Shelby GT H & Widebody Super Snake: Twin Serpents with Different Bites
We got to drive two titans with two different ways of unleashing 700 horsepower at the Shelby American Ride & Drive in Frisco, Texas.
The Big Three American automakers have been battling each other in the “horsepower wars” for decades. Every new generation of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger packs more artillery under its hood than the last. However, it’s not enough for one of those legendary models to be better than its past self. It has to have the firepower to beat its enemies on the street, the suspension hardware to annihilate them on the track, and the design to defeat them on the showroom floor.
Those are typically the forces we picture when we think of the horsepower wars. Warriors roll onto a drag strip or road course to claim victory and wave a flag with two red stripes, a blue oval, or a gold bow tie on it. There are others out there on the 1,320-foot-long battlefields and serpentine asphalt war fronts, though. Shelby American is just one example. It’s been a longtime ally of Ford, working with the automaker to create such devastating machines as the GT350 and GT350R; and with a new GT500 on the way, in case you hadn’t heard 1,000 times already.
Alas, those aren’t the only weapons in Shelby’s arsenal. I recently drove out to AutoNation Ford in Frisco, Texas, to test fire its 2019 GT H and Super Snake Widebody models.
Aaron Shelby, the late Carroll Shelby’s grandson and board member of Carroll Shelby International, said in its most basic form, the “entry-level Shelby” is based on a 300A Mustang coupe with a six-speed manual transmission. The GT H is also available as a convertible with a 10-speed automatic.
Prices start at $61,345, which includes the donor car, as well as a long list of cosmetic and performance upgrades. On the outside, the GT H wears a Shelby upper grille, what Shelby American calls a vented “deep draw” hood, staggered-width 20-inch wheels wrapped in Shelby-spec tires, special rocker panels and wings, a Shelby tail light panel, a rear spoiler, and enough stripes and badges to make it clear to gawkers that they’re not ogling just any ol’ Mustang.
Inside, the GT H features a numbered dash plaque and embroidered floor mats. Performance upgrades include Ford Performance springs and sway bars, caster camber plates, and a Shelby by Borla catback exhaust. The GT H that Shelby American brought to the dealership was equipped with its optional Heritage package, which increases the GT H’s starting price to $66,345. It comes in either black with gold stripes or white with gold stripes and adds a Shelby front fascia, Ford Performance front struts and rear shocks, lighted door sill plates, and optional gold wheels.
Shelby American went a step further and installed the optional Ford Performance supercharger, which takes output of the 5.0-liter Coyote north of 700 horsepower (on 93 octane). Judging by the coolant reservoir tank under the GT H’s hood, it seemed as if they bolted in the Heavy Duty Package, which also includes a beefed-up radiator, wheel studs, and performance-grade half shafts.
Like the Super Snake, there was only one GT H available. Dozens of Shelby owners and other automotive writers were eager to get in it. I scanned the parking lot as I waited for my opportunity to get behind the wheel. Shelby American definitely chose the right place to hold the event. There were plenty of regular and Shelby Mustangs around and not all of them were dealer cars. A rainbow of S197s lined one side of the space. Elsewhere, there were S550s and even a first-generation Mach 1.
When the GT H returned to the lot, one of the event coordinators made sure I got the next chance to drive it. Aside from the Shelby embroidered seats, dash plaque, and a trio of auxiliary gauges, the inside of the GT H was just what I’ve become used to seeing in a modern Mustang. No side-crushing race buckets or obnoxiously bright two-tone leather and Alcantara color scheme. Even better, it had cooled seats and a manual gearbox.
I set out from the dealership to take the GT H on a short access road/highway loop. Unfortunately, late afternoon traffic kept me from opening up the supercharged V8 as much as I would’ve liked, but it didn’t prevent me from noticing some of the GT H’s other strong suits. The deep, brooding Borla exhaust note was the most immediately noticeable one. Although the brochure for the GT H doesn’t list any modifications to its transmission, it felt as if the clutch pedal required more effort than it did in the 2018 Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 1 and 2 cars and the 2019 Bullitt I tested in the past. I didn’t mind.
It was easy to modulate and the extra power needed to put it in place seemed appropriate for a car with 240 horsepower more than stock. Out on the Dallas North Tollway, the GT H’s compliant suspension made it hard to tell I was in a steroid-enhanced monster Mustang. Oddly enough, it was that sense of normalcy that made me like the GT H. Shelby didn’t ruin a good car by slapping on tacky embellishments or making it feel like a completely different vehicle. They kept the current Mustang’s Monday-Friday livability and added weekend-strength horsepower to it.
Shelby GT H & Widebody Super Snake: Twin Serpents With Different Bites continued…