Ford's Mustang just got a whole lot meaner.
This Shelby-badged GT500 monster roars and bucks like every one of the 500 horses reined under the hood got foot-stomping, shoe-throwing mad. That's 25 horses more than the previous model, which makes it the most powerful stock Mustang ever built.
Throw in a supercharged V8 – remember the days when every Mustang had eight cylinders? -- 32 valves and a massive supercharger giving nine pounds per square inch of boost, and you've got one kerazy pony.
It's crazy because, with all that power flowing through the back wheels, Ford has chosen to keep the suspension beam bolted square to the chassis, which means that, every so often, you're going to feel every spin and slide of those 18” rims when you gun the power pedal. The back end will jump and hop around on the road like a yearling in foaling season.
Not good, but, apart from the rather spartan interior, there's only praise here for what must be just about every young boy's favorite grown-up toy. Or every grown up's favorite boy-toy. Whatever.
It's quick, mighty quick, at a shade over 4.5 seconds to hit a mile a minute, or just a smidgen above that of the Chevy Corvette, presumably its main rival in terms of muscle, power and price. The Corvette, though, is more power and finesse, whereas the Shelby is power and muscle. And enormous -- and enormously loud -- fun to boot.
I gunned this one – safely – on empty, wide streets around Long Beach port, hitting 35mph and second gear at about 6,000rpm and third when the tacometer needle screamed toward its red-limit nearer 70mph after I'd peeled my eyelids from my forehead. Everything above that is immaterial, obviously. Or is it?
More fool you if you try, but my guess is that you can go all the way to 100mph in third on its way to a top speed that, I'll guess, is somewhere around north of 160mph. Suspension is McLaren struts up front with coil springs, which lend an air of racing refinement to the ride and handling, though don't get carried away. This isn't a car, I got the feeling, that will make it safely around corners no matter how hard you push it. It's better than previous chassis set-up, but my advice remains don't push it too hard in tight curves.
Powertrain-wise, the Cobra insignia on the front grille and flanks indicates the Mustang keeps ahead of the pack, or stable, with Ford's new 5.4 liter 428 Cobra Jet engine it shares with its sister King of the Road GT-500KR. It generates an astonishing 480lb-ft of torque at 4500rpm. That helps it hit the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds.
Foot down in the GT500 is an experience everybody, not least performance-heads, should have once in their lives. Windows down is best for full aural effect. Find an open stretch of road ahead of you, maybe on a straight coastal road. Take a look around to make sure everything is safe, and go. And go. And within about 5 seconds, slam on those brakes once you've hit the limits of human and mechanical performance. Let your heart return to its normal rate. You've just entered automotive heaven.
Inside is not so heavenly. It's fine, to be honest, if underwhelming for what you'll pay for the car, or about $42,500 MSRP. Though for that money, you expect better switchgear detailing and a bit more finery. Heated, leather bucket seats are supportive round corners and GT500 logos are cool, but there's a lot to be done here.
Other stuff: It's lighter than many of its competitors at a curb weight of 3,920 lbs. Gas is not too bad at 14 and 20 town and highway. Ride is firm and its suspension has enough give in it to make it real fun to hang out the back-end on maneuvers. It has the best, purest example of a Le Mans stripe.
Get mean. Get this Mustang. It's the most genuine American sporting muscle car out there.
Published on Dec 31, 1969