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2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Preview

2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
2011 Ford Shelby GT500Critical Knowledge:
  • New 550-horsepower, 5.4-liter, all-aluminum V-8 engine
  • New electric power-assist steering
  • New optional SVT Performance package
  • Enhanced convertible rigidity
  • Lowered ride height
  • Improved noise insulation
  • The first modern Shelby GT500 without a gas-guzzler tax
Introduction
In the early 1960s, auto racer, former flight instructor, WWII veteran and zesty Texan Carroll Shelby teamed with Ford Motor Company to create a high-performance variant of the company's successful Mustang pony car. The result, rolled out in 1965, was the Shelby-badged Mustang. The original partnership only lasted four years, but the Shelby name became synonymous with tuned Mustangs-any car enthusiast will tell you that. Nearly forty years passed before Shebly once again partnered with Ford and the two released the 2004 Ford Shelby Cobra Concept and Ford Shelby GR-1 Concept. Both concepts foreshadowed vehicles that would soon be in showrooms once again.

The first Shelby GT-H arrived in 2006. A joint cooperation with Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) and the Detroit automaker, the black and gold Ford was significantly more powerful than the stock Mustang and limited to a production run of just 500 units, in both coupe and convertible body styles. Interestingly enough, under a special arrangement it was only at Hertz car rental locations. The first so-called Shelby GT500 arrived in 2007-still limited in production, but its availability was more widespread. Over the next couple of years, the team introduced other special vehicles including the Shelby GT500KR, Super Snake and the Prudhomme Edition, named after the famed drag racer.

In 2010, the Shelby GT500 was reintroduced on Ford's all-new Mustang platform. It offered more power, more torque, and improved fuel economy. Not to sit idle-and more wary than ever of the competition from the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger-Ford has once again made significant changes to its hot performance car for the 2011 model year. The improvements include a new weight-saving and performance-improving aluminum engine and electric power-assist steering, among others.

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2011 Ford Shelby GT500Design
The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is offered in both coupe and convertible body styles. Both are visually identified as something special by their wide racing stripes running front to rear down the bodywork (the stripes are available on the convertible as well as the coupe). Other unique features include the front styling (with a flush-fit aluminum hood complete with a functional air extractor); special 19-inch forged wheels (18-inch on the convertible); a "Gurney Flap" rear spoiler for downforce; and "Cobra" badges on the grille, front fenders and rear of the car. Inside the cabin, there are full leather seats with Alcantara (synthetic suede) inserts, Alcantara steering wheel trim, dimpled aluminum dash accents, and a classic white shift knob. Of course, there are also "GT500" and "Cobra" badges sprinkled throughout the cabin.

According to Ford, the company worked hard to reduce the Shelby GT500's noise, vibration and harshness levels without ruining the car's signature supercharger whine and exhaust note. New sound-deadening materials have been added within the cabin and special wheel liners cut intrusive noise-together, they lower cabin noise by 20 percent when compared to its predecessor, says Ford. The aerodynamic improvements-including a special front fascia, underbody panels and the rear spoiler-quieted the interior of the cabin, and improved fuel economy on the highway, the company says. The overall vehicle ride height has been lowered by 11 millimeters in the front and 8 millimeters in the rear to improve handling and improve aesthetics.

2011 Ford Shelby GT500 EngineHardware
Loyalists will recall that Ford bumped the horsepower of the 2010 model GT500 by 40 horsepower and 30 lb.-ft. of torque over the 2009 model. That was a marked performance improvement-always welcomed by Shelby loyalists. Making those smiles even wider for the 2011 model year, the automaker has introduced an all-new, 5.4-liter all-aluminum engine. While engine output gets another bump (to 550 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque), the more significant news is that the new engine weighs 102 pounds less than its predecessor. The engine is mated to a standard Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission.

Enthusiasts will tell you that lighter engines translate to improved acceleration, better handling and increased fuel economy. Thanks to the aluminum engine and a focus on aerodynamics, the 2011 Shelby GT500 earns 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway (up from 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway on last year's model). Ford is proud to proclaim that the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is the first modern Shelby not to be tagged with the gas-guzzler tax.

New for 2011 are slotted brake dust shields designed to improve brake cooling and a new pedal box to improve accelerator, brake and clutch pedal feel, Ford says. Also, Ford has also added a new Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system to the 2011 Shelby GT500. EPAS replaces the vehicle's hydraulic steering and it offers vastly improved torque build-up and road feel, says the automaker. It also delivers better road feel, more precision and reduced effort in low-speed parking situations.

For those interested in wringing even more performance out of their Shelby, Ford is offering an optional SVT Performance Pack for the 2011 Shelby GT500. The pack includes very sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 tires wrapped around lighter wheels, stiffer springs, a higher axle ratio, and unique styling.

2011 Ford Shelby GT500Safety
The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is fitted with dual front and dual side-impact air bags for the front passengers. The GT500 also comes standard with Ford's AdvanceTrac stability and traction control system. Due to the high-performance nature of the GT500, Ford offers a modified system with three different modes: On, Sport and Off. In Sport mode-designed to limit the system's intrusion during performance driving-the stability control will allow increased wheelspin and greater slip angles.

Technology
The Mustang's new engine uses state-of-the art Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) liner coating to offer improved overall performance and durability, says Ford. In addition, PTWA reduces friction between piston rings and cylinder bores, improves heat transfer as the piston rings seat better against the bores (more surface area), and saves nearly 9 pounds of engine weight when compared to a traditional steel-sleeved aluminum block.

The action to coat the cylinders is very innovative. The first step is to prepare the cylinders for coating. This is done with a mechanical roughening process to add texture to the bore to provide higher material adhesion for the next step. Once prepared, the PTWA process uses air and electricity to produce a plasma jet of 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The incredibly hot blast of air is used to melt a special steel wire that has been fed into a rotating spray gun. Now liquefied, the metal is literally blown onto the surface of the walls-oxidizing in the process-where it forms a composite coating consisting of both iron and iron oxide. The PTWA technology earned Ford the 2009 National Inventor of the Year Award.

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