Marc Christ Associate Editor
June 1, 2013
Photos By: Justin Cesler

There's no doubt that Carroll Shelby played an instrumental role in the success of the Mustang over the last half century.

His ideas, business savvy, driving skills, and Southern charm catapulted him into automotive superstardom seemingly overnight in the mid-'60s. Over the following decades, his name, face, signature, and race-inspired automobiles would become legendary.

Shelby's company, Shelby American, has soldiered on in his absence, thanks to the stellar team of designers, engineers, technicians, and salespeople he assembled at Shelby American before his death in May 2012. Ford is still using the Shelby name on production cars, which is unheard of in the automotive industry today.

But Shelby American isn't into riding the coattail of its Blue Oval partner. Rather, it's main objective is to simply improve upon Dearborn's finest, including the premier Mustang, the GT500. But how do you improve on the '13 GT500? It embodies everything we look for in a performance Mustang—power, handling, and stunning good looks—all while maintaining unrivaled ride quality and refinement. It's an amazing car, but here's how Shelby American found a way to make it better in almost every way.

Balance of Power

The '08 GT500 Super Snake we tested ("Snakeskin Suit," April '09) was insane. It went 10.87 at 134.14 mph and made 640 rwhp. Editor Smith used terms like "wild animal" and "ridiculous" to describe how it drove on the street. It was like having a 725hp On/Off switch under your foot, and it looked just as mean. Classic Super Snake stripes, bigass shiny wheels with a bunch of spokes, and a unique hood—there is no confusing a Super Snake with anything else.

Much of what the '08 embodied has been carried over to the '13, but in an improved package. "It's more balanced and more refined," says Gary Patterson, vice president of Sales & Marketing for Shelby American. "It's just technologically more advanced—the way it puts the power to the pavement, the interior, magnetic suspension, and Track Apps."

We agree.

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"The things that [the stock GT500] did really well, we left those things alone; the things that we felt needed improvement, we modified. We wanted to build the best all-around muscle car we could produce."

For instance, since the stock engine was built by SVT to handle boost over an extended period of time, it wasn't necessary to pull even the wrinkle-blue valve covers. Instead, the 2.3L TVS was ditched in lieu of an (optional) 3.6L Kenne Bell Twin-Screw supercharger, which makes cool noises when provoked, and feeds the 5.8-liter beast with 16 pounds of boost. And the stock shocks/struts were left in place, but the springs were replaced with lower, stiffer springs suitable for the street or open track.

The cooling system upgrade (an option on '08-'12 models) is now standard. Utilizing the stock intercooler, it provides cooler IAT's over a longer period of time thanks to a humongous (and electric-fan equipped) heat exchanger and improved radiator. Also standard are the commanding 20-inch forged wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (255mm front and 295mm rear).

Certainly, our test subject (SN 13SS0002P) was an adventure to drive on the street. The Shelby/Borla exhaust rumbled with authority, even sitting idle at a stoplight. We found joy in watching other motorists gawk, arguing with their passengers over what exactly they were observing. Mustangers knew what it was right away and would give us a "free rev", and usually a thumbs-up and a smile.

And as the light turned green, we were off—the Twin-Screw whining, the exhaust roaring like King Kong. But inside, everything felt settled and calm. Clutch actuation was smooth and easy; shifting short, smooth, and precise; and the Super Snake-stitched, leather-wrapped Recaros coddled us like a baby in a bassinet. Apparent was the premium sound system, and ours was well equipped with navigation, SYNC, and satellite radio (all optional).

AdvanceTrac is much improved (over the '08) and actually better left on, as it isn't annoyingly obtrusive. There is much traction to be had with the Michelins, even on the street, but not at WOT in First, Second, or Third gear.

By the Numbers

There's no doubt the '13 Super Snake is an eye-catching display of prestige in a domestic environment. It's pleasing to the eyes, ears, nose, and soul. But how does it fare when it comes to laying down a number on the track and chassis dyno? And how many bands are you going to have to pop to have one in your garage. We hope you're hungry for statistics, because we're going to crunch some numbers.

Before we get to the main course (price), allow us to prime your palate with some delicious hors d'oeuvres—performance numbers. We hardly put any miles on the Super Snake after it arrived before we strapped it to our in-house Dynojet chassis dyno. We knew it would make plenty of power (it's rated at 850 hp), but weren't sure how much—we expected north of 750 rwhp. Once we tightened the straps, we rolled into the throttle in Fourth. The Four-Valve screamed to 7,000 rpm, producing a best of 770 rwhp and 653 lb-ft of torque. Torque production is impressive, above 600 lb-ft from 3,000-6,500 rpm.

On our digital scales, with no driver and an empty tank of fuel, it weighed 3,880 pounds. Since the previous version tipped the scales at over 4,000, we were pleasantly surprised.

So all that was left was a drag test. At Bradenton Motorsports Park (Bradenton, Florida) on a cool January evening, we bolted on a pair of Nitto 555R drag radials, the only sticky tires we had in-house that were mounted to wheels large enough to clear the Wilwoods. Not nearly as soft as a bias-ply tire, we knew we couldn't launch as aggressively as we could have with slicks. Still, we had much anticipation that it would best the '08 Super Snake.

Test pilot Editor Smith put some heat in the 555Rs. He turned on Launch Control, set it to 3,000 rpm, and staged shallow. Not knowing what to expect, he released the clutch pedal quickly. The engine bogged but recovered swiftly, propelling Smith to a 10.79 at 137.61 mph—quicker right off the bat than the '08 version's 10.87 best (at Englishtown on slicks).

Needing more rpm on the launch, Smith bumped up the launch control to 3,500. This time, the 60-foot time was improved from 1.98 to 1.81, and it showed on the big end—a 10.68 at 136.11 mph. A few runs later, after bumping launch revs to 3,800, a 1.76 60-foot short time yielded a 10.66 at 136.01 mph! We made a total of 10 runs that night, trying different launch methods with and without Launch Control, and the LC actually provided us with the best e.t.

Your author even got a chance to wheel the Super Snake down the track. Admittedly, it was more fun than I expected. Not that I thought it was going to be boring, but the ease of launch and sheer acceleration rate left me giggling like a school girl at a One Direction concert. My best attempt was an 11.13 at 132.17 mph without power shifting. I would consider myself a drag-racing novice, and I can tell you that just about anyone with basic drag racing experience can drive this beast into the low-11s with very little drama.

Now for the main course.

There certainly are specific clients that Shelby American is vying for with this top-shelf Shelby—the collectors, the wealthy guys that need a fun weekend toy, and the Mustang enthusiasts wanting the baddest Mustang on the road.

The 14-inch Wilwoods on all four corners provided plenty of confidence in braking, but the pedal wasn't so touchy as to snap unsuspecting passengers' necks. Ride quality was slightly reduced from the stock GT500, but certainly not spoiled—your author's coffee cup faired well in the cupholder during upshifts and turns during morning commutes. Even railroad tracks were bearable.

It was just a fun car to drive, and even more fun to be seen in. No matter which parking spot we chose, the Super Snake would command instant dictatorship over all of the other four-wheeled minions in sight. Even at rest, it screamed superiority, distinction, and exclusivity.

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Starting price for a stock GT500 is $54,200, and the base price for the Super Snake upgrade is $28,995. Add those together and your starting price is $83,195. Granted that doesn't include the blower upgrade, which we think is a must. To get the 850hp version, the package will set you back $39,995 for a base price total of $94,195. Add some options, and you're easily north of $100K. We know—that is a big bite to chew. But when you consider the history of Shelby vehicles, their long-term value, and the amount of sheer joy this car brings, it's bang for the buck.

Editor's Note: You can build your own at I created one with the blower upgrade, polished Watt's link, black wheels, and Museum Delivery (a $750 option), and it's going to set me back $101,439. I've started saving, but I'm sure by the time I have the other $100,000, these things will be worth upwards of $1M. Such is life, I guess. On the Dyno

'13 GT500 Super Snake Specifications
662hp: from $28,995
850hp: from $39,995
Standard Equipment
Shelby/Ford Racing Whipple supercharger (850hp, black finish)
Shelby Performance Cooling Package
Shelby/Wilwood front and rear brake kit
Shelby front brake cooling kit
20-inch Shelby Super Snake three-piece billet forged wheels
Upgraded performance tires
Shelby upgraded suspension package
Shelby rear Panhard bar
Shelby caster/camber plate kit
Shelby white-ball billet short-throw shifter
Shelby/Borla axle-back muffler kit
Super Snake hood
Carbon-fiber front splitter
CSM consecutively numbered dash plaque and engine plate
Super Snake billet-aluminum badging (fender and faux gas cap)
Shelby decklid lettering
Super Snake stripe kit (gloss white or matte black)
Super Snake upper mesh grille insert
Rear quarter-window sidescoops or paint-matched block-offs
Aesthetic engine kit (billet fluid caps and dipstick handle)
Interior A-pillar pod with gauges
Super Snake embroidered headrest covers (non-Recaro seats)
Super Snake lighted doorsill plates
Shelby three-piece floormat set
Polished Shelby/Ford Racing/ Whipple 850hp supercharger
Shelby/Kenne Bell 3.6L liquid cooled polished supercharger (850 hp)
Shelby Widebody kit conversion (full conversion or rear only)
Shelby aluminum Watt's link rear suspension
Shelby/Ford Racing suspension and sway bar kit
Shelby/Eibach coilover suspension and sway bar kit
Shelby/Katzkin leather interior
Shelby museum-delivery experience