Hot Laps: 2010 Shelby GT 500
By Alex Kalogiannis
I remember when I bought my 2007 Shelby GT 500. It was shortly before Christmas, and I was shopping for gifts when I encountered it. Red, with white stripes all across the top, I couldn’t resist the urge to get a little Christmas gift for myself.
It now sits on the desk in my office.
The 1/15 scale die cast model has been an ever present reminder that I have not driven the genuine article. It’s not even as close as I’ve been to the real thing, I know someone who has one, same colors and everything. He has yet to let me drive it. So, as if set atop a bust of Pallas, my little Shelby taunts me. At this point, the likelihood that I’ll hop into one for some unadulterated thrashing is nil, but I think I’ve resolved the oversight by lighting up the tires of the new one.
My first encounter with the 2010 Shelby GT500 was on the floor of the NY International Auto Show, where, like a sleeping beast, it sat among the relative silence. Relative because looking at it, the GT500 gave of the sense that if disturbed, the front grill would snort and fill the event hall with a thunderous roar. Like the 500KR before it, this car looks downright mean. Your eyes immediately focus on the front fascia, with its distinctive Shelby snout beset with the Cobra badge. The GT 500 features front and rear diffusers, a massive heat extractor on the budging aluminum hood while along the side, you will find the GT 500 side stripes and more Cobra badging, all riding on 19” aluminum wheels.
Fortune has conspired since then to give me a few chances to take the GT 500 around in some closed circuit shenanigans in various weather conditions. Inside the cabin you will find all the general modifications made to the latest Mustang incarnations, notably the steering wheel with various command inputs, the redesigned center console with integrated SYNC system, and the smoothed out dash panel and vents. Unique to the GT 500 are the racing stripes along the seats, the brushed aluminum paneling, and a steering wheel wrapped in leather and alcantara where it counts. SVT graphics abound remind you that there has been a lot of grunt squeezed into this 2+2 coupe. Turn the key (and yes, mercifully, you actually turn the key), and the GT 500 awakens, rumbling and growling while one more Cobra appears on the nav screen to see you off.
With a victorious squeal, I set off down a handling course with as many elevations as there are bends. The cue-ball shift knob is just one of the tactile reminders that I’m not in a regular Mustang. The shifts through the gates of the 6-speed transmission are short, and the clutch finds its friction point quickly, with less feedback than I prefer. Through an inclined turn, momentum wants to send me hopping upwards and sideways, but the MacPherson strut front and solid axle 3 link rear suspensions do a surprising job keeping the car grounded to the road. Even when the rain comes down, there is still a surprising level of adherence to the tarmac, although fear will keep you properly in check. My reminder that the car was out of its element in the wet was a BMW X5M charging up behind me that couldn’t be shaken.
So corners can be survived well enough, but the beauty of the GT 500 emerges in a straight line. The Shelby and I emerge from a series of corners and towards the back straight of our venue, and the pedal is planted. The 5.4 liter V8 has no reason to hold back and spews out all 540 horses as fast as it can. Redline after redline, the supercharger whines as we climb ever higher from 100 mph onward without any willingness or reason to stop, other than the upcoming turn. Finally, we both relent just shy of 140mph and make the Brembos glow.
The jury is out on if the GT 500 can officially join the ranks of those labeled “supercar.” While definitely in the 500hp club, it’s hard to shy away from the fact that it’s mostly a very well crafted Mustang, which isn’t a negative point, but if one were to ask the same of its cousin, the Ford GT, there wouldn’t be much of an argument. However, for the base price, just under $50,000, you most certainly get plenty of muscle for your dollar. And being Mustang-derivative means it’s still useful day after day.
While track time is all well and good, there are more tests do be done, such as if it really is as useful as one can surmise, and if you can get through the day without getting pulled over for speeding fines and impromptu photo shoots. I thought giving it the business on a course would satisfy my Shelby hunger, but I’m now left hungry for more and longing for long strips of scenic highway, wooded back roads, and red light “encounters.” Until then, my desk GT 500 will have to do, but I’m no longer looking at it thinking about what could have been, but dreaming of what more there is to come.
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