Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
June 8, 2017

Is the Shelby GT500 Returning?

For nearly 40 years enthusiasts have coveted '60s Muscle Cars for their compelling designs, fun names and high-horsepower engines. Who wouldn't want an LS6 Chevelle, 440 Road Runner or Boss 429 Mustang in the garage? But if you want the ultimate in showroom performance, your hot rod better be new and be called ZL1, Hellcat, Demon or Shelby.

Truth be told, today's muscle cars are the real heroes. Dodge, Ford and GM continue to offer ludicrous horsepower with reasonable economy, loads of safety, great handling and fantastic styling. Proof that Ford is up to something comes from these spy photos, which may very well be the next Shelby GT500 Mustang.

And if it is, we're expecting some big horsepower numbers. Not long ago, 500 horsepower got it done, but today 500 gets you an 'eye roll.' GM offers a 650 hp Camaro, Ford has produced a 662 hp Mustang and a 526 hp all-motor Mustang, and Dodge, as you know, will sell you a 707 Challenger or its special-production, 800-plus hp Demon. This, my friends, is war!

So the question is, just how nasty will the Mustang get? Talk is that Ford is working on a world-beater that can go really fast in a straight line. We're not sure if the men in the glass house will march on with the Shelby moniker—Cobra worked just fine from 1993-2004. But whatever it's called, Mustang fans are expecting something big.

Fans just don't know whether they'll get twin turbos or a blower. And if it's a supercharger, will it be a twin-screw or a TVS? What's important is to win the horsepower war, or, more specifically, the performance war. Either way, Ford will need to unleash more ponies from the barn.

Ford's has experience with both turbocharging and supercharging, not to mention all out naturally aspirated engines, too. So, how much power does the Mustang need? Our guess is 750-800.

Roush Performance currently offers a 670 horsepower package that is basically a 435hp 5.0 Coyote with a Roush/Ford Performance TVS supercharger. Owners can be upgraded to 727hp, which will produce 10-second time slips at about 130 mph. Dipping into the current parts bin, Ford could utilize this blower, add displacement (think 5.2L) and bolt down the better-flowing GT350 heads. That's a seemingly simple 750-plus hp solution. And given that the Mustang is about 500 lbs lighter than the Challenger, you'd have a combo capable of mid-10s at 135 mph. Yes, please.

The stumbling block, as we see it, will be the transmission. Classically, all Cobra, GT350 and GT500 drivers have rowed a six-speed shift lever and kicked a clutch pedal. No autos allowed. But it seems an auto is the way to quick ETs these days. Just look at the Hellcat and the ZO6, which are both 10-second capable with the auto, and no so much with the stick. It will also need lots of rubber meeting the road and the tires may very well tell the tale on this prototype. Upon closer inspection, you can see Ford has scrubbed almost all the markings off the sidewall, what's visible are "305/30/ZR20" on the front tires, which are similar to the fronts on the current GT350R, (which measure 305/3019). And these may be a brand new Pilot Sport 4S that Michelin just launched.

To run 10s the Mustang will need to produce 1.60-1.65 60-foot times, and that's a big ask with a clutch, IRS, Earth-rotating torque and a short sidewall tire. With the Dodge and Chevy you mount up a set of drag radials, powerbrake and go. These quarter-milers utilize an auto, but Mustang purists will expect a stick no matter what. So what does Ford do? Offer both? That may be too expensive for the limited-production pony. Offer a dual-clutch? Great for open-track driving, but probably not the best for drag racing. Go auto, which would be the 10-second ticket, and risk pissing off the purists. It will be a tough choice no doubt, but ultimately, it's critical that Ford produce turn-key, 10-second quarter-mile times and only time will tell how they'll get it done.

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