Ford Mustang spawns the fabled high-performance Shelby GT500

2010, Ford, Shelby GT500

YUCCA, Ariz. -- In the pancake-flat Arizona desert near Yucca, a blacktop strip of asphalt three lanes wide runs for five miles in a long oval lap with banked curves at each end connected by two-mile straights.

That's the perfect venue to burn lightening-fast laps in what amounts to a super-powered rendition of Ford's classic pony car -- the fabled Mustang.

Mustang's performance models go by the name of Shelby Mustangs, after racing legend Carroll Shelby.

On the track one particular Shelby Mustang -- the new 2010 Shelby GT500 coupe -- stocks a big 5.4-liter iron-block V8 engine force-fed an air-and-fuel mixture via a Roots-type supercharger pumping 9.0 pounds of boost per square inch.

It delivers a sizzling 540 hp at 6200 rpm plus mountainous torque of 510 lb-ft at 4500 rpm to forge the most powerful SVT-tuned performance Mustang.

SVT means Special Vehicle Team, acronym for a group of automotive engineers at Ford who create high-performance cars by applying special suspension hardware and engine tuning, racer-size brakes with big speed-rated tires and other accoutrement of lickety-split road romping.

The new Shelby GT500 also carries a TR6060 Tremec six-speed manual transmission, SVT-tuned front and rear suspension components and Brembo four-piston aluminum front brake calipers for the huge 14-inch vented discs.

Wheels are unique 19-inch machined aluminum alloy milled on both sides and crowned by SVT center caps, with speed-rated Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubber -- 255/40Z19 front and 285/35Z19 rear.

Hang onto your seatbelt because this thing, feeling like some vintage rocket-charged racer, rips around the track at triple-digit speed while delivering a deep-throat Shelby sound from dual stainless steel tail pipes with four-inch tips.

Way to go-go, Carroll Shelby and Ford SVT, for crafting this rocket sled in Mustang's Shelby GT500.

Mustang tracks back decades in the history of Ford Motor Company to the original Mustang notchback coupe, which debuted in 1964 to set a generation on edge with envy. It went down as one of the most successful products in automotive history, accounting for over a million units sold in only the first 18 months of production.

Many iterations followed, from the first variation with Mustang Fastback of 1965 and a powerful 1968 GT to such muscle machines as the Boss 302 of 1970, 1984's Mustang SVO and a raucous Cobra in 1993.

The first Shelby version of Mustang rolled out in 1965 badged as the GT350 and wearing paint called Wimbledon White with blue rocker panel stripes outlining the GT350 name. It packed a 289-ci V8 with Cobra valve covers and Holley carburetor to boost output to 325 hp.

Revised Mustang models of 2004 traced to a revival of Mustang in 1994 built off Ford's Fox platform, and the performance models dubbed Shelby Mustangs capped with a 2009 Shelby GT500.

But for 2010 Ford's pony car was recast with significant revisions, such as the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) chassis with welded steel unibody construction gaining front and rear subframes to mount steering and suspension systems.

The 2010 Shelby GT500 spins off the 2010 Mustang and comes in coupe and convertible variations.

It's easy to detect the new iterations because each 2010 GT500 wears a pair of broad Le Mans racing stripes which extend from the front fascia to a flush hood, across the low roof and over the tail deck.

The design of front fascia and hood helps to direct air flow around this racy machine. That high gaping grille pulls fresh air into the radiator, while the low grille feeds air into the car's intercooler.

An aggressive front splitter and low-drag tail spoiler enhance the vehicle's aerodynamics. And the spoiler incorporates a Gurney Flap to add downforce air to keep the rear wheels pinned on the pavement at high speed.

That flared chrome snake, traditional symbol of Mustang Cobra, mounts on the front grille and fenders.

Issues of personal safety in the Shelby GT500 are addressed with strong structural elements and energy-absorbing crush zones front and rear plus a variety of active and passive safety systems aboard.

All versions contain dual-stage frontal air bags for front riders plus seat-mounted side air bags up front.

Equipment promoting active safety includes rack and pinion steering and the big disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and all-speed traction control (ASTC) coupled with Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control (ESC) device.

In the cockpit, there are sport bucket seats clad in real leather with contrasting racing stripes and Alcantera accents, plus real aluminum on the instrument panel finish panels in dimpled texture inspired by racing clutch plates and cross-drilled racing brake rotors.

The dashboard center stack extends down to the console which houses a flush shifter trim ring, flush cup holder door and lockable stowage bin.

And a white ball atop the shifter stick -- icon of Shelby Mustang DNA from years past -- shows racing stripes wrapping from end to end around the knob.

A revised ambient lighting kit in the cabin illuminates door pockets, cupholders and footwells, while the MyColor color-configured instrument cluster brings 125 color choices for backlighting of dashboard instruments from the seven base colors of ice blue, purple, blue, orange, red, white and green.

Fresh accessories aboard range from Ford Sync with voice control over in-vehicle phones, media players and USB storage devices to a Shaker 500 audio system with eight speakers plus AM/FM/CDx6/MP3 and Sirius satellite radio with satellite navigation through Sirius Travel Link.

Also stock to the GT500 are items like foglamps, power controls for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system, ultrasonic interior motion sensor and perimeter anti-theft battery, plus a remote keyless entry system and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Optional gear for Shelby GT500 extends to a voice-activated navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate controls, high intensity discharge (HID) headlights, Music Jukebox for CD ripping, and a Shaker 1000 audio system with ten speakers.

Ford marks the MSRP figures for a 2010 Shelby GT500 at $46,350 for the coupe version and $51,350 for the rag-top convertible.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2010, Ford Shelby GT500

2010 Ford Shelby GT500
2010 Ford Shelby GT500
racing stripe theme on the seats.
racing stripe theme on the seats.
Racing stripes are available for the first time on the convertible
Racing stripes are available for the first time on the convertible
the iconic snake
the iconic snake