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Ford Unveils Shelby Cobra GT500 Show Car
The new Shelby Cobra GT500 boasts 450-plus-hp, a supercharged V-8, 6-speed manual transmission and SVT-tuned suspension
"The restrained, performance-oriented SVT design theme has become instantly recognizable to enthusiasts without brash styling cues," says Doug Gaffka, SVT chief designer. "The GT500 takes a huge leap forward by combining the modern Mustang muscle car with the classic Shelby performance look to expand SVT's reach to a much bigger audience."
The 2005 Mustang design team drew inspiration from classic 1968 Mustangs, the models that transformed the mild-mannered pony car into a muscle car with attitude. Envisioning an SVT model, the team tested GT500 design cues on the Mustang GT coupe concept that was unveiled at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. In 2004, designers further developed the GT500 look on the Mustang GT-R, a race-bred concept with the dual purpose of foreshadowing SVT's Mustang design direction and Ford Racing's plans to return Mustang to road racing.
The GT500 now comes into full light, punctuated by the classic Le Mans-style white stripes that race along the top of the show car's "SVT Red" paint from nose to tail. The stripes recall the Shelby Mustangs that marked another important 1960's Mustang transition when Ford put it on the track to becoming a racing legend. The GT500 nomenclature is prominent in the lower bodyside racing stripe, another cue from the classic Shelby Mustangs.
"The new Mustang has classic design cues from some of the best-looking Mustangs of all-time, including the Shelbys," says Keith Rogman, Ford senior designer. "The design of the GT500 has been at the forefront of our minds since the outset of the entire Mustang program."
The Shelby design elements alone are enough to tell the GT500 story but are not the only visual cues that set this Mustang apart. The reworked front fascia features a functional air splitter and the unique hood has heat-extraction ducts, combining to provide improved airflow and aerodynamics. Revised headlamp insets offer a more aggressive look and result in symmetrical upper and lower grilles with large air openings, creating a visual connection to vintage Shelby Mustangs.
The unique rear fascia features strakes inspired by the Ford GT's integrated rear airflow diffuser, and a rear spoiler reminiscent of a classic GT500. To mark the collaboration of two Mustang performance icons, the GT500 features Shelby and SVT badging.
Continuing the snake logo tradition of past-generation SVT Mustang Cobras, as well as late-model Shelby Mustangs, the fenders each feature an updated design of the Cobra. For the first time on any SVT Mustang, the front grille features an off-center snake in place of the standard running horse. "GT500" is emblazoned inside the side rocker stripes, and the name "SHELBY" is prominently featured across the rear deck. The SVT logo can be seen on the wheel center caps, a signature SVT location, as well as on the doorsill plates. To top if off, the "gas cap" medallion between the taillights reads "Shelby GT500" centered on the Cobra image.
The interior is completely wrapped in ebony black leather, including the top of the dash, door panels and center arm rest. Also wrapped in ebony leather are the shift lever, shift boot and parking-brake handle. SVT Red leather seats and door panel inserts provide a marked contrast to the rest of the leather-trimmed cabin, surrounding the performance enthusiast with luxury and comfort. Snake logos embroidered into the seat backs finish the package.
"We've taken leather design trends to a new level by using it on almost every exposed surface in the GT500," says Rogman. "Leather has long been a performance fashion accessory for enthusiasts, from jackets to racing gloves, so it perfectly matches all the other driving oriented cues."
The Shelby GT500 script and Cobra image are repeated on the steering wheel cap. Behind the wheel are titanium-faced gauges swapped in location so that the tachometer is dominant visually for the driver. The chrome accessories inside the cabin have been replaced with a satin aluminum finish, including the aluminum shift lever knob that is nicely positioned for quick, positive shifts of the six-speed transmission.
SVT and Shelby: The Legends Grow
With the look and legend one would expect from Carroll Shelby and the kind of power and performance enthusiasts have come to expect from SVT, the GT500 show car points to a brand new era in Ford Motor Company's performance future.
"Carroll Shelby is truly a living automotive legend, a Ford performance legend," says Martens. "It's a dream come true to be able to put the Shelby name on a Mustang again."
Carroll Shelby first put his name on a Mustang back in 1964 when he was asked to inject some high performance into the brand-new pony car. The result was the GT-350R, a lightweight, handling-focused race car that earned the Mustang its first performance credentials. Subsequent Shelby Mustangs included a street version of the race car, the GT-350, and what was known as the "rent-a-racer" Mustang, the GT-350H, a joint project with the Hertz rental car corporation.
The ultimate Shelby Mustang of the era was the GT-500KR, or "King of the Road." Powered by a big block 428-cubic inch "Cobra Jet" V-8, the GT-500 was one of the most powerful, and memorable, muscle cars of that period. Shelby Mustang production ceased in 1970 with a total volume of 14,559 units.
The Ford Special Vehicle Team brought performance back to Mustang in 1993. After 12 years and with nearly 80,000 high-performance Mustangs on the streets, and a total SVT vehicle production nearing 145,000 vehicles, SVT is primed for growth with the GT500 serving as the foundation for other performance Mustang projects.
By bringing together Carroll Shelby and Ford SVT, the company's commitment to performance becomes as powerful as at any time in its history - including the famed "Total Performance" days of the 1960s. From the Ford GT supercar, the GT500, to a rejuvenated Ford Racing Performance Parts program - performance and racing adds luster to its proud brand heritage.
"SVT has been and will remain the leader in performance vehicle engineering and marketing," says Martens. "SVT remains unique in offering the total performance experience. The return of Carroll Shelby to our performance family only strengthens our firepower."