Want to ride happily into the sunset with one of America’s — one of the world’s — great sports cars?

Ride over, then, to Sunset Ford, 9130 W. Bell Road in Peoria, to order a 2010 Shelby GT 500.

When you take delivery of this very special ‘stang, you’ll find yourself making unnecessary trips for rutabagas to the food store, topping off your gas tank at 7/8ths or asking your significant other if he/she needs anything at Walgreens. This steed is a stud, and the road, even the quiet asphalt to the Circle K a block away, will look like Le Mans.

“If you own a GT500 and you use it as your daily driver, you look forward to getting behind the wheel of the legendary Mustang, which has been a staple of society since the 1964 New York World’s Fair,” says Roger Wales, general sales manager at Sunset Ford. “It makes you feel like the road belongs to you.”

Le Mans, of course, added to Carroll Shelby’s reputation: After setting land speed records at Bonneville in 1954, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. Later, he was part of the team that drove the Ford GT-40 to victories, also at Le Mans.

After prematurely retiring because of a heart condition, he began his thriving relationship with Ford, using the 289 CID and 427 CID powerplants in his potent AC Cobras and then, in 1965, creating the first of the Shelby-modified Mustangs, the lightweight but muscular GT350 racer.

Two years later, the GT350, with a beefed-up 289 CID and modified suspension became a street version, and everyone wanted a “Shelby” — especially the ultimate GT500KR, introduced at the 1967 New York Auto Show, with its head-wrenching 428 CID Cobra Jet V-8. Drive the latter in the convertible model with that distinctive roll-bar (just 517 ragtops were produced in ’68), and you were, indeed, King.

First seen in January at the Detroit Auto Show, the 2010 GT500, built by the Ford Special Vehicle Team in collaboration with the Automotive Hall of Famer, stands proudly in the Shelby/Ford heritage.

This year, the GT500, as a coupe or convertible, incorporates many of the fine-tuning details that were applied to the KR model from 2009. That special edition, outfitted by Shelby’s company in Las Vegas, will not appear this year. Matching the KR numbers, the new Shelby puts down 540 horses at 6,200 rpm (up 40 horsepower from last year) and 520 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm (a 30 lb-ft increase).

No need to change the superb supercharged 5.4-liter V8, just a few details. More air is one of those tweaks: It enters through a cold-air intake, which draws air from the upper front grille through a snorkel. Don’t worry: The SVT guys and gals have moved the mighty Cobra emblem from the grille to the passenger side to avoid blocking the intake.

Lower rear gearing intensifies the excitement: A 3.55:1 rear end replaces last year’s 3.31:1 — although not quite the 3.73:1 in the KR. Still, improvements in fifth and sixth tranny gearing actually improve highway fuel economy by 10 percent, Ford engineers say. That transmission is the super-strong Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual.

Handling has been improved, too. Ford says the front springs are 13 percent stiffer and the rears 7 percent. The coupe has Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 19-inch tires, the convertible 18-inch wheels and tires. The Shelby also is standard with the three-mode traction and stability control system, which includes a “sport” setting for your slalom runs. To reduce lift front and rear, the engineers added a pan under the engine and a redesigned rear spoiler.

The Shelbys start at $47,999, with standard features such as striped leather seats and a striped cue-ball shift knob — made by a major billiards supplier. Equipment such as GPS Navigation and the Shaker 1000 sub-woofer system, of course, add to the sticker.

This is a limited-production vehicle; only 10,000 to 12,000 are expected to be produced. All of the 3,600 Ford dealerships nationwide don’t carry them, so that gives enthusiast-oriented showrooms such as Sunset Ford a few more allocations. A family-owned dealership under the guidance of General Manager Bernie Wahl, Sunset has associated itself with Ford high-performance since opening in 1991. The dealership’s Performance & Style Center, managed by Fred Cordts, offers a wide range of suspension and performance options for cars and trucks.

Even with this performance edge, Sunset Ford can’t guarantee when specialty cars such as the GT500 arrive. “We are taking orders now, so if you have a color combination that you want, it’s time to get the request in so we can personalize your car the way you like,” Roger says.

Among those customization options are five stripe packages to add just the visual edge that will let them know you’re coming — or leaving them behind. New colors are also available this year, such as Grabber Blue and Kona Blue. “It doesn’t take long for all the allocations to be taken up, and soon they will not be available to order,” he notes.

“Not everyone wants a GT500,” Roger adds. “It takes a special kind of person to own and drive this 500-plus horsepower legend, but once you drive a car with this kind of road presence, you will be changed for ever.”

Sunset Ford, 623.977.8888,