FoMoCo invited us down to Duke's Restaurant in Malibu to drive the Shelby GT500 Convertible, the Shelby GT and most righteously right-on of all, the Hertz Shelby GT-H along the beautiful Bo Stefan Eriksson/Mel Gibson/AC Schnitzer Memorial Highway. After a few minutes spent gawking at all four cars (they had both kinds of Shelby GT — the black and the white) parked against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, it occurred to us just how ludicrous it is that Ford is sitting on the pole in the race to be the first American manufacturer to go belly-up in a generation.
These Shelbys, especially the Hertz, raise men's heart rates. Women look at you when you drive them. Pretty, rich, Malibu-Barbie-type women. A trio of motorcycle cops even stopped by to ogle (which was good because I did something really dumb right in a front of a five-O an hour later and he didn't budge). If only Ford would attack the rest of their product line with the same vim and vigor... well, you know where and how this sentence ends.
First up was the 500hp, 480 pound-foot GT500 drop-top, sporting a detuned version of the recently deceased Ford GT's 5.4L Roots-blown mill. A stonker that happens to fill up every inch of space in the engine bay. Seriously, cramped to the point of having to go metric. GT Marketing Manager John Alguire explained that the fit is so tight that when they load the engine in from the bottom, they have only two millimeters of clearance on either side. Sadly, with the hood up, the motor resembles a chemistry set made out of piss-bottles. Best to keep the lid down and concentrate instead on all the angry looking snakes festooned on the vehicle. I counted seven, including two stitched into the seats!
Grabbing the six-speed Tremec handle is your first clue that this is not your mother's Mustang ragtop. Unfortunately, it is the last clue for quite some time. Call it a Q-car if you like, but in normal, everyday driving (which the ridiculously congested PCH provided plenty of) no indication is given that you are at the helm of the most powerful factory 'Stang ever built. The cowl shakes as per normal, the soundtrack isn't all that interesting, and the view out over the hood is nothing to write home about. Heeling and toeing into a red light provided the first inkling that something special lurks below, for as you crest 4,000rpm, an SVT badge in the center of the tach lights up orange. Cool! And when you press the button to turn off the traction control, it too lights up orange. That's when you should tell the passenger to hold on. As 57% of this porker's weight (3,920lbs. in all) is over the front axle, the rear end slides like Enzos hunt power poles. And once you get into third gear, the acceleration is frightening. We loved it. Summary: when pushed hard the Shelby GT500 Convertible is as cruel a car as they come. But why do you have to push it so hard?
Next was the Mustang GT Ford should have been building since day one, the Shelby GT. For reals y'all, this is the current height of 'Stang chic. Silver Le Mans racing stripe? Standard. Same hood scoop as the original Shelby Mustangs? Check. Bulging power dome bonnet? You know it. Badass brushed aluminum grill? Damn skippy. But beneath all the hotness lies the best bits and baubles from all three of Ford Racing's packs. A modded chip, 90mm cold-air intake, groovy mufflers, Hurst short-throw shifter, dampers, lowered springs, sway bars and the coolest-looking tower brace of all time — plus honest-to-Dyno Don Nicholson hood pins — all get installed and massaged by the factory. The resulting car not only looks and handles better than any Mustang to ever leave Dearborn, but it sounds better, too. Aside from the crap stock GT brakes held over from the garden-variety car, there's only one thing wrong with the Shelby GT — you can't get it with a gold stripe.
Enter the Shelby GT-H. I've driven all manner of high-gloss metal up and down the coast of California and never have I felt as fly or as desired. Everybody looked at this car. Wisely, Ford capped production of the Hertz Rent-a-Racer at 600 units, guaranteeing mondo exclusivity. Think of it this way, FoMoCo had to go to Hertz and rent this puppy for the event because they don't have any! The only differences between the GT-H and the Shelby GT is that the former only comes with an auto box, you can't turn off the traction control, some badging and the hood scoop, which is more in line from the original Ford/Shelby/Hertz GT350H. Never mind all that, as you still get 325hp, 330lbs. footsies of torque and the nipple clamps poking out of the hood. $99 a day and a buck-a-mile? Well worth it.
Almost as fun was the impromptu car show that took place in the parking lot. All those Shelbys must have stirred something up in the quiet beach-front community (or just brought a lot of car freaks together). Coolest of the day was the '49 Ford V La Carrera Panamericana "Mexico" racer, although I did get a few miles in a 1983 Porsche 911SC.
[by Jonny Lieberman]