Here's a bit of trivia that'll appeal to both gearheads and film buffs: what's the only Ford Mustang to receive a star title credit in a movie? (*insert Jeopardy music*) Give up? That would be Eleanor from Gone in 60 Seconds. In the original 1974 film, Eleanor is played by a 1971 Mustang Sportsroof. But in the 2000 remake starring Nicolas Cage, Eleanor is a custom 1967 Mustang Fastback depicted as a Shelby GT500. According to Motor Authority, this Eleanor sold for a whopping $1 million at auction in 2013.
Why does it matter what cars have co-starred with Nic Cage? Well, maybe it doesn't, but if you don't know much about Shelby Mustangs, that's probably your entry point. The Shelby Mustang was produced from 1965-1970, first by Shelby American, then later by Ford when Shelby American began experiencing financial problems. The line was resurrected by Ford in 2005 and is still in current (albeit sporadic) production.
The GT500 was added to the lineup in 1967. It boasted a 428cu 7.0L V8 engine (or a Cobra Jet V8 if you got the King of the Road version) and was available either as a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual.
But that was 51 years ago, and baby, we've come a long way since then. Ford has just officially confirmed that we're getting a new GT500 in 2019. Here are 20 facts you absolutely need to know (along with pics of the 2013 GT500 because, agonizingly, that's basically all we have right now).
The rumor mill has been going full throttle (pun intended) for about four years already. But last month, Ford finally confirmed the 2019 GT500 at the North American International Auto Show. According to Joe Hinrichs, head of global operations for Ford, the car will be the most powerful production car in Ford's history. And as an added bonus, the new GT500 will be street legal.
As you can expect, Ford is being pretty hush-hush about the whole thing. This new GT500 has huge shoes to fill. It carries the Shelby legacy on its shoulders. The developers at Ford want to make absolutely certain that the car is ready to take on the weight of that responsibility before they release it. But if looks are anything to go by, count me convinced.
Since the new GT500 hasn't been released yet (nor do we have a prototype to look at), we know precious little beyond the snippets Ford provided at the NAIAS and whatever else the rumor mill has cooked up.
But here's one thing we do know: the new GT500 will have over 700 horsepower. Rumors have put the number as high as 750, but only time will tell.
Seven hundred horsepower is one of those stupidly high numbers that almost don't have a place in reality. So, just for comparison, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta has 731 bhp, the Lamborghini Aventador has 710 bhp, and the Pagani Huayra has 720 bhp. With 700+ confirmed (and 750 rumored), the new GT500 might just transcend the rank of muscle cars into supercar territory.
The 2019 GT500 is assumed to be Ford's answer to Chevrolet's Camaro ZL1 and Dodge's Challenger SRT Hellcat. Although the Camaro ZL1 originally debuted in 1969, the 2018 model uses the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from a Corvette Z06, which gives it 650 bhp. Meanwhile, the SRT Hellcat also has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, but theirs is good for 707 bhp.
Now that Ford has confirmed at least 700 bhp for the GT500, it looks like their answer is going to be a good one. American muscle cars have always had such a larger-than-life reputation; it's good to see a new generation of heavyweights keeping the rivalry alive. Competition brings out the best in everyone, and it's all the better if your best just happens to be really, really fast.
How fast will a 700+ bhp car go? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. The 707 bhp 2018 Dodge Challenger Hellcat SRT does 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and has a top speed of 195 mph. Meanwhile, the 710 bhp Lamborghini Aventador has a 0-60 of 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 217 mph. And those two barriers (the three-second 0-60 and the 200 mph top speed) are a good albeit not in any way official marker of a supercar.
Of course, one could argue that a muscle car isn't meant to be a supercar anyway. They're built for one purpose: to go fast for a quarter mile. However, the new GT500 is expected to break that 200 mph threshold, so could it be the rare vehicle that's both muscle car and supercar?
16 I Spy
Part of the reason the rumor mill has been working overtime is that we've had such little information to go on. In fact, for a long time, we've had to content ourselves with grainy spy photos of supposed GT500 mule cars (such as the one pictured here). These were first seen in Ford's Michigan-based development facility in early 2016.
Everyone has been bursting with speculation ever since. What kind of engine will it have? What kind of transmission? How will it compare to past GTs?
Seriously, waiting is the worst. And the longer we have to wait, the crazier the ideas are going to get. Maybe it'll talk ala K.I.T.T.! Maybe it'll fly like a Jetsons car! Maybe it'll be affordable for the average Joe! Okay, that one's probably the real dream.
Since pics were leaked last year of an engine that Ford was testing, rumors have been particularly keen along those lines. A V8 seems likely, but what kind of V8? Twin-turbo? Supercharged?
One of the few announcements we did get from Ford at the NAIAS was that the new GT500 will have the supercharged 5.2L cross-plane crank V8.
Nicknamed the “Predator," the engine is a tuned version of the one in the GT350 and the GT350R. If the new GT500 is truly going to be the most powerful production car Ford's ever made, that'll mean the Predator will be more powerful than even the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in Ford's GT supercar—which, in case you were wondering, is bonkers. Just utterly and completely insane.
If the new GT500 is going to be handling a mega amount of power (and all indications point to the affirmative), it's going to need a serious transmission to handle it. What will that transmission be? Unfortunately, Ford didn't include that information in their presentation. Popular opinion points to options of 6-speed manual or 10-speed automatic, such as is in the Camaro ZL1. Motor Trend has even speculated it would receive the 10-speed automatic from the F-150 Raptor, which would be a first for any GT500.
Call me old-fashioned, but I vote for the manual option. To be a really proper muscle car, manual transmission is key. I realize that not very many people drive manuals these days, but the GT500 has a legacy to uphold, and that comes first in my book.
If the new GT500 truly has over 700 bhp, that means it would double the 335 bhp of its granddaddy, the original 1967 GT500. The original featured lightweight fiberglass intakes, spoiler, and hood. It also had a Le Mans-esque stripe package. But it was the 7.0L 428 V8 engine called the "Cobra Le Mans" that made it special. The GT500's predecessors (the Cobra roadster and the GT350) only had 289s. To go from that to a 428 was basically seen as pure insanity at the time.
In 1969, Ford took over production and gave the GT500 a facelift (and also four extra inches of length—no jokes please). Naturally, they kept the 7.0L 428 V8 engine, even though they lost the Cobra tag that year.
The original Ford Mustang began in 1962 as a two-seat concept car. Since that time, the Mustang has been in continuous production, and it's currently in its sixth generation. Meanwhile, Shelby Mustangs were only produced from 1965-1970. As the Mustangs moved on, the Shelbys languished in legend until their reintroduction in 2007.
There are Mustangs, and then there are Shelby Mustangs. What makes the Shelbys so special? The Shelbys are the high-performance bloodline of the Mustang family—the top-shelf Mustang, if you will. They boast much bigger engines and much higher horsepower. Compare the 700+ promised bhp in the new GT500 with the current gen Mustang's 300 bhp 3.7L V6. Yeah, it's not much of a comparison. The Mustangs may be one big, happy family, but they know not to mess with big brother Shelby.
11 The Legend
The Shelby Mustangs are, of course, named for the legendary Carroll Shelby. Shelby was born in rural Texas in 1923. After fighting in World War II, he started what was to become an extremely successful career as a racecar driver. He was even named Sports Illustrated's driver of the year in 1956 and 1957, and he co-drove his way to victory in the 1959 Le Mans. After retiring from racing, he founded Shelby American, a car-manufacturing company. Though he worked with Dodge and later Ford, Shelby was instrumental in the development of dozens of key cars in the history of the American automotive industry, of which the GT500 is arguably the most famous. He passed away from cardiac issues in 2012 at the age of 89.
10 Racing History
Considering Carroll Shelby's illustrious racing career, it's not surprising that the GT500 was designed, first and foremost, to be a racing car. Although Ford has since civilized it (giving it a radio, airbags, air conditioning, etc.), in its original iteration, it wasn't practical or even comfortable. It was just fast.
Carroll Shelby once said of the 1967 GT500, "This is the first car I'm really proud of."
Some of that probably has to do with the fact that Shelby's racing team used the GT's big 427 engines to take one-two-three in the 1966 French Classic (beating the Ferrari team and their 270cu V12s). Looking at it that way, it's not hard to see why Shelby has been called America's answer to Enzo Ferrari.
What sort of price tag will the 2019 GT500 have? Well, all we can really do at this point is guess. The 2018 Mustang GT starts at around $35,000, but it's only got 420 bhp. The last GT500, the 2014 model (which had a more comparable 662 bhp), started at around $55,000. That's a $20,000 swing, but okay... we're just guessing here.
Is there any other way we can narrow the price down? Well, if the GT500 is supposed to be Ford's answer to the Camaro ZL1 and the Challenger SRT Hellcat, we could look at those prices to maybe get a better estimate. The ZL1 starts around $61,000, and the SRT Hellcat starts around $65,000. So, while we don't know for sure, I'd bet money that the new GT500 will be in the $60k range. But not that much money—because I've got to start saving up.
When the first spy shots of the new GT500 started to appear, many people thought Ford was working on a new Bullitt Mustang. It makes sense—2018 is the 50th anniversary of the 1968 movie Bullitt. Steve McQueen stars as the title character, and the film's chase scene (which features a green 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback vs the villains' black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T) is considered one of the most influential in cinema history.
As it turns out, there'll be a new Bullitt available this year (pictured here), but it pales in comparison to the GT500.
Its re-tuned 5.0-liter V8 engine will have 475 bhp and a max speed of 163 mph. But of course, it's carrying a legacy of a different kind, and far be it from me to criticize Steve McQueen's iconic ride.
Unfortunately, we have no clue (literally none) about what kind of interior the 2019 GT500 will have. Mustang interiors haven't always been the greatest. Often, they're downright cheap looking. But if we're right in assuming the new GT500 will be priced in the $60,000+ range, I think it's safe to say that buyers will be expecting something a bit more special.
Maybe we can look to the new 2013 GT500 (pictured here) for clues. There's still liberal use of the cheap, hard plastics often found in Mustang interiors. Reviews say the backseat is claustrophobic, and since all GTs, except the 350, are four-seaters, there may be a pattern here. Ultimately, this all means nothing for the 2019 GT500, so let's just hope it's as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
If buyers are going to be shelling out $60,000+ for the 2019 GT500, what else can they expect to get for their money besides a 700 bhp Predator engine? Blueprint leaks from late 2017 offer a few clues.
Rumor has it the GT500 will be the first Mustang to have carbon-ceramic brake pads.
As you may already know, carbon-ceramic brake pads are primarily used in race cars. Brakes use friction to slow cars down, and carbon-ceramic can handle the high temperatures that occur during sudden stops, like in a race. This likely signals the kind of life that Ford envisions its new creation will have—a joyous existence flitting to and fro between race tracks rather than weathering the nitty gritty as a daily driver. Or perhaps they just wanted to use the words "carbon-ceramic" in the brochure.
5 Driving Modes
Another thing the blueprint leak revealed in late 2017 was that the 2019 GT500 will likely have three drive modes: Drag Strip, Launch Control, and Weather. Launch Control is pretty typical in newer, high-performance cars. It's an electronic assistant that helps cars launch as smoothly as possible from a standing start. Weather, meanwhile, is fairly self-explanatory. If you encounter rain, snow, mud, etc., you flip on Weather mode, and the car will give you better traction.
Ford just debuted their Drag Strip mode in the 2018 Mustang GT. Carl Widmann, the Mustang's chief engineer, said, "Typically, when you shift gears, you give up time. In Drag Strip mode, the engine torque doesn't drop when you're shifting. You get peak engine torque and horsepower straight through thanks to our new Ford-built 10-speed transmission."
4 What's In A Name?
Even though the cars have always been called the "Ford Mustang Shelby GT500," the reality is that Carroll Shelby was only involved with them for two years. In 1969, Shelby dissolved his agreement with Ford, and although he did have a little say in the 1969 models, the cars have essentially been made without any of his input since then. Yet they've kept his name.
So what's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or so we've been told by Juliet. But I think this is a bit different here. By continuing to use the Shelby name, Ford is, in a way, agreeing to hold themselves to the standard of the legendary automaker. I'm sure you do NOT want ghost Carroll Shelby haunting you because he didn't like the latest GT500.
Another thing that happened in 1969 is that the GT350 and the GT500 lost their Cobra tag. Therefore, they were marketed just as the Shelby GT500 rather than the Shelby Cobra GT500. In 2005, Ford put Cobra badges on their Shelby CS6/8, but they didn't actually call it a Cobra. In 2008, owners of the rebooted GT500s could send their cars to Carroll Shelby's Special Performance Plant in Las Vegas to get the Super Snake performance package for around $28,000. But that still didn't make them Cobras. And by gawd, you do NOT call a Shelby a Cobra around gearhead circles unless it's truly a Cobra—if you know what's good for you.
But if you've seen Ford's video teaser for the 2019 GT500, you'll notice it stars a certain serpent. Yes, that's right, folks—this will be a new, legit Shelby Cobra GT500!
You might think that you couldn't possibly come up with a reason why you should modify a car that'll already have 700+ bhp and will likely cost over $60,000. But I can come up with an easy reason: why settle for SOME when you can have MORE? More is always better. So what kind of performance packages and upgrades can we expect to be available for the 2019 GT500?
Tuning house Hennessey Performance Engineering has a range of upgrades that can pump the GT350 from 526 bhp to a flipping-insane 1,000 bhp.
They can also take a Dodge Viper and a ZR1 Corvette up to 1,200 bhp. Imagine what they could do with the new GT500! Turns out you're really going to need those carbon-ceramic brakes.
So, when do we get to possibly drive this super amazing 700+ horse-powered, Predator-engined, Cobra-badged masterpiece? If you watched Ford's teaser video, you already know that the only clue they've given us is "Arriving in 2019." And considering 2018 just began, that feels like a very long time away. I mean, it doesn't even say when in 2019. Ford could wait clear until December 31, 2019 to release it and still be able to say they kept their word. It just all seems terribly unfair.
In the meantime, I guess we'll have to content ourselves with watching the teaser video 12 million times until we have the sound of that roaring V8 memorized. I'm already well on my way. Also, I want a pet cobra. Don't judge me.