The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500

Carroll Shelby should be particularly proud of the new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500.

Test driven by the racing legend when it was in planning four years ago, it’s now available as a hardtop or convertible — with the most powerful production V-8 in the world. Top speed for the coupe is 200-plus from the 650-horsepower aluminum 5.8-liter engine, assisted by a TVS series 2300 supercharger with 2.3 liters of displacement.

Built at AutoAlliance International Plant in Flat Rock, Mich., and debuted at the LA Auto Show, the new top-of-the-line Ford muscle car will also thrust you from stop to 60 mph in world-class time — but you wouldn’t do that, of course. Or, take it to the local track for quarter-mile runs that will impress you and those in the grandstand.

And, with all this, the 3,850-pound super-performance car does not incur a gas-guzzler tax. (Ford has not announced MSRPs as yet).

At the recent 41st Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale last month, a 2007 development prototype of the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 was auctioned for $350,000, with all proceeds benefiting JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the world’s largest charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research.

More recently, the Shelby GT500 convertible debuted at the Chicago Auto Show, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), which has produced more than 210,000 cars and trucks during that time, including Ford GT, Mustang Cobra R, SVT F-150 Lightning, F-150 SVT Raptor and Shelby GT500KR. Note that the Shelby GT500 convertible is governed to 155 mph.

Two decades ago, SVT unveiled the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra and SVT F-150 Lightning at the 1992 Chicago Auto Show. That 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra, by the way, was powered by 235-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 engine — a pretty package, for sure, but clearly not comparable to the stats of the new Shelby GT500s.

Four long-standing SVT attributes were kept in mind for the new Shelby GT500: Performance, Substance, Exclusivity and Value.

“In the past 20 years, SVT has engineered world-class mid-engine supercars, front-wheel-drive performance cars, rear-wheel-drive muscle cars and high-performance on-road and off-road pickup trucks,” says Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief

engineer. “There is no other performance house in the world that can match that diverse résumé.”

The new GT500 in hardtop or convertible configuration puts down 600 lb./ft. of torque, and Ford engineers have upgraded all components, including the cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft, a carbon fiber driveshaft and upgraded powertrain —clutch, transmission and axle —gearing, suspension and brakes.

The new Brembo brake system includes six-piston calipers in front along with larger front and rear rotors. The new brake pads maximize deceleration and the driver’s sense of control.

New, too, are downforce-generating front grilles, aggressive splitter, new quad exhaust system and two new forged-aluminum wheels in 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, shod with Goodyear Eagle® F1 SuperCar G:2 tires.

Before making its final gearing choice, Ford considered 35 combinations to optimize power and driver-friendliness. This six-speed manual transmission has been completely upgraded: gears, bearings, housing. The final drive ratio of 3.31:1 maximizes torque and practicality for everyday driving. To properly mate the engine and tranny, the clutch has increased torque and rpm capacity through a dual-disc design.

Particularly important in the high-heat desert conditions of Arizona, Ford revamped the cooling system with a larger fan, a fan shroud with high-speed pressure-relief doors, a more efficient charge-air cooler, a higher-flow intercooler pump and an intercooler heat exchanger whose volume has been increased 36 percent.

In addition, you can select two optional packages on the 2013 models:

•Performance Package — SVT-designed Bilstein electronic adjustable dampers are accessible on the dash. Normal mode is for comfort, Sport mode for performance, with less body roll while cornering and pitch under braking. A Torsen limited-slip differential is included.

The 2013 Shelby GT500 convertible was recently tested at Sebring International Raceway with the optional Performance Package and was 3.5 seconds off its lap time compared to the 2011 and 2012 models.

•Track Package — For maximum performance in track conditions, this upgraded Performance Package includes an external engine oil cooler, rear differential cooler and transmission cooler.

The new Shelby GT500 is also the result of aerodynamic work, ensuring proper downforce at all speeds. At the same time, Ford has used the air moving around and through the car to minimize drag, improve the cooling system and maximize downforce.

The modified front fascia and splitters handle the force at 200 mph — 33 percent more effective for aero loading at 160 mph compared to the 2011 model, according to SVT engineers.

Handling and driving dynamics are also significantly better — in concert with the new power and torque.

Both the traction control system and electronic stability control settings help drivers achieve maximum performance on both the street and the track. Both, however, can be disabled in track situations where the driver wants to fully control the car.

The intermediate sport mode allows drivers to drive at the track without disabling the safety systems; the traction control and electronic stability control intervene only at higher-than-normal driving situations.

Finally, a new launch control system empowers the driver to set launch rpm depending on tire temperature, street surface or other conditions. This launch control is integrated with both the engine control and traction control.

“We encapsulated every aspect of performance in this car — whether it’s 0–60, top speed, racetrack or quarter-mile times,” says Jost Capito, director of Global Performance Vehicles and Motorsport Business Development for Ford. “Beyond that, the daily driver also will find this car perfectly fits his or her needs.

“The new Shelby GT500 is on the cutting edge of technology and takes muscle car performance to new heights,” he adds. “It is the most powerful factory-built Mustang ever — and the most technologically advanced one, too.”