Hear that? The new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is just around the corner
The 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 is just around the corner. Ford officially teased the car’s 700-plus horsepower last year, and a photo of the car was recently leaked from a dealer meeting. That points to a likely debut at the 2018 L.A. Auto show in November or the 2019 North American International Auto Show in January.
With the fastest, most powerful Mustang ever sold by Ford oh-so-close to being a reality, we thought now would a good time to review its lineage. Various aftermarket versions of the Mustang from different incarnations of Shelby American have been offered over the years, but we’re limiting this lineage to those offered through official Ford sales channels.
With the Shelby GT350 a veritable SCCA racing weapon, Shelby applied the “more is better” maxim and created the GT500 when Ford updated the Mustang’s design in 1967. It featured the 428-cubic-inch “Police Interceptor” engine making a claimed 355 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Owing to the greater weight of the big-block, the GT500 is more suited towards straight-line speed on the street and drag strip rather than carving up a technical road course. It also had far less input from Carroll Shelby than the GT350, with assembly of the car moving to Ford’s Ionia, Michigan plant.
In 1968, GT500 models were classified as KR, or “King of the Road” featuring the newer Cobra Jet 428 engine. Officially, it had less horsepower (335 hp) and more torque (420 lb-ft) than the previous year but is considered to be a gross underestimate.
The 1969 model year brought another update in Mustang styling, and the GT500 came with two big ol’ NACA ducts on the hood. Unsold 1969 cars were re-designed as 1970s. Carroll Shelby and Ford parted ways in ’69. Ford retained the “Cobra” trademark but the Shelby name would take almost forty years to return to the blue oval.
Carroll Shelby and Ford renewed their relationship in 2003, bringing the chili powder entrepreneur to the company’s Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters for consultation on a 2004 concept car reminiscent of the original Shelby Cobra. (It was eventually purchased by the engineer that helped build it.) A revived Shelby GT-H offered through the Hertz rental company followed, as well as a mildly upgraded Mustang GT dubbed the Ford Shelby GT.
Then in 2005 (for the 2007 model year) the Shelby name came back in big horsepower form with the new GT500. Pumping out an appropriate 500 horsepower from a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8, the new car featured the iconic snake logo on the grille instead of the galloping pony.
Even with that big power, capable of a 12.9-second quarter mile, Car and Driver lamented that the GT500 could use even more, and that it should have been able to out-accelerate the Chevy Corvette despite a 616-pound weight disadvantage.
Ford updated the Mustang’s retro looks in 2009 for the 2010 model year (modern Mustangs typically start model years in April of the previous year, so the timing gets confusing), with a more angular, aggressive design. Along with new sheetmetal came an extra 40 horsepower for the engine. An all-new aluminum engine with 10 extra horsepower arrived in 2011, as well as numerous upgrades to address earlier criticisms of the car’s on-track performance.
The 2013 GT500 is a major landmark in the horsepower wars. A new, supercharged 5.8-liter engine put out a jaw-dropping 662 horsepower—more than Chevy’s mighty 2009 Corvette ZR1—and powered the car to its incredible 202 mph top speed. It also inspired Dodge to break the 700-hp mark with their 2015 Hellcat. These particular Shelby Mustangs are easy to spot because they lack an actual grille. The front of the car is open to provide as much cooling airflow as possible.
2020 and beyond
What little we know about the upcoming GT500 is enough to make any muscle car fan geek out. More than 700 horsepower, yes, but we assume this car will come with an independent rear axle. That means this coming GT500 won’t only be the fastest, quickest, most-powerful Mustang ever, it should also be more fun to drive. If we haven’t said this enough, we’ll say it again: We live in a golden age of performance cars, and the 2020 GT500 will be even more proof.