Monster Mustang Shelby GT500 revealed at Detroit auto show

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
The Mustang GT500 is revealed Monday at the North American International Auto Show media preview at Cobo Center.

Detroit — Fear the Snake. Ford Motor Co. unveiled the most-powerful Mustang ever, the 700-plus horsepower Shelby GT500, at the Detroit auto show Monday morning.

The muscle car will take its place atop a Mustang lineup that includes a turbo-4 powered base Mustang, V-8 powered GT and high-revving GT350. For the first time in 50 years, the legendary GT350 and GT500 badges will be on sale together in Ford showrooms.

But where previous generations of the GT500 were drag-strip brutes compared to the more nimble, track-focused GT350, Ford says the third-generation GT500 will be an all-around athlete.

"Historically, the GT500 was about straight-line speed. Now this thing does everything — it's a no-compromise muscle car," said Ford Performance marketing chief Jim Owens. "Somewhere in heaven, Carroll Shelby is smiling. The GT500 was his favorite car."

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Shelby was the legendary performance guru who took Ford racing to another level in the 1960s with the LeMans-winning Ford GTs and steroid-pumped Mustangs. After the first GT500 was produced from 1967-1970, the badge was shelved until a 2007-13 production run.

The third-generation car takes aim squarely at the current king of muscle, the Chevy Camaro ZL1 and winged ZL1 1LE.

Like the 650-horsepower Camaro, the Mustang will get its 700-plus horses (the final number is still to be determined by Ford's engineering team) from a massive supercharger atop of its V-8 engine. Engineers say the final torque number will be close to the Camaro's 650. 

The GT500 uses the same 5.2-liter block as the GT350's 526-horsepower "Voodoo" V-8 (Ford engines get menacing nicknames). But its unique "Predator" engine will forgo Voodoo's exotic flat-plane crankshaft, opting for a more familiar cross-plane crank instead.

"Only normally aspirated engines get the flat-plane crank because they need higher revs to get their power," said Mustang chief functional engineer Ed Krenz.  The technology is used in some V-8 powered Ferraris.

For maximum track response, the Predator V-8 will be mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the first clutch of its kind ever in an American muscle car. Like Porsche's famed PDK dual-clutch box, the Mustang's DCT will enable sub-100-millisecond shifts on the way to mid-3-second zero-60 mph times. The quarter-mile will blow by in less than 11 seconds.

The GT500 will be outfitted with sophisticated suspension geometry that's similar to the GT350 — multi-link front, independent rear, tuned springs — and then upgraded with more track weaponry.

Six-pot front calipers will be mated to ginormous 16.5-inch rotors, an inch larger than those found on the Corvette Z06. Twenty-inch wheels will be wrapped in 12-inch wide front and 12.5-inch wide rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, while exotic Magneride shocks will constantly adjust to ripples in the road.

But wait, there's more. To take on the Camaro's ZL1 1LE cyborg, GT500 buyers can opt for the Track Package which includes a huge, raised rear wing, front splitter, dive planes, 20-inch carbon-fiber wheels and gummy Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. With rear seat deleted, the car sheds 80 pounds.

The GT500 is as wicked looking as its specs are jaw-dropping. 

Front bodywork from the A-pillar forward is all-new to accommodate aerodynamic demands, wider rubber and the Predator engine.

A huge Audi-like front grille, bisected by a black bumper, extends from hood lip to front skirt. Black steel mesh — rather than the Mustang GT's plastic mesh — allows double the airflow of the GT350 maw in order to feed the supercharged beast inside.

The hood — held down by twin pins — is made of lightweight fiberglass and is interrupted by the largest hood scoop of any Ford vehicle, its 20-by-31 inch opening dwarfing even the Ford F-150 Raptor pickup.

Recaro seats are standard so the driver isn't thrown about by the car's massive g-loads. Out back, a composite diffuser holds quad exhaust with 5-inch tips.

The GT500 comes in 11 available colors including new-for-2020 Red Hot, Twizzler Orange and Iconic Silver. Buyers can option a black roof, dual stripes and side strips.

Ford has not announced racing plans for the GT500, but there are multiple options. Last year the GT350 race program conquered IMSA's Continental Tire series.

Pricing will be announced closer to the Snake's fall launch, but expect a price tag some $10,000 north of the $59,140 GT350. 

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.