Ford will start selling the most powerful factory-built Mustang ever, the 475bhp Shelby GT500, later this year.
Though it won't come here as an official Ford model - new Mustangs are not made in right-hand drive - expect some to come in as private imports and be converted locally to right-hook.
The new car, which will be sold as a 2007 model, reprises one of the most famous Mustangs ever, the Shelby 500 of the late 1960s.
The original 500 was the last of a line of high-performance Mustangs that Ford built in collaboration with ex-Formula 1 driver Carroll Shelby.
It had called in Shelby in 1964, wanting him to give its new Falcon-based coupe the go to match its looks. Shelby had already proven his worth as a Ford performance car builder by creating the Shelby Cobra.
That was a marriage of the classic British AC Ace two-seat roadster body and chassis with the Ford V8.
The result was one of the most potent sports racing cars of the mid-1960s, a blend of traditional British sports car and American V8 muscle which took the fight, successfully, to the Ferrari Grand Touring cars.
Initially Shelby shoehorned a 260 cubic inch Ford V8 into the Ace's engine bay. But that gave way to the 289 V8 with which the Cobra builts its reputation, in the hands of drivers like Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant and Formula 1 star Dan Gurney.
The open, traditional-bodied, roadster was backed up by a closed coupe - the Daytona Cobra - with a spectacular body designed by Peter Brock (an American, not the Aussie racing great). It was designed to tackle the long-distance races like the Daytona and Le Mans 24 hours, the 12 hours of Sebring and the Nurburgring 1000km.
Later on the Shelby Cobra roadster grew fat wheelarch flares to take the wider tyres required by the 427 cubic inch Ford V8.
What Shelby had done for the AC Ace, he did for Ford's new Mustang, the two-door coupe that was to spawn a whole new genre of compact American performance vehicles, the pony cars. They were named that because the mustang is a small but sturdy semi-wild horse of the American prairies, and the assumption was that Ford had used that horse as the inspiration for its agile and fast new sports coupe.
In fact, Ford's inspiration had been the North American P51, the finest US fighter plane of World War 2. However, by the time the production Mustang came along ir carried a galloping horse badge on its flanks.
Ford's new Shelby Mustang 500, developed by its Special Vehicle Team (SVT) has been given the thumbs-up by Carroll Shelby.
This modern interpretation of the of the 1960s Shelby Mustang runs a 5.4-litre supercharged V8, and will be available both as both a coupe and convertible when it goes on sale in the USA mid-year.
"When Carroll was developing the original GT350 and GT500, he wanted to build the most powerful, most capable Mustangs of his day," says SVT's Hau Thai-Tang. "Our goal was to build the most powerful, most capable Mustang ever."
The 2007 Shelby GT500 is a blend of the old and the new. Its rear spoiler echoes that of the classic GT500, but the rear air diffuser is inspired by the modern Ford GT (itself based on the Le Mans-winning GT40, a car in which Shelby also had a hand).
"It's one thing to put 450 horsepower in an exotic supercar," says Shelby. "It's another to put that much power in something as affordable as a Mustang. The fact that they not only met their goal but pushed on to 475 horsepower is a remarkable achievement."
Engines and other mechanical stuff
The 2007 Ford Shelby GT500's supercharged 5.4-litre, 32-valve V8 develops 475bhp. It is force-fed an air-and-fuel mixture by a Roots-type supercharger providing 8.5 pounds per square inch of boost.
The GT500 uses a cast-iron engine block, but borrows aluminium, four-valve cylinder heads, piston rings and bearings from the Ford GT programme.
The cam covers wear the legend, Powered by SVT.
It drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox with a close-ratio gear set. The heavy-duty transmission has been used in recent road and racing Mustang Cobras and the race-winning Mustang FR500C.
SVT engineers have retuned and upgraded key chassis components. There are revised shock absorbers, spring rates and upgraded stabiliser bars. Front suspension is by MacPherson struts with Reverse-L lower control arms.
At the rear, the solid-axle is located by a three-link set-up with coil springs and a Panhard rod.
Ford racing has proven the rear suspension design has been in the Mustang FR500C race car in the Grand-Am Cup series for production-based cars.
The FR500C dominated the 2005 season and won the championship.
To match the GT500's power and handling ability, SVT engineers specified 350mm vented front Brembo discs fitted with four-piston callipers. Rear brakes are 295mm vented discs. Wheels are 18-inch by 9.5 inch, fitted with 255/45ZR front tyres and 285/40ZR rears.
Just one glance will show afficionadoes that this is no ordinary Mustang Cobra. The sinister-looking front-end design includes wide upper and lower fascia openings with a functional aerodynamic splitter.
The upper intake houses the famous Cobra logo floating off-centre, in place of the centred galloping pony found on other Mustangs. On either side, slanting headlight openings add to the dramatic front appearance.
The bulged bonnet has heat extractors near the leading edge; they combine to provide improved airflow and aerodynamics. As air passes over the bonnet, hot air from the engine compartment is drawn out through ducts attached to the bonnet extractors.
The 2005 Mustang design team drew inspiration from classic 1968 Mustangs, the models that transformed the pony car into a muscle car with attitude. They tested GT500 design cues on the Mustang GT coupe concept that was unveiled at the 2003 Detroit Motor Show.
In 2004, they further developed the GT500 look on the Mustang GT-R, a race-bred concept that foreshadowed SVT's Mustang design direction and Ford Racing's plans to return the Mustang to road racing. The Ford Shelby GT500 Cobra concept coupe completed the design conceptualisation.
Classic Le Mans stripes
The 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe wears classic Le Mans-style stripes that run along the top of the car from nose to tail. The stripes recall 1960s Shelby Mustangs, and will be available in contrasting colours to the car's overall body colour.
The GT500 nomenclature is prominent in the lower bodyside racing stripe, another cue from the classic Shelby Mustangs.
In a touch also borrowed from the GT500's past, no Le Mans stripes will be seen on the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible. There were no Le Mans stripes on Shelby's original GT500 Convertible.
However, the convertible will feature a cloth hood similar to those found on Ford's highline Thunderbird and Jaguar droptops.
The inside story
Flair meets function in the Shelby Mustang's interior. For instance, the locations of the speedometer and the tachometer are swapped to provide performance-oriented drivers with a better view of shift points while changing gears.
The front seats have been given additional lateral support to help keep the driver optimally positioned during cornering.
There's a choice of two interior colours, Charcoal Black or Charcoal Black and Crimson Red. The charcoal/red option features Crimson Red seating surfaces and door panel inserts. Seating surfaces are leather with both interior treatments. Snake logos embossed in the seat backs complete the package.
The instrument gauges have light faces in keeping with SVT tradition.
The chrome finish on the standard Mustang's cabin accessories has been replaced by a satin aluminum finish.
Shelby Mustang heritage
Carroll Shelby first put his name on a Mustang in 1964 when he was asked to inject some high performance into Ford's brand-new pony car. The result was the GT-350R, a lightweight, handling-focused race car that brought the Mustang its first performance credentials.
Subsequent Shelby Mustangs included a street version of the race car, the GT-350, and what was known as the rent-a-racer Mustang, the GT-350H, a joint project with the Hertz rental car company.
The ultimate Shelby Mustang was the GT-500KR which Ford called the King of the Road.
Powered by a big block 428 cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8, the GT-500 was one of the most powerful muscle cars of that period.
Shelby Mustang production ceased in 1970 with a total volume of 14,559 units.
Ford's Special Vehicle Team brought high performance back to the Mustang in 1993.
After 12 years, with nearly 80,000 high-performance Mustangs on the world's streets and total SVT vehicle production nearing 145,000, SVT is primed for growth with the GT500 serving as the foundation for other performance Mustang projects.
Ol' Shel approves
How good would you feel if you were a member of the design team of the 2007 Shelby Mustang and the desighner of the original 1960s car gave your work 10 out of 10? Because that's just what Shelby Mustang inventor Carroll Shelby had to say of the new version of his baby.
"It's perfect," he said. "I wouldn't change a thing. It is everything I expected a modern Shelby Mustang to be."