Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (2013) pictures and hands-on
When it comes to car fantasies, the Ford Mustang is right up there. From Steve McQueen's Bullitt to Nicolas Cage's Eleanor, the Ford Mustang has captured the imagination of car fans everywhere, us included.
It's a rare beast to see in the UK, so when Ford invited us down to Brands Hatch for the day, dropping the name of the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 into the mix saw us tearing around the M25 to get there.
The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 sits at the top of the line of 2013 Mustangs, announced in May 2012. And Ford recently confirmed that the Mustang would be roaring to UK shores at some point in the future, bringing with it a little American excitement. Currently, this is a car you'll have to import if you want one.
And why wouldn't want an iconic American muscle car with this sort of pedigree? This isn't a car to buy if you're scared of rising fuel prices, but you certainly get a lot of power for your money, and starting at $54,200 for the coupe and $59,200 for the convertible that we drove, it looks affordable against the BMW M or Mercedes AMG models.
But where those European models might offer superior refinement, efficiency and luxury, the Mustang brings with it giddy excitement. As excellent as a BMW M5 might be, it isn't a Shelby GT500. And love or hate muscle cars, fire up the 5.8-litre supercharged V8 and you can't help but smile.
The Ford Mustang is certainly a car that looks better from the outside. The coupe lines of the hardtop are serious; the convertible loses some of this race car effect by chopping off the roof, but it's the nose and the tail that really get us excited. The aggressive front looks ready to bite, while the rear shows off that Shelby lettering beneath the cheeky spoiler. The hooded cobra, poised and ready to strike, is fitting: there's no messing around - this is a car that means business.
Unfortunately we don't know exactly what that business is on the road as we only had the chance to put it round the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. We say "only" because most people would probably give the fingers off their right hand to throw this sort of car around a race track.
But it does mean we have no idea of how this car really handles on the road. We have no idea what it's like pottering through traffic, heading to the Co-op to buy milk. We have no idea about the performance of the Shaker audio system or even the layout of controls.
But we can tell you that the clutch is a little heavy, as you'd expect, with plenty of spring at the top, so you might see a couple of stalls from the unexpectant, and the six-speed gearbox is very precise, clicking neatly in and out of gears with relative ease, even if the gearstick looks to be topped by a smooth golf ball.
Being a left-hand drive car, we're happy to admit that we punched the door a couple of times as we went to shift with the wrong hand, not that we used many gears, as third and fourth were all we needed round the track once we'd left the pits.
The size of the car is obvious and reflected in the size of the steering wheel. Steering the Mustang through the Druids hairpin bend of Brands Hatch feels more like you're rotating the track to fit the car: it's a huge movement as you swing this monster through the bends, although it's not excessively heavy or laboured to drive.
With 662hp and buckets of torque, this 1.7-tonne beast doesn't languish around the track, it screams around. The throaty V8 really does roar and heads will turn as you thunder past. Hit a straight piece of road and you'll feel the power unfurl, pushing you into the Recaro leather seats as the volume rises.
We can also appreciate why they say racing drivers have to be so fit, as you'll find yourself tensing as you steer around and power out of the of the corners, relaxing slightly through the gear change before tensing up again before clipping the next corner. Perhaps the seats could grip you a little better to stop you rolling around, or maybe we should just eat a bit more candy.
But beyond that, how much can you garner from a few laps a breakneck speed around a race track? One thing's for certain: we're even more eager to hear of Ford's plans to launch a native UK Mustang, because, although it might be slightly alien alongside our European efficiency, the Ford Mustang is still a car to covet.
Stepping out of this meeting with a fantasy car the crush hasn't been quelled. You can't help but smile as the driver and you can't help but stare if you're not, because the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is everything you expect it to be: it's big, it's brutal and it screams abuse in your face every time you step on the "gas".