2011 Ford Shelby GT500
2011 Ford Shelby GT500. Click image to enlarge
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By Chris Chase; photos courtesy Ford of Canada

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2011 Ford Shelby GT500

Introduced in 2007 as the latest in a long line of “ultimate” Mustangs, the Shelby GT500 was, at that time, the most powerful factory-built Mustang ever, with a 5.4-litre supercharged engine (derived from that in the Ford GT) making 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, figures that increased to 540 hp and 510 lb-ft in 2010.

With the GT500’s lesser Mustang siblings getting new V6 and V8 engines for 2011, Ford didn’t want its most potent model to feel left out, so, to that end, the 2011 GT500 has a new motor too. On paper, an increase of just 10 horsepower – to 550 – and no boost in torque doesn’t sound like much to write home about, but in this case, there’s more to the story than just power figures.

The big deal, then, is that this is a new motor, with an aluminum block that cuts the motor’s weight by a significant 102 pounds (about 46 kg), a reduction that will result in a small increase in straight-line performance, but will play a bigger role in improving the car’s handling abilities. Peak horsepower happens at a racy 6,200 rpm, while torque peaks at 4,250; however, Ford says that 80 per cent of the 510 lb-ft of torque is available between 1,750 and 6,250 rpm.

2011 Ford Shelby GT500
2011 Ford Shelby GT500
2011 Ford Shelby GT500. Click image to enlarge

The new engine also showcases Ford’s first use of Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) cylinder liners in place of standard cast-iron liners. Without getting too technical, Ford claims the new process, to which it holds the patent, results in lower friction between the pistons and cylinder bores, improves heat transfer and accounts for 8.5 pounds of the engine’s overall weight loss. Ford also says the new engine block is improved over the old motor’s thanks to what it calls a unique bulkhead chilled process, and stronger six-bolt billet main bearing caps.

A Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual remains the only transmission choice, carried over from the 2010 GT500. Compared to the all-new six-speed used with the new Mustang GT’s 5.0-litre V8, the Shelby’s feels less sophisticated, with higher shift effort and short throws that took some getting used to during a brief spin on the track at Calabogie Motorsports Park near Ottawa.

The car proved a capable track car, but as in many high-performance cars, it’s easy to get overconfident behind the wheel of one. Of three Mustangs I drove on the track (V6, GT and GT500), it was in the Shelby that I entered a turn too quickly and wound up on the grass outside of the turn. Still, this is perhaps a more entertaining car to drive in a straight line, where it can, according to Ford engineers, hit 100 km/h in about five seconds.

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