The hottest specialty performance car in the world right now is the Shelby Super Snake, which is built at Shelby American in Las Vegas, Nevada. To get an inside tour of the facilities and to see how a Shelby Super Snake is born, we reached out to Vince Laviolette, VP of Operations and a Senior Designer at Shelby American, who spent some time with us and explained each step of the build.
Laviolette stood in front of about 75 new 5.0L Mustangs that were in the que to undergo its transformation into Super Snakes. “We can do convertibles or coupes, automatics or manuals, cloth interior, whatever the customer wants,” Vince Laviolette told us.
The production floor at Shelby American includes many workstations, each with a lift, to assemble cars.
This 5.0L Mustang is ready for tear down in this workstation, manned by either a one or a two-person crew.
Laviolette was just scratching the surface of what Shelby American can do with a Super Snake, without even describing other models in the company’s lineup. As we walked through the workstations inside, he added, “We can do a Ford Performance Blower, we can do a Whipple supercharger, and we can also do a Kenne Bell, depending on its application and what the customer wants.”
We walked past one workstation to see a car with numbers on the side. What was this, a race car? Yes, Shelby American was putting together a race ready Mustang Terlingua for the track. Where else can an enthusiast custom order their dream car, race car or a street car to their heart’s desire?
Inside Laviolette’s office we were intrigued to see a photo of Vince behind the wheel of a Mustang with Carroll Shelby sitting in the driver’s seat. “That was one of the last days he was on the track; we were testing for the 1,000-horsepower car just two weeks before he got sick.”
This 5.0L Mustang is in the middle of its teardown phase of a four-day build. Shelby team members have already removed front fascia, hood and rockers, and will pull the rear bumper and suspension next. The pulled stock parts go to the parts department or to pre-assembly.
Each employee wears a Team Member shirt, displaying supplier names. Laviolette spoke of dedication when he said, “There’s a lot to a Super Snake. We probably have the best crew in the business. These guys are 100% pure blood hot rodders and they will build you one heck of a car.”
Carroll Shelby was in the thick of new-car development right up until his final months, and Laviolette was a major part of that development, from designing parts to driving the final product. That all American, can do spirit continues with Laviolette and many others that he described as 100% pureblood hot rodders, forming the best crew there is at Shelby American. The Shelby name is respected worldwide and the company has gone global, which is contributing to the backlog of orders. “We’ve opened-up dealers all over the world right now. We’re everywhere from China to Dubai and the orders are coming in.”
At the end of the day, we felt privileged to have Vince make some time out of his busy schedule to show us through the Shelby American facility. If you’re fortunate enough to get into a Super Snake, then you can be proud knowing that each is built with a lot of pride and careful attention to details.
This car here is far enough along; they’ve already installed the blower and attaching the Shelby Super Snake hood.
The lightweight fiberglass hood has two rear openings in the back to evacuate heat.
The Super Snake hood features two front scoops that direct air to keep the top of the engine as cool as possible.
All superchargers come standard with a black finish; this Ford Performance blower will help generate 670 horsepower.
Each Super Snake gets a new front fascia, which features a stainless steel mesh grille to bring in fresh air to the intercooler. Shelby opened the lower grille and added a trick splitter with the Shelby name.
Shelby American’s front fascia incorporates a new fog light assembly, integrated into the blinker, along with a cooling duct routed into a flexible tube to the front brakes.
Shelby American designs and builds their own rear wing specifically for the Super Snake.
Another unique body piece on the Super Snake is this rear diffuser, which also has openings for the Shelby exhaust system.
Shelby American uses a black style chrome tip each side of their custom rear diffuser.
This Super Snake has been fitted with the 4-piston Wilwood brakes in the rear, along with Ford Performance sway bar, springs, and shocks.
Up front, the Shelby Wilwood 6-piston calipers feature a full floating rotor with great clamping power. The presence of larger studs and hoses to cool the rear brakes suggest this Super Snake is intended for track use; the blue Ford Performance struts and coil springs have also been installed. When a bolt is torqued, Shelby applies an orange paint daub as a safety check.
Shelby runs a special backing plate to fit the flexible hose that carries forced air to cool the front rotors and bearings.
The low restriction Borla exhaust system has been installed on this Super Snake.
A Ford Performance coil spring is part of the Super Snake’s standard suspension package that Shelby developed with Ford for the street and track.
This Super Snake has an upgraded suspension with Eibach coilover setup with Brembo brakes. The hubs also have the longer Ford Performance wheel studs.
All Super Snakes come standard with a Ford Performance supercharger that is rated at 670hp; for those looking for a bit more power, you have the option of upgrading to a 750hp supercharger setup.
All of Shelby’s supercharger setups feature a water-to-air system with a pair of large intercoolers, a cooling bottle, and a larger aluminum radiator.
Shelby mounts a water tank on the side for the blower; this is the pump that circulates the water through the system.
Bigger wheels and tires is a Shelby tradition for over 50 years. This Super Snake is getting 20x11-inch forged wheels in the back and 20x9.5’s up front.
Shelby also mounts and balances all of their wheels.
This Super Snake already has the gauge pod at the top center of dash and currently waiting to get wired.
Shelby installs upholstery to fit their customer orders. The Katzkin leather option is very popular and offered in a pallet of seven different colors. Customers can also choose the stitching color for a completely custom look and feel.
The carbon fiber component with raised Shelby lettering adds a hot look, and channels air to the rear wheels and tires.
Shelby American limits the amount of carbon fiber used to the rocker wings, the gauge pod inside, and these mirror covers.
Out back, Shelby drops out the stock rearend, which they replace with a new Wavetrac differential, an innovative new design that improves grip in low traction conditions.
For the 2017 Super Snake, Shelby installs a 50th anniversary badge on the driver’s side of the front grille.
Shelby also installs 50th Anniversary badges on each front fender.
Every Shelby built in Las Vegas gets a CSM badge, located under the hood on the driver’s side. CSM is for Carroll Shelby Mustang, 17 is the 2017 model year, SS is Super Snake, and 0131 is the number (not sequential) assigned to the car.
Under the hood on the driver’s side is the Tech Badge that is hand signed with a Dremel tool by the employees who built the car. As we noted earlier, a great deal of pride goes into each build.
Shelby also installs a CSM badge on the passenger side of the dash. The CSM number goes into the Shelby Registry as documentation of the build.
Roof panels will also receive round 50th anniversary badges on this year’s Super Snake.
702 Graphics is walking distance from Shelby and handles the graphics for Shelby. Most of the stripes are vinyl, but they do offer painted stripes.
All manual equipped Super Snakes receive a performance short-throw shifter.
Shelby has their own paint shop on the premises. Super Snakes are not repainted, but we noticed a Widebody Shelby undergoing a complete repaint. The Widebody isn’t available yet for the Super Snake, but it will be coming out towards the end of the year.
In the paint shop, a Super Snake rear spoiler is being prepped for paint.
Once the parts are painted and ready for installation, they’re placed on a rack that rolls out for the next batch of cars.
At PDI parking only, Shelby’s are ready for their pre-delivery inspection.