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2007 Shelby GT500 Mustang - An Evolutionary Tale
Evolution Performance's journey to build the first 9-second Shelby GT500.
We all knew it would happen eventually-a Shelby GT500 would break into the 9-second zone in mostly stock trim. Evolution Performance is credited with the first 11-, 10-, and 9-second runs in Ford's latest super ponycar. This accomplishment came through the use of the '03-'04 Cobra as a guiding model, the existing S197 marketplace, and the design of new parts to achieve the goal.
"We bought the car to help promote our tuning and performance business," says Nelson Whitlock, owner of Evolution Performance in Aston, Pennsylvania. To get a leg up on the competition, the shop plunked down $70,000 to get a car early in the production run. According to Whitlock, the vehicle came from a dealer in Kansas, and as soon as it was delivered, they took it to Cecil County Dragway in northern Maryland for an immediate dragstrip evaluation.
The Shelby had to be driven 5.5 miles before the car's computer would allow the engine to produce boost, despite the driver holding the pedal at WOT. A quick ride around the streets was more than enough to unleash the Shelby. The Stang initially proved to be a bit of a disappointment. "Our best pass that night was 13.1, which we thought was pretty pathetic for a 500hp car," says shop foreman Fred Cook. Before the crew left the track, they made a commitment to evolve this Shelby into the first 11-, 10-, and 9-second car of its kind.
The first set of mods were a few tried-and-true tricks that have been applied to the S197 cars, namely an aluminum driveshaft (saving 30 pounds of rotating weight) and adjustable shocks and struts as well as upper and lower control arms. The parts were stripped from Cook's '05 Mustang GT as it sat in the corner of the shop. Dragstrip testing at NMRA's Atco event yielded 12.60-second performances-better than initial testing-but Cook and Whitlock knew there was a lot more left.
The following day, Cook called BMR Fabrica-tion to order its complete line of suspension components. Further attention was given to the traction department as a set of 17-inch Bogart GT Series wheels were employed along with M&H Drag Radial tires (325/45-R17) out back and skinnies in the front. Despite running a 17-inch-diameter wheel, the drag racing rims did not clear the factory-supplied Brembo front binders. Aerospace lightweight front brakes were tapped for service, but first Evolution Performance had to modify the factory spindles to accept the billet-aluminum rotors and calipers. A custom dual line-lock setup was also added to the Shelby.
S&W Race Cars was called upon for a roll-bar installation since the team expected to run quicker than 11.50. Knowing the time constraints, Whitlock decided to lend a helping hand to the S&W staff. An eight-point rollbar was carefully welded into place and custom fit to the inside confines of the Pony. Total design and installation time was just under one week.
Upping the horsepower was a custom off-road x pipe and Borla after-cat exhaust system. On the intake side, a cold-air kit was made, and Cook used SCT software to tune the factory computer. In this trim, the Shelby bounced out 500 rwhp and 502 lb-ft of rear-wheel torque on a Dynojet chassis dyno.
In just 10 days, the car was beginning to look like a part-time drag racer and full-time badass. Back at the track, Whitlock knocked down an 11.81 at 121 mph and with it came the official title of "First 11-second Shelby GT500." A week of rain prevented them from pushing the Stang further into the 11s, but the downtime allowed the team to up the ante with more modifications. JLT Performance's new cold-air kit, made from carbon fiber, was bolted on, adding form and function. Stiegemeier Porting of St. Charles, Missouri, ported the Eaton supercharger, and a Metco Motorsports 2.6-inch upper blower pulley was installed. The factory 10-rib belt was too long, so Cook and Whitlock borrowed the 10-rib idlers from Evolution Performance's '03 Cobra. The Shelby's power jumped to 563 rwhp and 562 rwtq, with a boost reading of 13 psi.
The extra power had the team question the available traction, so they added a set of Santuff adjustable drag struts up front and QA1 single adjustable shocks in the rear. The extra bite and horsepower pushed them closer to their goal of being the first in the 10s-11.08 at 127 mph was the result right off the trailer. A few more runs that night and they left Cecil County Dragway with a best of 11.06 at 129 mph. Not bad for a car they owned for approximately 311/42 weeks.
More rain hit the Northeast area, and the Shelby sat inside the shop despite Cook and Whitlock chomping at the bit to get back to the dragstrip. As luck would have it, the rain forced them back on the dyno to find more power. They fired up the laptop and opened up the SCT tuning software. A few more dyno pulls and some fine-tuning to the air/fuel ratio netted 578 rwhp and 582 rwtq. Would it be enough to run in the 10s? Based on mph results thus far, they had more than enough power, but that little extra wouldn't hurt.
At this point, running in the 10s was inevitable, and everything was moving forward smoothly, or so they thought. Whitlock and Cook faced another obstacle, however-Whitlock's wife was pregnant and their baby was due any day. Going 10s was important, but it paled in comparison to his growing family. On September 9, 2006, the Evolution Performance gang made a trip to the track as it would be the last time down the 1,320 until the baby was delivered.
The track scheduled an import event and they had barely prepped the starting line surface. Run-ning in the 10s was an uphill battle at best that day, especially since the Shelby was still rolling on a pair of M&H Drag Radials. The result was a string of traction-limited runs in the really low 11s-the crew was getting discouraged that run after run netted the same result. Whitlock clashed with destiny late in the day as he nailed down a 10.99 at 128 mph after a long cooldown, lowered launch rpm, and the decision to swap lanes. The Shelby hooked, and Evolution Performance had claimed the first 10-second run in Ford's latest creation.
Not content with their 10.99 performance, further modifications were made that thrust the Shelby deeper into the 10-second zone. American Racing Headers fabbed up a set of 131/44-inch long tube pipes made from stainless steel. Mighty Muffler (a sister shop to Evolution Performance) modified the mail-order headers-using flanges made by S&W-and added 3-inch fire-cone style collectors as well as an off-road x pipe system. A smaller 2.5-inch Metco pulley was also swapped on to the blower. Boost was still registering a rather mild 14 psi, and with continual tuning the final output of the 5.4-liter powerplant stood at 615 rwhp and 646 rwtq. A pair of 15-inch Bogart rear wheels and slicks replaced the 17-inch Bogart/M&H drag radial combination. The subse-quent result of more power and traction netted a new best time of 10.44 at 134.22 mph. The team then added a lower pulley and a 75hp hit of nitrous, which pushed the Shelby to a new best e.t. and mph record of 9.96 at 141.45 mph.
Next up-a Kenne Bell 2.8L supercharger and low-nine-second timeslips. Like the name of the shop, the Mustang is continually evolving as these hard-core enthusiasts constantly push the GT500 envelope.