Let the horses run wild

2021 Ford Mustang GT 500. CONTRIBUTED
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2021 Ford Mustang GT 500. CONTRIBUTED

Shelby GT500 is the ultimate in American automotive engineering with raw horsepower and muscle-car styling

All the talk when it comes to Ford lately has been on their push toward electrification. The Mustang Mach-E has won numerous accolades and also continues to irritate some of the die-hard, refuse-to-accept-change enthusiasts. This week’s tester should be music to the ears of the old-school Mustang enthusiasts.

Truth be told, the visceral, guttural tune of the 2021 Shelby GT500 is better than a lot of music. And that’s just one of the many things to talk about (and listen to) when it comes to this muscle car. The Shelby GT500 is as Mustang as any car can get.

I spent a week with the GT500, during that same time I also had a second car that was twice the price of the Shelby but didn’t feel as special. It was one of those special weeks in the life of an automotive journalist.

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I also had a book signing event and speaking engagement at the Halderman Barn Museum in Tipp City. This is the Mecca of Mustang Clubs where we celebrate the life of Gale Halderman, who was the main designer of the Ford Mustang and the subject of my book, Mustang by Design. Pulling up to the museum full of passionate Mustang enthusiasts in the Shelby GT500 made an impression.

Arriving to a Mustang show, to talk about Mustangs in one of the best Mustangs ever was special. After hearing my speech about Gale and the book many of the car club members went outside to see the Shelby up close. And many asked if I could pop the hood and fire it up. I even gave some members thrill rides in this muscle car. Forget me, the Shelby GT500 was the real star attraction, and I was OK with that.

On looks, the Cobra looks every bit the part of a Mustang even without the Mustang logo present. Rather the Cobra logo sits aggressively on the grille, with white striping on the hood and the sides and over the center of the car. My tester was antimatter blue, which is such a dark shade it almost looks black. Talk about a sexy color that suits the aggressive nature so well.

Under the hood is a piece of automotive engineering ingenuity. The 5.2-liter supercharged V8 engine is big, bold and loud. The tune on the exhaust is symphonic. You can even increase the tune by changing to various modes, including track mode (you can also decrease it too, but why would you want to do that?). For those who hate the Mustang Mach-E because it doesn’t have a V8 and doesn’t sound like a Mustang, the GT500 takes up your case for you as it’s big, loud and fast – to the tune of 760 horses.

The seven-speed dual clutch (automatic) transmission is the single best transmission I’ve ever experienced. No hyperbole or exaggeration here. For all you manual transmission snobs, this DCT will change your mind with how smooth and quickly it revs up and down. It slams the shifts at just the right time and never backs down.

The thrill rides I gave to many at the museum each noticed the transmission as we accelerated from 0-60+ in mere seconds. Every shift brought goosebumps and every rev was thrilling. The GT500 would make the late Carroll Shelby proud to have his name affiliated with this Mustang. It’s truly a magnificent driving machine.

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Inside, the sexy look continues and the consistent white striping and the Cobra mark of the Shelby is prominent. The cobra logo sits near the headrest of the leather seats, which have the white striping and white stitching. The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel feels great in your hands. There is technically a back seat for the Mustang, but I wouldn’t torture anyone by making them sit back there. Before Henry Ford II approved the original Mustang, he asked for an extra inch of legroom. This Shelby GT500 could use a couple extra inches, but that would throw off the pristine driving dynamics, so don’t bother.

You don’t own a Mustang to transport multiple people around.

The 12-inch digital cluster is part of a fantastic infotainment system that integrates perfectly with an iPhone through Apple CarPlay. I set up some great playlists to really help add to the vibe and aggressive feel of this car.

I’m obligated to talk about fuel economy, so I’ll note that you don’t buy a car like this, with this kind of engine to care about increased trips to the gas station. The GT500 is rated at 12 mpg/city and 18 mpg/highway. Driving to the Halderman Barn Museum saw me on I-75 for quite a while, so I was able to average around 15 mpg, but all the hot laps I provided burned up a lot of fuel. And who cares? It was worth every penny.

Considering the other vehicle I had this week was a $200,000 supercar, the nearly $78,000 price tag felt like a bargain. Truth be told, I had more fun driving the GT500 than I did the Acura NSX that I had at the same time. Dollar for dollar, and for how much fun the GT500 is, the price is right.

Can you tell you I had a blast with this car? What a great car to take to a Mustang event. I wish my friend Gale was still alive to check it out. There’s still so many of his styling touches on this car. I remembered him fondly when I drove it and I’ll for sure remember my time with the 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 Shelby GT500

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $70.300/$78,470
  • Mileage.......................................... 12 mpg/city; 18 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 5.2-liter V8
  • Horsepower................................. 760 hp/625 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 7-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ Rear-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Flat Rock, Michigan