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Shelby GT500 Mustang review

I haven’t owned an American car for more than ten years. Somehow I got it in my brain that Japanese = quality and German = fun, so I’ve stuck with the cars from those two countries for a decade. The first American car that I’ve seriously considered buying is a 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang.

Looking back, my fascination with Fords began forty years ago when my uncle took me to see a car race in Hawaii, and a lawyer named Hyman Greenstein raced a Cobra. It was a pivotal moment in my life because I told myself that someday I would buy a sports car like the Cobra. Then in the 1970s a buddy of mine in Los Angeles owned a 427 Cobra. Finally, my college roommate, Mike Boich, owned a Ford GT40. Boich, by the way, hired me at Apple, so I still might be schlepping diamonds if it wasn’t for his nepotism, but that’s another story.

Anyway, fast forward to September 2010, and my main man at Ford, Scott Monty, arranged for me to borrow and (ab)use a GT500 for a week. Holy kaw, someone’s got to do it!

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So one bright and sunny day this friendly guy drives to my house and hands me the keys to a white GT500. Here’s the sticker if you want the details. The gist is this: 5.4 liter V8, 265/40 front tires, 285/35 rear tires, 3.73 gear ratio, electronics package, $55,330 manufacturer’s suggested retail price. In other words, just about what I recently paid for a seven-passenger Acura MDX SUV a few months back.

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Now this is a real man’s logo. No quiche eaters allowed.

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These are the vents in the hood.

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I’ve never owned tires with such an asymmetric tread pattern.

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This is your basic 550 horsepower engine. Love the hostile looking air filter that’s laying there flipping off the NHTSA. 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, if you’re interested.

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This is the capless gas tank. I don’t know what the advantage of caplessness is, but it’s cool. The car is rated 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, but I didn’t come close to these figures. And I wouldn’t admit it if I had.

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It passes the all-important, “Can the trunk hold a hockey bag test?”

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See that green handle looking thing. That’s there so that if someone gets stuck in the trunk, they can pull it to open it. Go figure—there’s a movie scene in here somewhere. After much cajoling, I convinced two kids to try it, and it worked. Update: I found out that cars have had this thing for years. It just goes to show you how long it’s been since I’ve owned a car with a trunk since we’re a minivan, SUV, and station wagon family.

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Nothing like a subtle interior.

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There’s plenty of legroom in the back seat for two kids. Notice that I had a booster seat that matched the Mustang’s seats. Is God telling me something or what?

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Is this the coolest boot screen you’ve ever seen? I am so tired of seeing the GPS disclaimer come up every time I start my MDX: Yes, I know that using a GPS when the car is moving is dangerous…

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With the Mustang, this only comes up when you select navigation, not every time you start the car.

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The user interface of the electronics is very well done. Somebody at Ford really thought about the user experience.

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How convenient: one of my favorite singers was already loaded.

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Volume compensation based on speed—I guess that’s necessary when you’re trying to listen to music over 550 horses.

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Digital signal processing by seat. I have no idea what this is.

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Hooking up my iPhone was a snap although the car’s phone could not import my entire address book. On the other hand, my address book has 6,500 entries in it. Still, memory is cheap today, so it would be nice if my whole address book could fit.

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iPod/iPhone USB connectivity.

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With a service called Sync, you can have the car send a health report to your personal page on the Sync website.

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You can also update the car’s software using Sync and a thumbdrive.

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I love the customization. You can make it so that it beeps at the shift points that you set. You can also get a MyKey key which means you can limit the top speed of the car, limit radio volume, and sound an alarm if the seatbelts aren’t being used.

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Even the manual cover is cool.

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This is my favorite feature of the car. I just love the notchiness of the shifter and the knob itself (allegedly made by a billiards company). It feels and looks so retro.

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Suggestion #1: the side-mirror adjustment knob should be illuminated to facilitate adjusting the mirrors at night.

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Suggestion #2: the button that you step through for various data like trip odometer, average mileage, etc. should be on the steering wheel, not on on the dashboard. Suggestion #3: I’d really like a backup camera, so I don’t run over the Sector 9 longboards in our yard. Suggestion #4: keyless start, stop, and entry would be nice too. I’d love to not have to stick the key in the ignition to start the car.

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The men and women of Ford and the UAW have every right to be proud of this car.

By the way, Ford really knows how to take care of bloggers. A Special Vehicle Team (SVT) member named Henry Platts called me to answer any questions that I had before I even took delivery. After I had the GT500 a few days, Jamal Hameedi, leader of the SVT team, also gave me a call. Car and Driver says that Jamal’s name should be on the car not Carroll Shelby’s.

I’ll tell you why I like this car so much. But first, let me acknowledge why I shouldn’t buy it: honestly, owning a car this powerful is dangerous; mileage isn’t exactly in the Priusphere; it only holds four people; a hockey stick cannot fit in the trunk (though it can fit in the passenger compartment); and I have two teenage sons. (Luckily neither can drive a stick and the Mustang isn’t available with an automatic transmission although I could get a MyKey and set the limit to 45 mph.)

On the other hand, the GT500 is one of the funnest, sub-$60,000 cars that holds four people and has a trunk that you can buy. On a scale of 1-10 for fun, it’s a 12. When you stand on it, the acceleration pushes your cheeks to your ears. And the sounds that it makes are awesome—if you want quiet, buy a Tesla, not this. Finally, it has a bucketful of soul that goes back to 1965.

In a prior life (that is, pre-kids and pre dotcom implosion), I drove some hot German cars, and with total certainty, I can tell you that different kinds of people tell you that you have a cool car when you drive a GT500. Specifically, German cars impress venture capitalists and investment bankers. By contrast, air-conditioning repairmen, Zamboni drivers, and heavy-equipment operators talk to you when you drive a GT500. Some people would make the case that old guy driving an expensive German car = mid-life crisis. Maybe old guy driving a GT 500 = cool Guy.

One last thing that has nothing to do with cars, so you can stop reading now unless you’re into SEO stuff.

When I do one of these car posts, SEO consultants go wacko because they think that I should use no-follow links since they think the loan of a car constitutes a paid-for post (I didn’t say this makes sense, I’m just telling you what the SEO community thinks). Since I don’t know how to create no-follow links and have no desire to learn this valuable skill, I never use them.

This causes SEO consultants to opine that Matt Cutts and Google should punish me; however, since the SEO consultants don’t see a decline in the Page Rank of my site, they assume that Google made a special exception for me. (I asked Matt if I was an exception, and he laughed at me.)

My solution is that I no longer put links to the car manufacturer’s websites in this kind of post. A manufacturer can’t buy links that don’t exist. If you’re interested in a GT500, I’m sure you can use Google to find Ford’s site.

Read more about Ford and cars.

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  • wutisay

    I enjoyed this article. I have a 2007 GT500 convertible and it is hard to explain how much fun it is. The thing has soul and it sounds so good. NO, it’s not an exotic,and that is how I like it. Thank you for the putting a smile on my face today.

  • I own a 2007 GT500 , most fun you’ll have with your clothes on .

  • Marc Oliver Thompson

    I just upgraded from a GT to a GT 500. What a beautiful car. It is so fun to drive. Absolutely love it!