Shelby unveiling 950-horsepower, street-legal Mustang

The automotive aftermarket outfitter founded by auto legend Carroll Shelby is introducing a modified Ford Mustang that it calls the Shelby 1000 at next week's New York Auto Show. As the name implies, the racetrack-only version of the car will get more than 1,100 horsepower. The street-legal version will come in at 950.

The car represents a substantial increase from the 800 horsepower that Shelby American currently offers in its hottest conversion, the Shelby GT500 Super Snake. Though the conversions are being done in the aftermarket, they show how new technologies are bringing levels of power to the street that previously only could be found on tracks, if even there.

The Shelby 1000 will be aimed at "anybody who has need for speed," says John Luft, Shelby American's CEO. (It's powerful, but not so powerful that the front wheels will lift off the ground. Note there are two fake shots in the video that show that purported lift.) It will also target those who don't have a desperate need for money: The price of the conversion alone for the street version will be $149,995.

In addition to the conversion price, owners also need to bring in their own Mustang - a 2012 Ford Shelby GT500 that lists for $48,810. It is the base car from which the Shelby 1000 will emerge. (Ford uses the Shelby name on those cars even though they are made in its own factory, but Shelby American is a separate company.)

The transformation takes place at Shelby American's shops in the desert about 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. There, technicians will tear the stock 550-horsepower car apart to create the 950-horsepower beast. Unlike Shelby's other modifications, this one is tougher. Technicians can't just modify air flow, exhaust, brakes, steering and suspension to glean more horsepower and better handling. They have to open up the engine. Gary Patterson, vice president of operations, describes it as if he were a surgeon:

The car's 5.4-liter V-8 will be stripped down to the basic block, which is machined to handle new pistons, rods and crankshaft. The Shelby 1000 also gets a supercharger.

The new components are necessary for lightness and strength to handle all that raw horsepower. There are larger diameter fuel lines, an aluminum crankshaft and extra strengthening in the car to help it handle the extra stress.

For the Shelby American crew, the creation of the 1000 was a tribute to the founder.

"For us, this is a special car for Carroll," says Gary Davis, vice president of production and research.

Carroll Shelby, 89, a heart transplant patient, stayed visible at events last through late last year. Recently, he has stayed out of the limelight.

He's a legend in the car business mostly for his exploits in the 1960s, the race-winning Cobras racers and Shelby Mustangs and pretty much everything since. A natural-born entrepreneur, he even created a popular chili-making kit sold through supermarkets.

The Shelby American crew thought their famous boss would be thrilled when they created the Super Snake, but 800 horses apparently wasn't enough. "Carroll walked in and said 'I want 1,000 horsepower.'"

He got it. When a prototype was ready last summer, he expressed delight, according to those who were there. He was especially pleased with the car's torque, the feeling of being slammed back in the seat during hard, straight-line acceleration.

"He said, 'This is the most torque I have felt under my (rear end) in my whole life,' " Davis recalls. "He was really happy with it."

The secret of delivering that much power isn't just about components. Now, with computers control ever part of an engine and its fuel systems, engineers can tune powerplants in ways unimaginable before. Patterson says in the case of the 1000, the car's engine is tuned cylinder-by-cylinder for maximum output.

Once during testing, an engine calibration had not yet had time to take effect. The engine cut out during the test and the Mustang ended up going down the Las Vegas Speedway backwards at 148 miles per hour, Davis says.

Don't expect to see a lot of Shelby 1000s. Production is going to be limited to about 100 cars a year, and about 25 potential owners have already claimed one, Luft says.

Those proud few won't really need to show it off. Though Shelby is yet to publish its top speed or performance ratings, it's sure to be fast. And understated.

Outside, the car doesn't look much different than another high-performance Mustang, except for the Shelby 1000 reflective lettering on the sides. "It's stealth and below the radar," says Luft. "You think it's a GT500."

Around town, it will drive like a pussycat. On the track, it becomes a tiger.

"It will act like a normal GT500," Luft says. "When you put your foot into it and that boosts the (engine) compression up, all bets are off."


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