The 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1 was suppose to be the new heavy weight champion of the (muscle car) world. At 580 horsepower, not only did it have more horsepower than a Ferrari 458, more torque than an Aston Martin DB9 V12, and a better power-to-weight ratio than a Porsche 911 Carrera GTS, it was going to knockout the Shelby GT500. it wasn’t even going to be fair fight. And it wasn’t. As the bell rung the seemingly dated overweight fighter we assumed the GT500 was landed a left hook that transformed the vaunted ZL1 from the favored contender to a pretender. With 650 horsepower the and a top speed of 215 mph the 2013 Mustang GT500 proves it is still the King of the Road.
Forget the 1960’s, this is the golden age of muscle cars. You can stop proclaiming that the OPEC Oil Embargo killed the pony car. Yes, the 1970’s turned turned Mustang II’s into Pintos, in the 1980’s we traded our Pinto ponies for Honda styled hatchbacks, and the 2000’s nearly killed the F-Body, but the muscle car survived and evolved.
We have tried to play the Mustang off as dead. For the second consecutive year the Mustang will post it worst annual sales ever. At forty-seven the Mustang was middle-aged at best. At worst they were out of touch with the youth movement they had once powered. Ford engineers were too arrogant to perceive the new Camaro as a threat, and to cautious to change the formula that had proved successful time and time again. As a result The Camaro is poised to capture the sales crown away from the iconic pony second year running. Something that has only happen four of the previous forty-four years the two muscle cars have gone head to head. The Camaro has been riding a wave of high demand fuel by their aggressive Aussie styling, and the pent-up demand caused by their six year hiatus that even the return of the 5.0L engine couldn’t halt.
And then something totally unexpected happened… Rather than watch America’s most favorite muscle car go the way of the dodo bird, Ford responded. They decided to give the 2013 Mustang GT and V6 a shot of adrenaline by adapting the aggressive Shelby front end styling, rather than wait two additional years till the schedule body change. But the move to copy the GT500’s styling left auto pundits and enthusiasts asking how Ford could differentiate their high end model.
The answer? A 5.8-liter V8 aluminum-block engine producing 650 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque, the most powerful production V8 in the world. The Shelby shed weight to tip the scales at 3,850-pounds ans remain exempt from the gas-guzzler tax.
“SVT keeps the Shelby GT500 on the cutting edge of technology and takes muscle car performance to new heights,” said Jost Capito, director of Global Performance Vehicles and Motorsport Business Development. “We encapsulated every aspect of performance in this car – whether it’s 0-60, top speed, racetrack or quarter-mile times. Beyond that, the daily driver also will find this car perfectly fits his or her needs.”
SVT? Did you just read that right? Yes, Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, also known as SVT is back, The skunk works program had been around since 1983 when Ford rolled out the 1984-1986 SVO Mustang, but the moniquer was ditched in 2005 in favor of Shelby nameplate. Now the team credited with the 1995 Mustang Cobra R, Ford Raptor pick-up truck, and the 2005-2006 Ford GT supercar.
Now nearly every part of the powertrain has been optimized by the SVT Team for producing the additional horsepower, including a new supercharger, new cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft profiles, a new carbon fiber driveshaft and upgraded clutch, transmission and axle. A larger, more-efficient supercharger flowing more air through the engine is key to helping produce the massive 650 horsepower. The new TVS series 2300 creates 2.3 liters of displacement and is a unique design to the 5.8-liter engine.
The entire cooling system has been significantly updated on the new 5.8-liter engine. It now includes a larger cooling fan, fan shroud with high-speed pressure-relief doors, a more efficient charge air cooler, a higher-flow intercooler pump and an intercooler heat exchanger with volume increased 36 percent.
Nearly every gear on the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 was revised to manage the torque and use more of the power in a way that makes it more driver-friendly. Engineers considered more than 35 gearing combinations, finally deciding on one that delivers less torque all the way through the wheels to the ground and still enables the car to achieve fuel economy targets.
A key piece of the driveline, the six-speed manual transmission, offers upgraded gears, bearings and housing so it can properly manage the torque. The final drive ratio is now 3.31:1 for optimized overall vehicle gearing to complement the massive torque. Every gear besides fourth was optimized for competing performance metrics. The clutch has increased torque and rpm capacity and uses a dual-disc design.
“It might just seem like we’re putting a bigger engine into the car. But it’s been a balanced approach through and through,” said Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief engineer. “We’ve completely redone the car to be even more sophisticated in terms of handling and control than the prior model.”
When customers order the optional Performance Package, they will get a Torsen limited-slip differential that helps the rear suspension deliver maximum torque and traction better and longer under track conditions. A new launch control system lets drivers set the desired launch rpm depending on tire temperature, street surface or other conditions. Unique to SVT’s launch control is that it is integrated with both the engine control and traction control. A new six-piston caliper Brembo brake system offers drivers enhanced stopping power to help keep their car under control, both on the road and the track.
The front fascia and splitters were modified to handle the extreme loads at 200 mph, resulting in a car that tracks more securely and feels more planted to the road at higher speeds. It offers 33 percent more effective aero loading at 160 mph compared to the 2011 model.
“We took a completely different approach with this car so drivers can choose their settings instead of a computer making the selection,” Hameedi said. “Nearly every system the driver interacts with can be tailored to his or her situation including the Bilstein electronic adjustable suspension, launch control, AdvanceTrac and steering assist levels.”
The 2013 Shelby GT500 offers two new sets of forged-aluminum wheels including a unique wheel for cars with the optional packages. The 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels are coupled with Goodyear Eagle® F1 SuperCar G: 2 tires on all vehicle configurations.
Sometimes Ford Shelby GT500 customers want to enjoy their car on surface streets. Other times they just want to let loose on the track. Two new optional packages on the 2013 model give them the choice.
Available as part of the optional Performance Package, SVT-designed Bilstein electronic adjustable dampers are accessed on the dash with a simple push of a button. Normal mode gives customers a more comfortable ride over road irregularities. Sport mode is all about performance, delivering improved response time on the track and less body roll while cornering and pitch under braking. The Torsen limited-slip differential also comes with the Performance Package.
“The adjustable shocks let us develop our car on the track without any compromise,” said Kerry Baldori, Ford SVT Global Performance Vehicles chief engineer. “Before, we had to tune the car with street implications in mind. Now we can go as extreme as we want on the track setting and still offer the customer a comfortable ride on the road.”
Enthusiasts can upgrade their Performance Package with an additional Track Package for all-out performance. The option comes with an external engine oil cooler, rear differential cooler and transmission cooler for further durability. The coolers play an essential role in preventing crucial components from overheating under high-speed conditions.
The end result? The 2013 Shelby GT500 is kicking a$$ and taking names. It starts with the 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1.