Jim Smart
January 13, 2010

Jan and Marsha Byrd enjoy the fruits of owning a successful body shop in rural Illinois. Primarily in the business of auto body repair and painting, Jan also gets to take on the occasional restoration project, like his concours restored Grabber Green '70 Boss 429, a rolling showcase of his talents as an automobile craftsman.

Jan doesn't just talk high-performance Fords, he lives them. His collection includes a new Ford GT super car, '94 Mustang GT, '95 Cobra R, '70 Boss 429, and this '08 Shelby GT500 Super Snake, all shared with his wife, Marsha, whom he has been with since just after high school. When we first photographed the Byrds' GT500 in the fall of 2007, it was fresh off the truck from Ford's Flat Rock, Michigan, assembly plant.

Marsha tells us, "Maybe I was different than the other girls because, when I was in high school, I already loved Mustangs. After school, I went to work earning minimum wage as a secretary and saved every penny for the down payment on a Bright Yellow '72 Mach 1 with racing mirrors, 351 Cleveland, and three-speed." Shortly after taking delivery of her '72 Mach 1, she met Jan, who liked Marsha's Mustang so much that he ordered a Bright Yellow '73 Mach 1 for himself.

"Looking back over 34 years of marriage, we still share the same passion and love for these cars that we did in the early years," Marsha comments. "Through the years, we've owned many Mustangs, from coupes and fastbacks to convertibles and Shelbys."

It was Marsha who wanted the '08 GT500 with its 5.4L DOHC engine and Tremec six-speed transmission. When they took delivery in September of 2007, it was beyond their comprehension that there could be a Super Snake version with even more power. "Marsha doesn't do anything half way," Jan tells us. "She wasn't going to settle for anything less than 725 horsepower." When her GT500 arrived that fall, the plan was to have it converted into a Super Snake as soon as Shelby Automobiles could schedule it. It would be a 13-month wait.

When Shelby called in the winter of 2008-'09, the Byrds weren't about to trust their GT500 to a shipping company. They decided to load it on a trailer themselves and haul it 1,700 miles to Las Vegas using a newly purchased F250. "Delivering the car yourself is a huge part of the Super Snake experience," Jan reflects. The Byrds arrived during Carroll Shelby's birthday bash on January 11, so their timing was impeccable. At noon the next day, the car was inspected and checked in by Shelby personnel.

When you look at Marsha's '08 GT500 right off the truck, it looks buck naked without the GT500 stripes and graphics. The motivation to order this car with stripe delete was knowing that the stripes would have to come off anyway for the Super Snake conversion. With the GT500 checked in, Shelby Automobiles gave them a tour of the plant and showed them the process. Confident their Shelby was in good hands, the Byrds closed up the trailer and headed for home.

In the course of 12 weeks, Marsha's GT500 went through quite the transformation, going from wild to downright insane at 725 horsepower. And it didn't come cheap at $35,876.36 for all the extras. What Shelby did was make the already terrific GT500 a better-balanced track car thanks to a healthy relationship with Ford Racing Performance Parts. The result is a variety of tuning options that can yield anywhere from 600 hp to 725. Each Shelby GT500 Super Snake is a handbuilt ride, constructed by teams who see it through from check-in to completion.

"Mustang enthusiasts are demanding more from both Ford Racing and Shelby Automobiles," said Jamie Allison, manager of the Ford Racing Performance Group, in a recent interview. "The GT500 Super Snake package, with its higher horsepower levels and track-inspired tuning, satisfies these demands and then some in a uniquely Ford and Shelby way."

Amy Boylan, president of Shelby Automobiles, said, "The name 'Super Snake' is legendary because the original one Shelby built was the pinnacle of muscle cars in 1967."

Marsha decided on the 725hp Super Snake package, which comes without a warranty. Now, that's trust. Yet it's a magnificent interstate cruiser offering nearly 20 miles to a gallon. Scavenging the fumes is a Ford Racing high-performance dual exhaust system. Where this Super Snake walks the walk is in its Ford Racing suspension system, which offers adjustable struts and shocks, lowering springs, tuned stabilizer bars, and strut tower brace. On the ground are huge 20-inch Alcoa wheels. Stop action comes from Baer six-piston disc brakes with Shelby calipers and extra-large rotors, which are cooled by a sophisticated cooling duct system. The hood is a unique carbon composite material featuring Shelby's own styling. People know you're coming thanks to the narrow-wide-narrow stripes over the top.

When Jan and Marsha arrived in Las Vegas to pick up their Super Snake, it was one of the most thrilling experiences of their lifetime. "The car has proven to be everything they said it would be," Marsha tells us. "After all these years, I find myself enjoying Mustangs more than I did way back when."

The first thing Jan and Marsha had to do before loading the car was to take a quick spin. Thank goodness they had the vast Nevada desert to play in. "You won't find me driving a four-door sedan," Marsha adds with a smile. "But you may see me pass you at 70 mph spinning my rear tires!"

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