Jerry Heasley
August 1, 2009
Suspension modifications include an adjustable Panhard bar and subframe connectors. Utilizing a common drag-racing trick, Shelby pulled the stock sway bar up front. Plus, the tires scream drag racing. The 17x4.5-inch rims mounted skinny tires and the rear 15x10s were shod with Goodyear 28x10-50 slicks.

Horse Sense: Funny Cars have supercharger intake scoops sticking out of their hoods. They look funny and thus the name. However, the Kenne Bell supercharger on the stock GT500 Super Snake sits down in the car. Shelby Automobiles custom-built a dual 4-inch-tube intake manifold that rotates the blower to sprout out of the center of the hood.

Now we're talkin'! We really are living in the second coming of performance cars. Sure, the '60s will always be first, but one day we'll look back at the early 2000s as the heyday of petroleum-powered performance. This historic rally revved up with the '03 Cobra but hit its stride with the introduction of the latest Shelby GT500s. Since that time, the GT500 forged its own performance-crazed niche. Within that arena, Shelby Automobiles takes its offspring to the gym and infuses even more performance.

To date, these special editions have focused on maximum all-around performance. This time around, all the performance upgrades are headed in a straight line, and who better to partner with for a straight-line Super Snake than the one and only Don "The Snake" Prudhomme? However, despite its quarter-mile aspirations, Shelby's new Prudhomme Edition is a luxury cruising Super Snake on the street and a 10-second racer on the track.

How does this work? For track use, the driver installs a smaller pulley on the Kenne Bell supercharger, changes to racing fuel, and uploads the off-road tune to the computer. The result is 800 horses that should turn the Super Snake into a 10-second bracket racer. Reprogrammed to 750 hp and refilled with pump gas, the Prudhomme Edition Shelby is 50-state emission legal once again. That's the trick that makes such a hot car on the track permissible for the street.

Flexibility is the name of the game with the Prudomme Edition. Like the tuning, the suspension is tweakable for maximum quarter-mile e.t.'s. Turning a knob on top of the 90/10 QA1 struts (with 250 in-lb coilover springs), allows the front end to rise and transfer weight to the rearend for great launches. The rear shocks have two knobs each, one for rebound and one for compression. Loosening the compression all the way and tightening up the rebound sets the rearend for the strip. Flip them back and its ready for street duty again.

"They had it on display at Phoenix; I got to drive it not only on the dragstrip, but I also drove it over the road course," Don Prudhomme, for whom the car was built and named, explains. "I was surprised even with the drag slicks on the back and the M&Hs on the front. The thing handled pretty well going around corners. I gave it the Snake test on side roads. I ran it up and down the straightaway pretty good. It hauls ass. It's a lot of fun. I can't wait to get mine."

Rain in California forced our shoot to Shelby Automobiles and the desert environs of Las Vegas, Nevada. The side-exit exhausts sounded mean as Vince LaViolette and Andrew Smidt idled this beast into the early morning light outside the Design Center shop.

Shelby Automobiles plans a run of no more than 100 numbered units. Our photo car, which is actually the prototype, is black. But any color offered in the Super Snake is available, such as red, silver, and blue.

Gary Patterson, vice president of operations at Shelby Automobiles, tells us, "We wanted to do a special edition of the Super Snake based on a drag car. There was a history with Don Prudhomme running a `Super Snake,' even though it was a rail dragster back in the '60s. They used that name back then--there's always been a connection between Don and Carroll. So it just made sense."

The job to actually produce the ultimate Super Snake for street and strip at Shelby Automobiles fell upon Gary Davis, who heads up production. Vince LaViolette, senior designer, and fabricator Andrew Smidt cobbled the car together at the Design Center at Shelby Automobiles. The build of the car was atypical. Vince had drawings to go by, but the design was not intact from the beginning. Don describes his input on the project: "Daily sometimes . . . I drove them crazy with it."

Don's original Super Snake was a Top Fuel dragster with a 427 Cammer, circa 1967. Brent Hajek of Ames, Oklahoma, owns this vintage dragster, which he displayed opposite the new Super Snake in the Parks Museum. Don recalls that Ed Pink assembled the Cammer engine and Lou Baney built the chassis. "Ford supplied the engine," Don says. "It started out being a Ford project, but it really ended up being a Shelby project." Super Snake adorned the side of the rail.