We’ve tested many brightly colored Mustangs over the decades. Most were the kind anyone could rent in Las Vegas or Fort Lauderdale. They were all fun, built to make smiles at moderate prices. Some had stripes. Others came with wings. A few more had emblems of snakes and the surname of a Texas chicken farmer who became one of the most successful American racing drivers and team owners in history.
The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is all of those last things. And you most definitely cannot rent one.
It’s perfect timing for the fastest, most powerful production Mustang in the car’s 56-year history. There’s a major movie about Carroll Shelby and his masterful triumph with Ford over Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. But Ford would be able to sell every GT500 without Matt Damon on screen or Idris Elba making headlines at the electric Mustang’s debut in Los Angeles. We now live in a world where anyone who received a driver’s license and hasn’t completed one lick of racing school can walk out of a Ford showroom with a 760-horsepower Mustang. On a factory warranty, no less.
The statistics will set you back more than the $73,000 starting price: 760 horsepower, 625 pound-feet of torque, zero to 60 miles per hour in a little over three seconds, and 186 miles per hour flat-out. It’ll run a sub-11 quarter mile and pull well over a G around any corner. The exhaust is as loud and obnoxious as a pack of Harleys. The lime green or ripe orange paint, combined with contrasting stripes, cause motion sickness while still. It may seem like any old Mustang with a spoiler. The GT500 is much more.
One of two spoilers is available. A fixed ducktail-style wing does 90 percent of the job. For GT500 owners who want to experience the car as intended, there’s an option package priced higher than a new Ford Fiesta. That’s a complete car, mind you, and the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track pack is just a few parts. You’ll get an adjustable carbon wing and extra ducts and splitters designed to contort the car’s furious airstream into a pliable mass that sucks the entire body to the ground. Carbon wheels improve grip. Ferrari uses the same supplier. In this kind of car, removing the rear seats is considered an extra feature. That, plus the stickiest tires Michelin sells, is what makes the GT500 a supercar rather than a one-and-done drag racer. No expense is spared, except within the interior, which still has a lot of cheap-feeling plastic and leather.
The GT500 is easy to drag race, too. A line-lock feature will automatically apply the brakes to the front wheels so the driver can burn out the rears. Then, a launch feature lets the driver preset the engine’s speed and execute a perfect run by banging through each of the automatic transmission’s seven gears. It’s a dual-clutch automatic made by the manual transmission experts at Tremec. For a car this powerful, a manual isn’t really missed.
The GT500’s front brakes could stop the space shuttle as it returns from orbit. They’re easily more than 50 pounds apiece. The suspension allows hardly any body roll. And yet, on a cruise on regular streets, the GT500 can be set to a comfort mode that de-stresses the driver, quiets the exhaust, and tries to imitate the smoothness of an old Lexus. Who would buy such a thing, you ask? Why does the GT500 exist when the regular GT has more than enough performance for the average American? As Shelby himself might brag were he still with us, the GT500 is our nation’s Ferrari — for a quarter of the price.