Pete Epple Technical Editor
June 1, 2009
Photos By: Greg Jarem
Model: Tara Froysland

In April of 1963, Ford Motor Company took serious action to prove itself in the racing world. After a failed attempt to purchase Ferarri, Ford set out to beat the Italian auto maker in the biggest race of them all. The endeavor found such names as John Wyer, Roy Lunn, Carroll Shelby, and Bruce McLaren collaborating with the sole purpose of building a supercar strong enough to win on the world stage at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. One short year later the GT40 was born.

Although its first attempts in early '64 were met with disastrous results, the engineers and drivers pushed through adversity and ultimately made history. Legendary drivers A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney also found success in the GT40, solidifying the car as an American racing icon. Ultimately Ford won the coveted race every year from 1966 to 1969.

The popular blue and orange colors of the Gulf livery GT40s will also go down in racing history: The Gulf colors were on many of the GT40s, and then other winning racecars. The iconic paint scheme holds so much tradition that Ford offered the blue and orange scheme as a special Heritage option on the '06 Ford GT to commemorate the First/Second/Third finish at the '66 Le Mans 24-hour race. The Gulf Blue and Coral Orange colors are an instant reminder of the dominance of the GT40 in the late '60s.

Ricky Wilson of Lusby, Maryland, is an avid Mustang enthusiast, and his 2008 Shelby GT500 is proof that Ford's racing heritage lives on. The dominance of the GT40 is a large part of the inspiration behind Ricky's Shelby, and massive power coupled with perfect driveability is the ideal recipe for dominance on the street.

The powder-coated Corral Orange valve covers tie the Gulf GT40 theme into the engine bay.

"I first started looking into the GT500s when Kenne Bell made 800 rwhp," Ricky tells us. "I thought it was amazing it could do that with the stock engine." The GT500's uncanny ability to make copious amounts of power prompted Ricky to sell his supercharged C6 Corvette and get behind the wheel of a Shelby. While it was originally white with blue stripes, Ricky knew what treatment his GT500 would ultimately get. "I love the Gulf colors and though it would be cool to do a GT500 like that. It's like the car Ford should have built," he states. It took less than a week for him to jump in with both feet, and street dominance was right around the corner.

Knowing the stock powerplant didn't have the grunt to satisfy him, Ricky turned to Justin Burcham of JPC Racing and the wheels were set in motion. Burcham installed aftermarket upper and lower pulleys, JLT cold-air intake, and Bassani axle-back race exhaust, as well as a single-blade throttle body to add more excitement. After loading the tune, his Shelby spun the rollers to a healthy 580 rwhp.

Sitting atop the 5.4L modular monster is a huge 3.4L Whipple supercharger. The twin-screw huffer force feeds 22 pounds of boost into the Ford powerplant.

Still not satisfied with the GT500's output, they took performance to the next level. Mike Curley of Curley Engineering went to work on the rear end, welding the axle tubes and adding a set of 3.73 gears and a Ford Racing differential cover. A set of Shelby Razor wheels and Nitto tires were also installed, taking the looks of Ricky's Shelby to the next level. In the search for even more power, a call to Evolution Performance netted Ricky and his GT500 an Eaton TVS supercharger, along with an Afco heat exchanger to breathe some extra life into this already stout street machine.

With the help of a few friends, the Shelby was ready to spin the rollers once again. Keeping the stock upper pulley for the base tune, the force-fed 5.4L screamed its way to an evil 666 rwhp. Knowing this was just scratching the surface of the TVS' potential, Evolution quickly installed the 2.6-inch blower pulley, and output jumped to 700 rwhp. As the power level began to push the limits of the stock fuel system, Evolution added 72-pound injectors and a Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump. The newest round of mods yielded a final result of 720 rwhp and 710 lb-ft of torque.

The 5.4L mill was built by Springfield Custom Auto Machine and is capable of producing well over 900 rwhp.

With the GT500s able to hit the 800-rwhp mark with a stock engine, Ricky set the power goals high for his Shelby. Not satisfied with his prior attempts, the TVS was put up for sale; in its place went a monstrous 3.4L Whipple. Evolution Performance capped the addition of the huffer with a set of its fuel rails, American Racing long-tube headers, and a C&L intake. With 800 rwhp as the goal, the Shelby was strapped back down to the dyno for the tune. A series of pulls resulted in 770 rwhp, and Ricky knew it was time to go for broke. The addition of extra boost and a fresh tune was exactly what was needed to break into the 800hp zone. While he broke the barrier, the end result was six broken rods and catastrophic engine failure.

Not one to quit, Ricky turned once again to Curley Engineering, and the mangled mill was removed. Springfield Custom Auto Machine handled the build, and after a short conversation, the decision was made that an 0.020-over 5.4L block filled with Oliver rods and custom-coated CP pistons would be the foundation for this GT500's new heart and soul. The compression was bumped to 9:1, and Race Development was called into action to rebuild the cylinder heads. A set of Ford GT supercar cams were enlisted to handle the forced air from the massive Whipple and expel the exhaust gasses.

The aggressive stance of the GT500 coupled with the iconic Gulf colors make Ricky's Shelby stand out. The lovely Tara Froysland complements it all.

While the motor was being built, Ricky knew it was time to make his Shelby something special. The historic colors of the '69 Gulf GT40 were the perfect complement to the massive power. He called on Wentworth Collision of Lusby, Maryland to handle the task.

Howard Wentworth first stripped the Shelby to an empty shell, then layered the Gulf Blue and Corral Orange over the factory panels. The job was so extensive that the entire engine bay, door jambs, and even under the car to some extent, were sprayed. To add an authentic touch, the Gulf logos and racing numbers were added prior to the clearcoat, giving the car a realistic race-inspired look. The combination of an aftermarket hood, Shelby wheels, and Gulf paint makes this Mustang a real a one-off machine that screams with a bold, racy look and massive performance from the hopped-up 5.4L DOHC mill.

So far, Ricky's GT500 has produced an astounding 800-plus rwhp, and with the addition of the new mill, the horsepower goal is in the 900-plus range. "The car drives like it just came out of the factory," Ricky adds. "That is-until you step on the gas pedal."