Steve Statham
March 24, 2014
Photos By: courtesy Shelby American Performance Parts

Excess heat is the enemy of performance, and we've all seen the battlefield. Go to any race track and you'll witness signs of the struggle. We've all seen brake discs glowing like the surface of the sun as cars scrub off speed at a road course. Go to the pits at a drag strip and witness the racers balancing slowly melting bags of ice atop their intake manifolds.

More than one racer has been retired from competition by an overburdened cooling system, and few things are more frustrating than watching the race from the sidelines while your radiator pukes coolant like a college student at his first frat party. Fortunately, there are ways to keep crippling temperatures under control, especially for GT 500 owners.

Granted, in day-to-day driving, the GT 500 is a relatively cool customer. It's modern, fast, well-engineered, and, unlike a lot of big-block muscle cars from earlier times, will idle in traffic with air-conditioning set on Full Arctic with barely a twitch from the temperature gauge.

Go to the pits at a drag strip and witness the racers balancing slowly melting bags of ice atop their intake manifolds.

Most Shelby drivers, however, plan on more challenging driving than simply commuting between traffic lights. So when planning for track adventures with a GT 500, it's worth noting a couple of areas to watch. For one, the car is on the heavy side, which tends to stress braking systems. And two, even though the GT 500 comes from the factory with an intercooler, the 5.4-liter's supercharger generates considerable heat under hood.

This can be a problem because the GT 500s engine management is set on the conservative side, and once the supercharger starts spinning up some heat, the computer controls will pull back on the spark and timing. Ever take your GT 500 out for exercise and feel a noticeable drop in performance after, say, 15 or 20 minutes of driving versus when the car was first started?

That drag on performance is known as heat soak. "Heat soak is the enemy of a supercharged application," said Jer Gervasi, vice-president of Shelby Performance Parts. Fortunately, the Shelby parts division has a lot of weapons for battling the crippling effects of excess heat.

Most of the parts shown here come standard on the Shelby GT 500 Super Snake, but can be easily added to a standard GT 500, or even other Mustang variations. Some are easy DIY jobs, while others may require a more advanced automotive background for installation. Or, hey, you can always call up the Shelby Speed Shop and schedule an appointment to have it all done at the source.

Shelby GT 500 Extreme Duty Radiator

"The radiator and heat exchanger are the place to start for supercharged engines," said Gervasi. The Shelby GT 500 Extreme Duty Radiator (Z12-S7M-8005-C) was developed jointly by Shelby and C/R, and offers a unique core design and increased coolant capacity. The more coolant that circulates through the cooling system the better the heat dissipation spread across the increased volume. Under hard usage this radiator can reduce engine and cylinder head temperatures by up to 50 degrees, a significant performance edge. It utilizes the factory fan and condenser mounting locations.

Shelby Extreme Duty Coolant Reservoir Tanks
To keep a unified look under the hood when using the Extreme Duty Radiator, you can add SPP's Extreme Duty Coolant Reservoir Tanks (Z12-S11M-8080).

Shelby Extreme Duty Heat Exchanger
The cooler the air entering the engine the denser the air charge, allowing more fuel to be used in the mix. The result is more powerful combustion. Thus, the value of an intercooler and heat exchanger, which work together to cool the air before the engine drinks it in.

The GT 500 comes from the factory with an air-to-liquid intercooler with a single-pass heat exchanger. This SPP Extreme Duty Heat Exchanger (Z12-S5M-6K775-U) utilizes a proprietary NASCAR single-row core with a dual pass system—meaning the coolant flows a long and breezy path through the heat exchanger twice before returning to the intercooler. To make sure the heat gets pulled out of the fluid, the SPP heat exchanger employs two 709 cfm puller fans.

The Extreme Duty Heat Exchanger is one of the most potent weapons that can be employed against the frustrations of a heat-soaked GT 500 engine.