In the world of tuned Mustangs, there are many names to consider. And yet, when most people think of a ’Stang with embiggened cojones, it’s generally one with wide racing stripes over the roof, side-pipes and a Shelby badge on the front quarter panel.
Okay, so the Federales have killed off the side-pipe thing, but even though he has now left the building, the street-savvy, chicken-farmer-cum-race-driver’s legacy continues in the form of the Shelby Mustang.
Now within that pantheon of Shelby ponies, there’s one that has a horn growing out of its forehead – the Super Snake. It’s not that the Super Snake was just a pipe-dream, because in 1967 it really did exist. But only in the form of one prototype. Seems Goodyear wanted a test mule that could run its new tyres at high speed for PR purposes, and turned to Carroll Shelby.
Shelby came up with a ’67 Fastback crammed full of Le Mans-spec 427 big-block making an alleged 800 horsepower. It successfully tested the tyres for 500 miles at an average of 142mph with Carroll himself taking the thing up to 170mph just to see what would happen.
The original plan then called for Ford to go into limited production of the Super Snake, but when it was revealed that the price would be double a GT500, the whole deal was shelved. But while it never reached production, the legend was alive and hissing.
Fast forward to 2007 and Carroll Shelby decides it’s time to take care of some unfinished business, so the Super Snake goes into production for the first time. Now it’s based on the fifth-gen Mustang but, crucially, there’s a supercharger option that takes things to 725 horsepower (540kW). Thing is, if you want one, you need to send a stock Mustang to Shelby’s Las Vegas skunkworks.
That changed for the Aussie buyers with the sixth-gen ponycar when Melbourne-based Mustang Motorsport was given the royal decree to modify local cars to Super Snake specification, complete with the all-important Shelby build-plate.
In fact, Mustang Motorsport is the biggest Shelby dealer outside North America, so the relationship is rock solid. It also means that your new Super Snake is covered by the three-year/60,000km Shelby factory warranty and is 100 per cent emissions (and everything else) legal. It has the compliance plates to prove it.
Based on the facelifted MY18 Mustang, the Super Snake package starts with a supercharged 700-horse (525kW) package, but if you really want to invoke the ghosts of Snakes past, you up the ante to the 800-horse package. Which is exactly what the owner of this car did.
The basic package adds a supercharger to what is essentially a stock Coyote engine as well as an active exhaust system and the relevant ECU upgrades. You can have it in manual or automatic (with a revised trans cooler) and it also adds a Brembo brake upgrade with monster rotors, replacement suspension to ‘Track Handling’ specification and some other suspension tweaks including new camber/caster plates and adjustable toe-rods at the rear. There are some dressy bits like Shelby-branded engine-bay caps and a specific coolant-overflow tank. Wheels are 20-inch fatties with Pilot Sport 4S hoops.
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Body mods include a new bonnet to clear the pump that has a distinctly different profile, rocker panels with winglets, a new front fascia with functional brake ducts, upper and lower rear diffuser, a rear spoiler with a Shelby logo cut into a section of it and the relevant badges.
The Super Snake deal also includes over-the-roof stripes, and inside, there are re-trimmed seats, extra gauges, floor mats, light-up sill panels and some carbon bits to make things a bit more special.
This car, of course, went all the way with the upgrade to the 3.0-litre Whipple blower that, interestingly, mounts the intercooler above the rotors and requires a new one-piece tailshaft, beefier axles, a bigger radiator and the curious looking extra-long wheel studs to cope with 600kW.
This particular owner also wanted the stripes painted on, not stuck on. So he got them.
The downside to getting hold of a freshly minted Super Snake like this one is that it’s too new. The owner only picked it up four or five days before we turned up on his doorstep, so the whole shebang only had about 420km on the odo.
Now, I don’t care about the theories of the mechanical terrorist who reckons that engines need to be run in hard to ever be any good, because I’m not that guy. Fact is, this engine was tighter than a scientist’s head in a politician’s hat, and it just wouldn’t have been right to give it a flogging. Not for another few thousand kliks anyway. (Throw in the fact that the owner was sitting beside me...)
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Even the couple of wee throttle-squirts I did get away with were enough to dunk me squarely into that lake of torque just shy of 1000 Newtons deep. And if the angry 25 per cent of the rev-range is as good as the lower three-quarters, then we’re talking happy-happy-joy-joy. In fact, there’s a theory that this particular blower makes more top-end grunt than some, so it should be a hoot when it’s loosened up.
It should gel with the revised 5.0-litre’s new-found 7500rpm redline, too. Meanwhile, there’s just enough blower whine to remind you you’re sitting behind a big lump of special.
Bottom line, though, is, no, I don’t know have any idea of how fast it will be across a quarter mile once it’s bedded in. And, no, I can’t give an accurate estimate of its 0-100km/h time. Suffice to say both those numbers will, by any standards, be impressively small.
However, what I can tell you is that there’s an enormous torque wave waiting to be surfed. And that, as a point-to-point car, the Super Snake is going to set new standards for Mustang-based lifeforms.
Part of that is going to be based on the car’s ability to lose speed when necessary. These brakes are stupendous. But more than that, they offer up a high, firm pedal that has just enough squish to give you confidence, but enough stoicism that you know you aren’t gonna make them fade even on a racetrack.
Team them with a suspension that, on first acquaintances, feels like it could be a tad too firm for Aussie conditions, but which soon comes back to you largely thanks to the superbly matched damper rates.
That said, I still get the sense it’s a bit too tied-down for typically bumpy back roads, if only because it’ll be going awful quick if and when it does let go. Oh yeah, there’s a tiny bit of tramlining, which is doubtless a function of the aggressive alignment settings.
Oh, and those meaty 275 front hoops probably have an effect, too. And like any modern Mustang, this one always feels like a big car with a big, long bonnet that sits you over the rear axle. The extra-bulge bonnet only amplifies this impression.
I really only have two bones to pick in the driveline department. This first of these is a fuel-cut that feels a bit overly keen to step in. Bimble around on super-light throttle openings (which is anytime you begin to feel attached to your licence) and the Shelby can start to shunt a fraction as the injection (or so it feels) comes and goes.
It’s only ever on those tiny throttle percentages, but it kind of spoils the otherwise factory feel that Mustang Motorsport routinely builds into its cars. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Shelby has a revised throttle or fuel map to fix this, such is the brand’s usual attention to detail.
Then again, you need to keep this in perspective. Even a decade ago, a 5.0-litre engine making 800 horsepower would have been a right pig of a thing. That this one can create that sort of thrust and yet suffer only a minor driveability glitch is testament to the powers of the electron. And the clever people who map their journeys around a slice of silicon.
My other gripe is something I’ve noticed in every other MY19 Mustang automatic. And that’s a gearbox that doesn’t always seem to know its own mind (as my grandmother would have put it. And, boy, she would have known). Like I said, this isn’t a Shelby thing, it’s a Mustang thing, but I wonder whether the extra torque – and, therefore, reduced requirement for all those ratios – might not be of much help.
The bottom line is that this car, fast though it is, still won’t replace a Ferrari 488 in the garage. Or an R8 V10 or a 911. It’s still the sort of car that will swing a punch before it sits down to mediate and it’s fair to speculate that Carroll Shelby would absolutely approve.
The Super Snake might have gained a factory build-plate and lost its unicorn status, but it retains the wild-child feel of a concept with a Le Mans-winning heart and a design brief to test tyres to death.
Putting those claims to the test on MOTOR review
2019 Shelby Super Snake
BODY: 2-door, 4-seat coupe
ENGINE: 5038cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharged
BORE/STROKE: 93.0mm x 92.7mm
POWER: 600kW @ 7400rpm
TORQUE: 980Nm @ 5250rpm
TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatci
SUSPENSION (f): struts, anti-roll bar, coil springs, dampers
SUSPENSION (r): multi-link, anti-roll bar, coil springs, dampers
STEERING: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES: 380mm, slotted, two-piece rotors, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm, slotted, two-piece rotors, 4-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 20.0 x 9.5-inch (f); 20 x 11.0-inch (r)
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S; 275/35 ZR20 (f); 305/30 ZR20 (r)
PROS: Huge poke; legendary back-story; epic soundtrack
CONS: Will the trans match the drapes? It isn’t exactly cheap
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
01 - Jazzy bits
It’s not just about ‘go’ under the bonnet, with the ‘show’ accounted for with Shelby-branded engine-bay caps, coolant overflow tank and carbon fibre – not forgetting the polished supercharger
02 - Just add boost
The 800hp 3.0-litre Whipple Supercharger Pack isn’t fooling around and comes in at $12,290 over the ‘base’ output. The ECU has been upgraded to cope and extra-long wheel studs are required
03 - Power upgrade
Both the power and torque of the 5038cc V8 have nearly doubled to 600kW and 980Nm (from 339kW and 556Nm) with the blower. Cold air is fed by the pod filter and expelled via the active exhaust
04 - Keeping cool
While the rear end is bolstered by a one-piece tailshaft and beefier axles, an intercooler and a bigger radiator make sure the Super Snake doesn’t run too hot while screaming at 7500rpm
The Price of Fang
When I first looked at the build sheet for this car, I thought the Super Snake list price must have included the basic Mustang as well. I mean, at $93,100 for the basic 700-horse package, that’s not a bad guess right?
Wrong. The car is extra.
But think about it some more. The engine is now supercharged, all the bouncy, stoppy bits are new, the interior is re-trimmed and even the bonnet is a different piece. And what price do you put on the fact that this is an honest-to-god Shelby Mustang?
Well, 93-grand I guess.
And if you’re going to drop that sort of coin, you might as well go all the way and grab the 800-horse option, right? Exactly. Although I’m not so sure about the painted (versus stuck-on) stripes, which added a full $12,000 to the total. That takes the grand total to $117,390 which, when added to the sticker on the screen of a brand-new Mustang GT automatic, takes the final bill to almost $184,000. Call it two-hundred large by the time it’s on the road and insured and you’re getting close.