Photography by Al Rogers.
It all began in August 1964 when Carroll Shelby, a well respected race car driver and chicken farmer from Leesburg, Texas was approached by Ford Motor Company to develop a high performance Mustang fastback for the street and track. Shelby jumped at the opportunity and within a month assembled the first Mustang GT350. Two years later, Shelby took it up a notch or two and developed the GT500. Shelby and Ford were on a roll. Unfortunately no good thing lasts forever and in 1970, Ford ended their relationship with Shelby.
After a long absence, Ford and Shelby decided to partner again, this time developing a new GT500. First previewed at the 2005 New York Auto Show, this testosterone-laden muscle car received rave reviews. The gen-five Mustang body was wrapped in Shelby clothing, while it harkened back to the days of the 1967 Mustang GT500, it now was now much edgier, almost sinister looking. Its new look had an attitude that screamed don’t mess with me. The preview left Mustang performance enthusiasts chomping at the bit and Ford wasn’t about to disappoint them. By May 2006 deliveries of the 2007 GT500 began. Enthusiasts ate it up and over 10,000 were produced.
Few changes were made for 2008. Power came from the previous year’s 330 cubic-inch DOHC four-valve V8 that put out an incredible 500 horsepower. The modular cast iron block was topped off with high flow aluminum heads similar to those used in Ford GT. Valves were lifted via the same cam used in the 2003/2004 Mustang SVT Cobra. Induction came from an Eaton M122H Roots type blower providing 8.5 lbs. boost. The power was transferred by a six-speed Tremec transmission to the 3.31:1 geared limited slip rear axle. Standard 18x9.5-inch machined aluminum wheels with SVT center caps held high performance 255/45ZR front and 285/45ZR rear tires, which kept the car planted to the ground.
Styling was unmistakably Shelby. One look and you knew it wasn’t an ordinary Mustang. The new body shell lent itself well to pulling in retro Mustang queues and chief designer Doug Gaffka took every advantage of it. The deeply hooded front-end design cast a shadow over the headlamps and grille. The special domed aluminum hood included twin heat extractors near the leading edge keeping underhood temperatures in check. The wide mouth mesh grille included the Cobra logo. New for 2008 were optional High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps. The lower fascia held widely spaced fog lamps. A GT500 stripe ran along the lower body side sheetmetal and twin over-the-car LeMans stripes came standard with every coupe. For those who didn’t want to draw too much attention, a stripe delete option was available. The rear end treatment wasn’t ignored. A Shelby emblem graced the driver’s side of the deck lid and the rear fascia included Ford GT inspired lower strakes that helped to defuse airflow. A finishing touch a Cobra fuel filler cap and a GT500 specific spoiler.
Interior appointments included leather bucket seats with Cobra logos and improved lateral support. Additional leather was found on the steering wheel and shifter boot. The instrument cluster featured a boost gauge and message center. New for 2008 was an optional ambient lighting system that allowed owners to illuminate the cockpit in one of seven different colors to fit their mood. In the past, Ford had been criticized for their use of low-end interior materials and to solve the problem, a premium interior trim package was available that included a leather wrapped dash top, upgraded door panels, auto-dimming mirror and sport pedals.
Just as it did over 40 years ago, the rebirth of the GT500 spurred on Chrysler and General Motors to keep up with a Shelby performance vehicle by launching the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro. Suddenly, it’s like the ’60s all over again, only this time better.
Fuel For Thought
First year for dual-stage seat air bags
Available in six exterior colors
Available in a coupe or convertible
Same six-speed transmission as used in the race-winning Mustang FR500C
Number built – 8,583 total - 6,513 (coupe), 2,070 (convertible)
Construction – uni-body
Engine – 5.4 liter four-valve V8 with intercooler
Power/Torque – 500 horsepower/480 lb-ft of torque
Transmission – six-speed manual
Suspension Front – MacPherson strut with reverse-L lower control arm and coil springs
Rear suspension – live axle with coil springs with three-link arms and tubular Panhard rod
Steering – rack and pinion
Brakes – four-wheel disc – 14 inch Brembo-front, 11.8 inch Brembo-rear
Length/width/height – 187.6/74.0/55.6 (coupe), convertible height 56.1 inches
Wheelbase – 107.1 inches
Weight – 3,920 lbs.
0-60mph/quarter-mile – 4.3 seconds, 12.6 seconds at 114.2 mph (Motor Trend, July 2008)
Top speed – 155 mph
MPG – 14-20 mpg EPA EST.
Price – $41,390 (coupe), $46,755 (convertible)
Today – $32,875 (coupe), $33,900 (convertible)
Insurance cost is $636 per year for a 2008 Shelby GT500 coupe valued at $32,875. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance
With a forged crank and I-beam connecting rods, the modular DOHC V8 was built for abuse. Compression is purposely low at 8.4:1 to compensate for the 8.5 P.S.I. boost from its blower. Yet with 500 ponies on tap, the GT500 can be massaged to get up to 20 mpg on the highway.
The GT500 looks more nimble than it really is with nearly 58 percent of its 3,900-plus pounds resting over the front wheels. The extra weight was also responsible for a front end that tended to nosedive with hard breaking.
COURTESY OF CHRYSLER
2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Number built – 6,400
0-60/quarter-mile – 4.7 seconds, 13.1 seconds at 108.3 mph
Top speed – 168 mph
Price – MSRP – $40,158
Today – $26,875 - $30,100
COURTESY OF GM
Number built – 35,310
0-60/quarter-mile – 4.1 seconds, 12.5 seconds at 115 mph
Top speed – 190 mph
Price – MSRP – $45,995
Today – $40,750 - $45,250
It’s a Shelby
Dedicated enthusiast following
Dream car for many
Over $40,000 for a Mustang
Handling could be better
Owners enjoy driving their vehicles on a regular or semi-regular basis. You’d be hard pressed to see one on a trailer.
What To Pay
2008 Shelby GT500
MSRP – $41,390 (coupe)
Low – $30,075
Average – $31,625
High – $32,875
*Prices courtesy of NADA
Available at local Ford dealerships.
Shelby Mustang: Racer for the Street by Randy Leffingwell
Shelby: The Man, The Car, The Legend by Wallace A. Wyss
Mustang Masterpieces by Jerry Heasley
The Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles: Cobras, Mustangs and Super Snakes by Colin Comer
While not perfect, the GT500 was an excellent combination of power and visuals. The Shelby name is synonymous with outstanding performance and the 2008 GT500 certainly lived up to it.