Carroll Shelby, the man most famous for his American V8-engined Cobras and in the latter years for the Ford Mustangs that wore his name, died in May this year.
Having always had a huge amount of respect for Shelby (though I never met him) and his cars – a Shelby Cobra roadster has always featured in my dream garage – it was a great privilege to drive the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 up Goodwood's hill as a tribute.
Quite appropriately, because Shelby clearly wasn’t afraid of an overindulgence of grunt, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is the most powerful official Mustang model ever. With 662bhp and 631lb ft being punched to the rear wheels from its 5.8-litre supercharged V8 motor, this extreme GT500 will even nose through the 200mph barrier.
Given the optional Performance Pack that was fitted to our Shelby GT500, which brings adjustable Bilstein dampers and limited slip diff to the party, I did have a nugget of hope that it might have some of the handling finesse of the Boss 302 Mustang that I drove last year.
Honestly, I wouldn’t say that it does. Over the narrow and technical Goodwood hill climb it felt heavy and a bit clumsy. But also hugely entertaining. Setting off the start line it would have been rude not to do a burn-out in this car, but after many long moments of recklessly ruining Ford’s tyres, I was still waiting for the moment of grip. I don’t think it would ever have arrived. And the noise from the new quad exhausts is just biblical. It’s almost as good rumbling and popping away threateningly on the overrun as it is shouting up through the revs.
This is always a conundrum with Mustangs for me, and the bonkers Shelby GT500 only crystallises the issue. Because I know that, objectively, they’re impossible to justify. The Shelby GT500 costs 55,000 US dollars, so after import and taxes you’re looking at BMW M3 territory. And for all its grunt, the Mustang has no answer for that. But equally I love the one-finger-up character. A BMW M3 will be better on just about ever quantifiable level, but blimey do you feel alive in the Mustang.
Ultimately, I completely adore the Shelby GT500. And I’m immensely glad that Ford ran it at Goodwood to commemorate its namesake. Shelby has given us some incredible cars, few of them with much subtlety but many of them memorable and much-loved. For all its flaws, this thrilling car provides a fitting tribute.