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Velvet Hammer - 2007 Shelby GT500 Full Test
We Could Have Said The Legend Returns, But That's Been Done To Death
It's one of the most anticipated cars in recent memory. No matter where you've been in the last, probably 18 months or so, you've probably seen a reference to the 2007 Shelby Mustang GT500, either in a newspaper, magazine, TV, on-line - whatever. About the time you read this, the production examples are already well on their way to being tucked into garages across the land, but so far, very little has been said about how the GT500 actually is to live with on a day-in, day-out basis. Well, one day, we found a message in our inbox from Ford asking us if we would like to take a GT500 out on test for a whole week - that's right. Not on some closely monitored road course in-field for half an hour or around a giant parking lot at 40 mph, but on our own terms - for a week. You can probably guess what we said next.
Now normally, when a vehicle has been the subject of months of hype, it can sometimes be very difficult to live up to all the fuss. There has been plenty written about the GT500 already, but we wanted to find out on our own, exactly what this car's about and the things it can do. Let us start off by saying that visually, in a physical sense, it doesn't attract a whole fist of attention, at least by those who think it's just another Mustang. Some guy even came up to us and said "my brother bought one of those last year - he really likes it." However, pass by those who do recognize this car for what it is and you get a whole different reaction. We decided to take our Vista Blue GT500 (it was ours for the week remember), to a local cruise night. If we'd had any thoughts about leaving early, they were soon forgotten. Not five minutes after parking, the car was literally mobbed, we could have sworn people had risen out of the nearby drains that encircled the Burger King parking lot. They were all over it. No matter what brand of vehicle they drove, they kept inundating us with questions - one person even offered to buy it and almost wouldn't take no for answer, until that is, that we told him that the blue Shelby actually belonged to Ford Motor Company and no, they weren't taking bids.
So that was one thing. We can say, that from certain angles, particularly down low, the GT500 definitely has an aggressive appearance, with its shark-like front fascia and huge grille ensemble. The twin vents on the hood (they are functional) generated for and against arguments among our staffers, but generally the car looks quite a bit more purposeful than a regular S197. The 18-inch wheels and tires drew mixed reviews and the somewhat street rod like stance of the thing was also a love it or leave it kinda deal, though people seemed to like the rear spoiler, bumper and functional lower diffuser (it really worked in the rain). Overall, we'd have to say, that the Shelby is rather handsome and yet brawny in a fairly subtle sense.
Stepping inside, you're greeted with a good dose of familiarity, but there are a few little changes. Gone is the retro instrument cluster, in its place a more sporting tach and speedo (in reversed locations), but you can still select which color you want the binnacle to glow at night. Our test car was also blessed with option 68S - the leather trim package, so the whole dash was stitched in cowhide, as was the unique, Shelby sport steering wheel. The front seats represent some of the most comfortable in recent Mustang memory and bolstering is more than ample. There's a lot of sound deadening in this car and when you start it up it feels fairly quiet and muted - perhaps not as bad as a stock Terminator did, but still, for a muscle car, it's rather civilized.
The one thing we have to mention, is the shifter. It's short and stubby, like the factory GT piece but the linkage is in an entirely different league - it's just so workable and fluid and you'd never guess that it's remotely linked to a Tremec TR6060 six-speed gearbox. The shifts are supple, smooth - they feel more like those in a lightweight European sportscar than a Detroit street fighter. What the shifter does, is enable you to 'drive' this thing in a European sense, working the gears in a way you couldn't with any muscle car that has come before.
The Shelby is even tempered at regular driving speeds, either on the highway or about town - it doesn't bog, but with 451.6 lb/ft to the tires it isn't likely to either. It also rides rather nicely. Some hoity-toity types have been quick to bemoan the fact that it has a solid axle out back in place of the Terminator's IRS, but that's largely a moot point - even over badly rutted roads or through corners, the GT500 doesn't really get out of line on the street - most who get behind the wheel, wouldn't know the difference anyway. Yes, you can drive this thing to the grocery store, to work, or the movie theatre, come rain or shine, but to truly appreciate it, you need to get out and hammer down on a few twisty back roads. The GT500 is no lightweight - our tester clocked in at 4,075 lbs on the scales - but still, it's quite the machine. Punch it and it rolls - like a fully laden freight train barrelling along at triple-digit speeds, the Shelby sounds its wake-up call with a scurry from the tires and huge thrust of forward motion.
The Eaton blower starts yelling at about four grand on the tach and the exhaust begins to bellow - there is just so much power and torque that the car will chirp the tires in first through fourth (we did the latter at 70 mph on the 3-4 shift) and that was with the traction control on. It just goes and goes. It doesn't pang you with the brute force of say a Viper but it gets you there soon enough and wow, that shifter is just a gem. At high speed the car is relatively quiet and rock solid - the front and rear spoilers, like everything else on the outside actually have a job to do besides looking pretty and they help pin the hurtling supercharged mass to the road as the needle approaches 150 and the autobahn beckons (see sidebar). Turn in is sharp and steady, but still you feel like there's 4,000 lbs plus of pony car at your finger tips. The big Goodyear F1s however do a fantastic job and give you just about all the grip you need. You can feel a touch of factory built-in understeer, but the car is by no means unwieldy - crank the wheel this way and that and it responds with enthusiasm. Throttle oversteer can be induced at will but watch the rear with the traction control off - a smooth, progressive application of the gas will get you through with a bit ofenjoyable kickback from the stern - it's still a snake remember, and it will bite if provoked.
The brakes on this thing, are quite simply, amazing. The four-piston, 14-inch rotor setup in front, with performance padded GT clampers out back, delivers in spades. Stomp on the pedal and it grabs hold of the car to haul it down - like Superman putting his hand out to stop a bus. The only downside is that after a few heavy applications, the front wheels are coated in brake dust and they're a bugger to clean. As for how it fared at the dragstrip - well there were some surprises, both good and bad. Driven straight off the street and onto a well-prepped stretch of competition 1320, the Shelby suffered from quite severe wheelhop (think that scene in Bullitt and you're not far off), but when we staged it, the car rewarded us with a 1.90 60-foot and a 12.41-second elapsed time - on the F1s - not too shabby by any means. It's got a 3.31 ring and pinion in that solid 8.8", but we kept on wondering what caused the axle to dance so much when you try and light the tires - not that we were about find out of course, especially on the fourth car built.
It would be fair to say that quite a few cars that come through our clutches are enjoyed for that period of time and then given a pat on the back and sent on their way. Not the Shelby. The more time we spent with it, the more we wanted to keep it. So to sum up, does it live up to the hype? No it doesn't - in reality it goes far beyond that - it truly is an exceptional car. Not in the spirit of the original G.T.350, that would be missing the point, but for its intended audience it packs a huge punch for not a big investment in funds and in that respect it remains utterly true to the pure Mustang bang for the buck concept. Ladies and gents we ask you to raise a glass to the Shelby GT500 and also to Ford Motor Company for a job well done. In this case, they deserve it.
2007 Shelby Mustang GT500
Interior / Exterior
Shelby specific front fascia, dual vented Shelby 'power dome' hood, Shelby specific rear deck spoiler and bumper with functional diffuser
Shelby specific leather wrapped steering wheel, leather wrapped dash, Shelby specific dash gauges with speedometer and tachometer in reverse locations, six-speed shifter, Shelby specific front bucket seats with leather stitching
Front: Reverse L-independent with coil springs and gas charged shocks (specific Shelby tuning rates); Rear: Solid axle with three link and Parnhard rod, coil springs and gas charged shocks (specific Shelby tuning rates); Steering: Power assisted rack and pinion - 15.6:1 ratio; Brembo 14" front brake discs, with four-piston calipers and performance pads; 11.8" Mustang GT rear discs and single-piston calipers with Performance brake pads; ABS
Wheels And Tires
- 18 x 9.5" Shelby aluminum wheels
- Goodyear Eagle F1 tires P255/45-18 (front)P285/40-18 (rear)
Shelby GT500 - Past Dreams Achieved
You probably figured out that the passage above was about the 'Terminator' Cobra, but it could equally - if not much more suitably - be applied to the 2007 Shelby GT500 Mustang. The Cobra's replacement is a far more civilized car than the Terminator could ever have been. The GT500 is very much the 'Grand Touring' car, which will make it a crashing disappointment for some, yet a pleasant surprise for many others. To me, the 2003 SVT Cobra was a beast that was barely tamed. I've driven quite a few and they're not my first choice to spend eight or 10 hours of highway driving in.
This car is not an updated Terminator. It is a new and different car entirely. It is, perhaps, the fully realized dream that John Coletti had for the SVT Cobra - a dream that could never be achieved while working with a 23-year-old platform. There are many things to rave about in this car. The seats appear to be far more endurable than the GT's, particularly when driving hours at a time. The shifter for the Tremec T-6060 is wonderful, seeming to sense exactly which gear you're heading for and jumping into place. The cabin exhaust note is subdued, but still enough in evidence to know that this is no family hauler. That note strikes a balance that will let you drive for eight or 10 hours without getting tired of it. The styling is drop-dead gorgeous and anyone that looks at this car knows it is something special, although that makes some people (in small, imported cars) try stupid things. Our tester was apparently a very early build, so it is hard to know if the couple of nits we found are typical. For example, there was no remote trunk release inside the glove compartment. That's such an oversight that we have to believe it was unique to our unit. The lack of a dead pedal is something that seasoned Mustang drivers will wonder about, though as an issue, it's not unique to the GT500.
Our preliminary evaluation of the car showed just under 440 HP at the rear wheels, accompanied by about 460 ft-lb of torque. This is massive in a street car and traction under hard acceleration is certainly an issue. Forget about launching the car by running up the revs and side-stepping the clutch. You won't be going anywhere. You can read about further experiences at the track elsewhere in these pages.
If you're looking for a Terminator replacement, you can quickly create one with the usual bolt-ons. Just add an aftermarket exhaust, some lower control arms, a cold air kit, reflash and supercharger pulley. With these simple additions, you will doubtless have a pavement-ripping, 11- or 10-second dragstrip dominator ... and you will also have lost one of the nicest, world-class touring cars that has ever come out of Detroit. It all depends on what you're after. - Don Roy
Shelby GT500 - The 'Germany' Commercial
My hands are wrapped firmly around the wheel as I barrel down the wrong side of a water-soaked highway. The car's speedometer bounces around the 95 mph mark. A wake of water sprays behind me as the 2007 Shelby Ford Mustang GT500 slices the empty road. I feel the engine vibrating in my chest. Something is prodding me to shift into 5th gear, despite what lies beyond the curve ahead.
The director, Erich Joiner, is belted uncomfortably behind my seat. He asks me to slow down in a tone normally used for talking jumpers down from ledges. "Okay, Chris we got it. It's good." I lift my eyes to the rearview mirror. My look tells him it's not good yet. Erich knows what I want to do, because he is an accomplished director and race driver himself. He responds, "There's not much room left after that turn." I reply, "Lemme just get it to 100?"
"Just 'til the bridge, then you gotta slow..." Before he could finish, I stomped the clutch, punched the shifter and hit the gas. The engine surged easily to the century mark. This was uncharted territory in my 18 years of driving. Added to that was the pride of being one of the first few drivers to break in this amazing vehicle. With that thought complete, we were already under the bridge, speeding towards a barricade of orange cones and sawhorses. I let the car out of gear and worked the brake gently.
Dan Mindel, in the seat beside me, said "Good. We got some good stuff there." He's used to adventure, as he was the director of photography for Mission Impossible 3. Erich added, "Okay, let's take it back. Nice work." As the lead actor in the spot, I was driving with the photographer to get a 'vanity' shot of me in the car. There was no need for the Mustang to be going any faster than normal while I was driving it. However, the combination of driving a vehicle with 500 horsepower and having no other cars in sight, made me realize that this was a rare opportunity.
Just three days prior, I was speeding down Wilshire Boulevard at three mph in my beater when I received a call from my commercial agent. "You wanna go to Vancouver?" he asked, trying to contain his excitement. My mind flashed to the Ford audition a couple days prior. The advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, was looking for an actor in his early to mid-30s, with a 'Steve McQueen essence,' - a guy who plays by his own rules. Men want to BE him, and women want to be WITH him - the type of guy that would drive a new throwback version of the Shelby GT500.
It was a description that flattered, humbled and scared me. I figured I could pull off cool for a 30 second commercial, but for nine hours a day for five days? I wasn't sure.
I was tempted to put on a rugged, rebellious act. Instead, I opted to be grateful, recycle my plastic water bottles and read a book patiently while the shots were set up.
Back at base camp, I stepped out of the car, still charged from the drive and told anyone in earshot about how fast I'd just driven and how cool it was. The crew on a shoot is usually quite masculine and, with this being a car commercial, it was even more so. The guys really dug this car. Many of them got their pictures taken with the car during the downtime. I doubt these same guys would be pulling out their cameras on a Jetta commercial.
The JWT guys were pleased to hear how much I liked the car. They were proud to be in charge of the product and several times after watching the playback asked for more speed from their baby. Most of this set full of guys were jealous that I got to drive the car. So, in a way they did want to BE me ... and I didn't have to throw tantrums or be Steve McQueen for them to feel that way.
2007 Shelby Mustang GT500Specifications
Ford 5.4-liter DOHC V-8
90-degree V8, cast-iron block with aluminum heads; forged crank and rods; dual overhead cams per cylinder bank; four valves per cylinder; 8.4:1 compression pistons; dual 60mm throttle-body, sequential electronic fuel injection; aluminum intake manifold with Roots positive displacement twin rotor supercharger; coil on plug ignition, dual cast iron exhaust manifolds
Ford 'Spanish Oak' processor with specific Shelby programming
- Tremec T6060 six-speed manual gearbox
- live 8.8" rear axle with 3.31:1 final drive
*based on bone stock baseline run, using a car with less than 500 miles
Chris Kennedy was the lead actor in Ford's recent Bold Moves commercial, 'Germany'. You can see more about Chris at his web site, www.geocities.com/chrisrkennedy/
You can see the commercial online at http://media.ford.com/digital/GT_GERMANY.mpg