Monday, June 17, 2024

GT500, We’ll Always Love You

First, let’s set the scene. Tire smoke and burnt rubber fill the air as a hulking monster drifts its way from corner to corner. The supercharger howls and a massive V8 is barking and screaming away.

Over the top of the madness, the iconic Whitney Houston belts out her famous 1992 hit “I will always love you” as this monstrosity shrinks off into the distance, continuing to burn rubber as it screams away.

This is a love letter to the Ford Mustang GT500. A love letter to one of the greatest vehicles to ever come out of Detroit and by far the most outrageous Mustang to ever hit the streets.

Let’s pay homage to our soon-to-be lost love.

Not Another Break-Up?!

As much as we love the Ford Mustang GT500, it will not be part of our fleet for the 2023 season.

Look, relationships are hard to get right. It takes equal amounts of trust, reliability, and the desire to keep things fresh and fun in order to keep that flame burning hot. Well, the Ford GT500 was kind of like that exciting, passionate relationship you had when you were in college. It was an insane amount of fun, but in the end, it didn’t really work out long-term. Our Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, and Lamborghini are marriage material but the GT500, ended up being more of a fling.

Unfortunately, the GT500 suffered the same fate as our McLaren, namely, it was broken… like all the time! Every time we would get excited that the Mustang GT500 was back on its feet, it would suffer another random failure on a critical part that would sideline it for another track day. For such a burly, rugged machine, it sure couldn’t take a knock on the chin. Like everything else since COVID, parts needed to repair the mighty GT500 were extremely hard to come by and incredibly expensive. Honestly, it was tragic to see this thing on the sidelines so much because it is a miraculous machine with such a rich history.

Where It All Began

Today, Carroll Shelby and Mustang are nearly ubiquitous, but back in the 1960s, they were just learning to dance. Shelby’s first production special was the iconic GT350, which was soon to be followed by the “Rent-A-Racer” Hertz GT350-H. Much like any race car, these Mustangs earned their performance credibility by shedding weight, adding power, and beefing up everything from the drivetrain to the chassis. They were thinly veiled homologation specials that were, frankly, out of place on the street.

By 1967 Shelby wanted something completely different, something with more power. A true muscle car done the Shelby way and the 67’ GT500 was it. Ford and Shelby developed a 428 cubic inch V8 (that’s 7.0 liters for you metric lovers) that cranked out 355 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. In addition to the added power, stiffer front springs, an upgraded anti-roll bar, and Gabriel shock absorbers took care of the chassis. A 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission was offered, but most were sold as a stick shift.

A year later, the GT500KR was born, bumping power all the way out to “somewhere near 400” horsepower, but it was short-lived. By 1971, the line was dead due to the oil crisis. However, it would be revived in 2007 following the introduction of the “Retro Revival” S197 Mustang. Shelby was back in the saddle, but this time, he called for supercharged horsepower – 500 to be exact! For the year, the 2007 GT500 was fast. Really, really, fast, but it was also an awful handful on the track. Solid axles aren’t exactly great at handling the corners.

When the Mustang was refreshed in 2011, the GT500 was also refreshed but it would go the way of the buffalo for 2015, following an all-new Mustang debut. A model that was leaner, meaner, and built to handle more than just going fast in a straight line. It would take Ford until 2020 to come out with a GT500 version of the latest Mustang, and well, it was worth the damn wait.

We Had Some Good Times

Okay, so this thing is nuts and it makes no apologies about how it gets the job done. After all, when you’re packing 760 horsepower under a huge, long hood, people will notice. Not only is it fast as can be but it’s also remarkably well-mannered in the corners. Now, is it Porsche or Ferrari-level precise? No. Is it precise for what’s supposed to be an all-American muscle car? You bet.

Driving this thing is a wild experience and our instructors really enjoyed the challenge of laying down quick lap times. Getting the power down with rear-wheel drive ended up being the main challenge, but all that power and all that insanity, well, it’s just a big old barrel of laughs. We loved it, that is until things started to go wrong.

Can we say red flags?

…And Not So Good Times

While we love the Ford GT500, it is simply not good for what we do because it’s just not durable enough to run every weekend.

In our time with it, these are just some of the issues we ran into:

Failed superchargers (one car has had it fixed/replaced 3 times)Catalytic converter failureTransmission issues with overheating also cause poor shifting

As we mentioned, getting parts to fix this bespoke Mustang really proved to be a problem for our team. At one point, we waited over two months to get the pieces to replace the exhaust system! For a company that makes money from running cars, it was not a good fit. Plus, people who booked and expected to drive the GT500 were constantly left out in the cold. Not cool.

For driving on the street or on weekends, great. Tracking it every week?

It’s me, not you.

Is this a “See You Later?”

For now, yes, we need to let this one go but that doesn’t mean that the nastiest of the nasty Mustangs won’t eventually make its way back into our fleet. Ford is planning on releasing another version of the GT500 in 2026, closely following the release of the incredibly hyped 2024 Mustang lineup. There’s a pretty good chance that Xtreme Xperience will be on top of the list for purchasing this monster, but time will tell if and when that day actually comes to fruition. Whenever a new Shelby is on the horizon, the rumors fly and we try to avoid the rumor mill as best we can.

Let’s Ride It Out

Okay, our Mustang is about to hit the pasture but that doesn’t mean you can’t get one more wild ride in!

For the rest of 2022, the Ford Shelby GT500 is still available to drive and we want you to come out and experience this All-American monster before it’s too late. You’ll have the opportunity to learn how to tame this wild horse from our instructors, who’ve spent hours learning and honing the best techniques to gain maximum lap times. After all, you can’t just fling around 760 horsepower and rear wheel drive, it needs to be lovingly handled with a delicate touch.

So, don’t succumb to FOMO. Get out here and drive this thing to see why we are going to miss it, even though it’s been such a pain in the heart.

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