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The New Shelby GT500 Is Coming in Two Weeks

If you've been paying attention in 2018, you probably already know that a brand new S550 Mustang Shelby GT500 is coming this year. And there is good reason to believe that the 2019 North American Auto Show (often referred to as the Detroit Auto Show) in less than two weeks will host the debut of the GT500. Why the 2019 Detroit Auto Show? It's one of the biggest auto shows for Ford. Ford decided to reveal its Ford GT at the same show three years ago in 2015, and also threw in the current Shelby GT350R and the current F-150 Raptor for good measure.

The Shelby GT500 has already been confirmed by Ford and teased in a couple of pictures and videos. Why is the GT500 significant? The first Shelby GT500 was a 1967 model and it was developed with help from the legend himself, Carroll Shelby. Because of Shelby's personal involvement in racing at the time, the original Shelby GT500 was actually meant to be a track monster, not only a straight line car. It used a a modified version of the massive 427 (cubic inch - 7.0 litre) naturally aspirated V8 Shelby developed for the original GT40 to win at Le Mans. Several (functional) aerodynamic bits were added and a bunch of body parts were made out of fibreglass to save weight.

Ford sold Mustang Shelby GT500's for only a couple more years back then, ending production in 1969. That hallowed Shelby GT500 name didn't return to the Mustang lineup until the 5th generation (code named S197) in 2007 - a full 40 years after the original. But by that time, it had a lazier supercharged V8 making a nice and round 500 hp. No attempt to save weight was made at the time. Just like any S197 Mustang, it could be made into a serious track car with huge aftermarket support but, although it handled very competently from the factory for something weighing nearly 2 tonnes with a solid rear axle, it was much more of a Grand Tourer and a straight line bruiser than a track honed machine (not to say it couldn't be enjoyed on track...).

2011 Mustang Shelby GT500 on track at Atlantic Motorsport Park - Kevin Doubleday ©
By the end of its production run in 2014, the S197 Shelby GT500 had gone through a couple of refreshes and engine changes. The 2013-2014 model was making 662 hp out of the Trinity supercharged 5.8 litre V8, making it the most powerful production V8 at the time. Although it still handled well for what it was, it was still very much a bruiser. This time, though, I think it'll be different.

The headline for this car is "700+ hp" so we know that all is still well at Ford and huge hp numbers haven't died yet. Chances are, it will be higher than the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which makes 707 hp in the "standard version" (there is now a Redeye version making 797 hp, because 707 hp isn't enough). That said, the GT500 should be approx. 200 kg (400+ lb.) lighter than the Challenger so it shouldn't need as much hp to go just as fast. As for the power source, Ford already confirmed that a hybrid Mustang is coming in 2020, which will be more efficient than a V8, so this will likely use a traditional powertrain running on nothing but dinosaur juice.

Rumour has it, it will be a supercharged version of the GT350 5.2 litre V8, but it might switch back to a traditional cross-plane crankshaft here instead of the flat-plane crankshaft that helps the naturally aspirated GT350 version rev to over 8,200 rpm. A manual gearbox is probably guaranteed, but it will likely be offered with an automatic as an option, the 10-speed auto already used on the Mustang GT; a first for a GT500.

However, while the last 662 hp GT500 came with hopelessly undersized 265-section front and 285-section rear tires, Ford hasn't shied away from wide tires recently. The Shelby GT350R, for instance, uses 305-section front and 315-section rear tires. Even the more pedestrian Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 2 (PP2) comes with 305-section Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires all around. Moreover, the bits Ford teased so far appear to show functional aero bits such as a front splitter and a very good size pedestal spoiler similar to the one on the track-special Shelby GT350R. Finally, Ford now uses the same sort of magnetorheological dampers that cars like the Corvette, Ferrari 488, Audi R8, Lamborghini Aventador, etc. in the relatively pedestrian Mustang GT, so it'll likely be offered here as well. That should allow for to keep the GT500 reasonably comfortable on the road, yet be able to transform into a pavement pounding machine at the press of a button. It certainly won't be a hardcore track car. That's the GT350R's job. But I suspect that all of this will make this the best handling and most composed GT500 ever (by far).

And in two weeks, we should see it in all its glory. In the mean time, short of a couple of leaked pictures from dealer events, the teaser video below is the most Ford has given us so it'll have to do until the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

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