-performance hardware as adjustable Bilstein dampers, even larger Brembo brakes and separate engine oil, rear differential and transmission cooling systems.
In reviews we've been impressed by this Shelby GT500's incredible performance potential, precise gearbox, crisp steering response, agile handling, fairly comfortable ride and solid cabin quality. Also making this supercar an agreeable daily driver are its supportive seats and thoughtful features such as the Sync system and hard-drive-based navigation system.
Used Ford Shelby GT500 Models
The reincarnated Shelby GT500 debuted for 2007. At the time, its supercharged 5.4-liter V8 had an iron block and produced 500 hp. Standard front-seat side airbags and optional xenon headlights arrived the following year. For 2010, significant improvements were made as Ford retuned the suspension for improved handling, increased power to 540 hp, made stability control standard and updated the styling. That year also brought better cabin materials, dual-zone climate control and the Sync multimedia voice-control system.
The following year, the GT500 received an aluminum engine block (versus the previous iron version), which shaved more than 100 pounds off the front end and promoted even sharper handling. Output was boosted to 550 hp. New features included an available SVT performance package as well as standard xenon headlights and MyKey (which allowed owners to limit the vehicle's top speed and the stereo's volume). For 2012, Recaro sport seats became optional. The current 662-hp V8 debuted for 2013 along with further suspension and brake revisions, a slightly different grille and taillight styling.
The Shelby's spiritual precursor is the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. If the GT500 is outside of your budget, a used Cobra is a more budget-friendly alternative.