Jerry Heasley
August 1, 2008

No matter how tire-shreddingly fast the new GT500KR is, with 0-60 mph times in the low-4-second range and e.t.'s through the quarter-mile right at 12 seconds, the Shelby legacy is what really causes the stir. Ford could build a 540hp Mustang supercar, but only Shelby can build a Shelby.

I flew to Salt Lake City as a guest of Ford and Shelby Automobiles to testdrive the new KR. On my arrival, Ford engineer Jamal Hameedi from the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) gave me a walk-around of the latest Shelby.

"The KR is a unique vehicle program for Ford, Shelby Automobiles, and SVT," Jamal said as I stared at the first production GT500KR in 40 years. As Jamal talked about the KR's technical features, I thought about how cool the pair of intake scoops and air extractors looked in the hood, just like on Shelby's original '681/2 GT500KR. The front end has that Cobra snake look, also the same as the '681/2. It occurred to me that this is a real Shelby Mustang, and it's brand-spanking new.

I believe many of the KR buyers will be car collectors from the Mustang hobby. Like me, they've probably built a modified Mustang or two or restored a classic. But prices have soared out of their checkbook range for a genuine '681/2 GT500KR. Although triple a new Mustang GT in price at $79,995, the new KR is at least in the price range of many Mustang aficionados. Best of all, no assembly is required-and the N.O.S. battery is included.

The new KR is the real deal. It's the most powerful Mustang ever offered to the public.

Jamal said, "SVT did the engineering and development. Shelby brought its iconic brand to the table. It's also doing the manufacturing, which opens up some neat content that Ford wouldn't have been able to do." Ford assembles them as GT500s in Flat Rock, Michigan, with a specific set of options, then ships them by rail to Shelby Automobiles in Las Vegas for the conversion into the finished GT500KR.

As he popped the hood, the young engineer's smile turned into a full grin, almost Shelby-like, as he said, "The engine develops 540 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque."

The 428 Cobra Jet that powered the original KRs was certainly underrated at 335 horses to place them in competitive classes in Super Stock drag racing. The word circulating in the pits at the '68 Winternationals was that the CJ actually generated more than 400 hp. The figure is tame by comparison to today's KR when one considers the 335 hp was "gross" while the 540 is "net," which would be pushing 600 horses by a '60s yardstick.

Jamie turned his attention to the physical reasons for the KR's extra 40 horses over the basic GT500. He pointed to the cold-air intake box. "It's specially designed to work with the carbon-fiber hood," he said.