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.

"I had the nickname The Snake. Of course, [Carroll] had Snake, too. In my mind in drag racing, it was the Super Snake," Don explains. "There was a connection, but I believe Carroll was the one who named the car on the dragstrip." More than 40 years elapsed and the two men remained close friends. They recalled the Super Snake and talked about building a car together. Finally, they did it. Amy Boylan, president of Shelby Automobiles, put the wheels of production into motion.

"[Don Prudhomme] sent us some pictures of his old Funny Cars," Gary says. "We sent him this and that. He said `I like this. I don't like that.' So we put them all together and that's what we ended up with. `Pretty bitchin'' is what Don would say."

"[Shelby Automobiles] sent drawings to me, back and forth," Don recalls. "What do you think about this and that? I wanted something that,would be, number one, real fast, and number two, look cool." Cool to The Snake" meant a vintage "Funny Car look," featuring just the right rake and a flip top. The tilt front end is great for engine access at the strip.

This intake and custom-built Shaker scoop give the Prudhomme Edition a meaner Funny Car look. Kenne Bell tested the blower with this intake manifold and found it to be 50-state legal. With a race tune and race fuel onboard, the Prudhomme Edition is good for 800 hp. Reigned in for pump gas, you'll have to make due with 750 hp.

"We did the whole car as we went," Gary says. "We used a lot of foam and cardboard for templates and bondo to make the parts for making molds." Shelby Automobiles finished the job in a scorching five months. Overall, the design revolved around a Funny Car body style, which describes the ground-effects rake, the Shaker hoodscoop for ram air, and the tilt front end. Shelby Automobiles went to great lengths, building one-off custom mechanical and body parts to achieve grand objectives.

Vince and Andrew fabricated a wild glass, tilt front end that created a new Shelby with a different front end than any other. The fenders, although they appear stock, are new and made of fiberglass."They are stock-appearing from the outside, but the inside is all different. They have the latches and everything else on the inside," Vince said. "We totally made those completely out of fiberglass and rebuilt the whole thing."

In addition to the lightweight front end, the Prudhomme Edition features fiberglass rockers (to incorporate true side-exit exhausts), a fiberglass rear decklid, and a fiberglass rear-fascia appliqu. The rear spoiler is reminiscent of a Funny Car's rear wing and is completely custom and unique to this model. The custom rockers also provide the needed Funny Car rake and at the same time facilitate the size of the rear tires. The bottoms of the rockers are taller in the back than they are in the front. This rake gives the car its wedge appearance, more like a Funny Car than a road racer.

"One day I went up there to look at it in Las Vegas, and Carroll was out in the shop leaning on it. I walked in and there was dust all over the floor, these guys working around the clock, and there he was with it," Don says. "He was a lot of fun with the project." And fun is what anyone lucky enough to own this uber Snake will have at the dragstrip.

With the harness belts on the front seats and the full rollcage, our photo car looks like a race car. However, Shelby left the audio systems, power brakes, power steering, power windows, and full amenities intact. The rear seat delete and glass front fenders subtract weight; apparently the addition of the rollcage moved the weight back up to stock. That's OK, as the plan is to make the Prudhomme Edition a street/strip player.

2009 GT500
5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock iron, 5.4-liter
Crankshaft Forged steel
Rods Cracked, forged steel I-beams
Pistons Forged aluminum
Camshafts Stock
Power Adder Kenne Bell 2.8H Twin Screw
Cylinder Heads Stock aluminum Four-Valve
Intake Manifold Cast-aluminum and air-to-water intercooler
Throttle Body Kenne Bell dual, 75mm
Mass Air Kenne Bell housing with stock electronics
Fuel System Stock with Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pumps
Exhaust Borla side exhaust
Transmission Tremec TR-6060 with Shelby shifter
Rearend Stock 8.8 with FRPP 3.73 gears

Electronics Engine Management Stock with Kenne Bell tune
Ignition Stock
Gauges Shelby gauge pod w/boost, fuel pressure, and oil pressure; MSD shift light

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-member Stock
Control Arms Reverse-L independent
Struts QA1 90/10 adjustable
Springs 205-in-lb springs
Caster/Camber Shelby
Brakes Shelby/Baer 14-inch, vented, cross-drilled disc; Shelby/Baer six-piston, aluminum calipers
Wheels 17x5-inch Bogart Racing wheel with 26x4.5-inch
Tires 17-inch M&H Front Runner Drag tire

Rear Suspension
Shocks QA1 double adjustable
Springs FRPP with adjustable spring perches
Control Arms Solid upper-link
Brakes Shelby/Baer 14-inch, vented, cross-drilled disc; Brembo two-piston calipers
Wheels 15x10-inch Bogart Racing
Tires 28x10.5 Goodyear Eagle Dragway Special
Chassis Stiffening Eight-point rollcage