Five savage Shelby Mustangs the new GT500 has to live up to

18th January 2018
Ethan Jupp

The Mustang Bullitt had muscle car fans across the world itching their wallets, as Ford introduced this massively desirable special edition alongside the newly-recovered original movie star car that it commemorates. While the dark green pony car was the physical star of Detroit, the promise of something altogether more savage to come did not go unnoticed. 


Tell and tease of an imminent 700bhp+ Shelby GT500 Mustang hails the return (at the New York Auto Show, we expect) of the proper pumped-up pony. None of this flat-plain V8, torqueless 8,000rpm nonsense. What even is a lap time? No, the GT500 takes the fastest Ford Mustang back to its tyre-shredding tank-slapping self. All joking aside, judging by the winglets and further-developed GT350 bodywork you can catch a glimpse of in the teaser, the new GT500 should be more in keeping with the current-gen Stang’s new-found focus. We'd wager this power-sliding pony won’t be rocking about on a live rear axle leaving a plume of one-tyre fire in its wake. Nevertheless, we thought it prudent to take a look back at the new GT500’s unruliest of ancestors. Viva la horsepower!


2017 Shelby 1000 – 1000hp

This isn’t so much an ancestor as it is a completely murderous lunatic sibling. It’s incarcerated in the automotive sense, in that it’s not actually road legal. The 5.2-litre V8 Shelby swapped into it isn’t emissions compliant in the States. It shares a head with the GT350 “Voodoo” motor of the same displacement but in place of savage rev-capacity is a monstrous 4.5-litre Whipple supercharger. That’s how you double your money power wise in Mustang land. No, the new GT500 doesn't really have to live up to this. If we can't drive it on the road we'll be very sad.


2008 GT500 KR – 540hp

Perspective is a wonderful thing and given the promise of the new GT500 as well as our new-found knowledge (and fear) of the 1000, 2008’s GT500 KR seems relatively sober by comparison. Still, jaws were slackened at its debut at the New York Auto show nearly eleven years ago as Ford and Shelby revealed this 540bhp supercharged rubber ripper. That’s some puff to put through a rear end that envies the sophistication of the Gold State Coach. What does the KR stand for? Oh, nothing, just king of the road…


1968 GT500 KR – 335hp 

Though, strictly speaking, this is the true king of the road. The original GT500 KR that the 2008 model was built to commemorate packed a 7-litre 335bhp “Cobra Jet” V8 making it the most powerful Mustang you could buy at the time. You may sneer at such a meagre figure now but remember the Lamborghini Miura “made do” with only 15 more than that. The KR and the raging bull were among the top 10 most powerful cars on sale at the time. 

As it turned out, the original remained the biggest baddest Mustang that Shelby had a hand in fettling until the revival of the partnership in 2006 – A long reign for the original king indeed.


2013 GT500 – 650bhp (1200hp in Shelby 1000 tune)

Bespoke is not often a word associated with American performance cars. Supercharging truck engines isn’t exactly a difficult way of making power so how can we blame them? However, take a look under the hood of 2013’s S197 GT500 facelift and you might be surprised to find a 5.8-litre supercharged V8 not found in any other car. Okay, it has to be a derivative of a derivative but a simple chop’n’swap this most certainly isn’t and the payoff is handsome. How does 650 fully road-legal and emissions-compliant horsepower sound? Loud, we can assure you. What’s more, when Shelby gave the 5.8 the “1000” treatment, what they got was 1200. That’s even more powerful than today’s sixth-gen car we mentioned earlier…


Ford Shelby GT500 Cobra – 850hp

This is not only one of the most impressively powerful but perhaps one of the most significant Mustangs ever made. The 2013 Shelby GT500 Cobra isn’t entirely a Shelby production. Instead, it’s a collaboration of bods close to Ford famed for all things fast Mustang. The “friends of Carroll” (that’s Ford themselves, Shelby American, Ford Racing, etc) collaborated to take the 2013 5.8 to the next level. A 4.0-litre Whipple supercharger gave it the horsepower a fitting tribute to Carroll requires and a wider track afforded added grip to suit. The resulting 850hp one-off is a masterpiece and the last pinnacle powered-up Mustang to date. No pressure on the new one, then…

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