Much like its design inspiration, the 450-plus-horsepower Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 show car embodies the performance reputation of the 1960s Shelby Mustangs in a thoroughly modern sports car intended to compete with the world's best. Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) is engineering the GT500 as a standard for balanced driving dynamics – great straight-line performance, precise handling and a comfortable ride – just as vintage Shelbys set the bar in their time.
"The Shelby Cobra GT500 will take SVT-tuned Mustangs to a new level," says Phil Martens, Ford group vice president, Product Creation. "We are combining SVT's modern engineering expertise with Carroll Shelby's enduring Mustang legacy to create what we think will be an instant classic just like the 2005 Mustang."
The GT500 chassis development started during the 2005 Mustang program, when the basic vehicle geometry of the chassis structure was tested and validated on a number of racetracks. The result is a solid chassis that has won acclaim from media and customers alike. Beginning with this rigid platform, SVT chassis engineers are honing the GT500's handling to a razor's edge.
Track tested and race-proven chassis
Prior to his assignment as director, Advanced Product Creation and SVT, Hau Thai-Tang served as chief engineer for the 2005 Mustang.
"We spent a lot of time at the track developing the new Mustang and ensuring it was capable of handling future performance derivatives," says Thai-Tang. "Media and customer reactions have been extremely positive in terms of chassis dynamics."
The race-prepared Ford Racing Mustang FR500C is another example of the platform's prowess as it was built ground-up from the base Mustang body structure and suspension geometry to run in the production class form of road racing, the Grand-Am Cup series.
"In terms of performance, the Mustang's solid rear axle setup in the GT500 has been proven in race competition this year with a Mustang FR500C taking the checkered flag at the season-opening Grand-Am Cup race at Daytona," says Thai-Tang. "First race, first win; not bad against the best from Germany and Japan."
Shelby Cobra GT500 shares the architecture and suspension geometry of the Ford Racing Mustang FR500C, which won its debut Grand Am Cup race at Daytona.
"SVT and Ford Racing will be working closer than ever as we go forward on future projects, especially Mustangs" continues Thai-Tang. "The FR500C racing program demonstrates the capability that we engineered into this car, and now we have both a Daytona victory and the return of the GT500 to showcase the performance possibilities of the Mustang."
SVT chassis engineers tune for precise, balanced handling
The 2005 Ford Mustang has already won rave reviews for its competent handling, thanks to intelligent re-engineering of its suspension designs: a revised MacPherson strut independent front suspension with "Reverse L" lower control arms and a solid-axle, three-link rear suspension with coil springs and a Panhard rod.
To create the Shelby Cobra GT500, SVT engineers are using real-world experience gained during more than 12 years of building great-handling SVT Mustang Cobras. The result will be SVT's signature chassis tuning with a balanced, performance-tuned ride that still maintains the compliance required for everyday driving.
SVT engineers are recalibrating the front and rear shocks and upgrading the front and rear stabilizer bars and revising spring rates. To dial-in even crisper steering response into an already rigid chassis, SVT is adding special shock-tower bracing and an additional structural "K-Member" for track-capable performance. Ride height is being lowered both front and rear.
Shelby Cobra GT500 features a MacPherson strut front suspension, and three-link rear suspension tuned by SVT for balanced dynamics.
Key to the GT500's three-link rear architecture is the Panhard rod that provides precise control over the rear axle. A central torque control arm is fastened to the upper front end of the differential, while trailing arms are located near each end of the axle. The lightweight, tubular Panhard rod runs parallel to the axle and attaches at one end to the body and at the other to the axle. SVT is tuning the rod bushings to handle the extra torque of the GT500 powertrain and firmly control the axle during hard cornering.
Constant-rate coil springs and outboard shocks are also specially tuned for a controlled yet compliant ride. The shocks are located on the outside of the rear structural rails, near the wheels, reducing the lever effect of the axle and allowing a more precise and slightly softer tuning of the shock valves. The GT500 incorporates a separate upsized rear stabilizer bar to reduce body lean, adding to the sophisticated handling precision and performance.
19-inch tires and 14-inch cross-drilled brakes complete the GT500 chassis.
To put a stop on the GT500's power and handle its high-performance capability, SVT has employed some of the biggest brakes in the business. Continuing SVT's legacy of great-braking Mustangs, the GT500 features 14-inch cross-drilled Brembo brake rotors up front, clamped by four-piston aluminum calipers. The rear features 13 inchers with two-piston calipers. Unique 19- x 9.5-inch aluminum split-five-spoke wheels are wrapped in P255/45ZR19 high-performance rubber to help secure the GT500 to the road.
P255/45ZR19 tires encircle massive fourteen-inch, cross-drilled front disc brakes.
The dramatic leap in body stiffness achieved by the 2005 Ford Mustang that contributes to the Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 show car's improved driving performance has a parallel benefit in accident avoidance.
With a body structure 31 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity than the previous generation Mustang coupe, the GT500's chassis is better able to respond to driver inputs to help control the vehicle in emergency maneuvers. Many of the same structures are designed to help channel crash forces away from occupants by managing deformation and intrusion during an impact.
"The torsional rigidity of the new unibody architecture helps give drivers more control in panic situations while Ford's latest side-impact protection technologies help manage crash forces if an accident cannot be avoided," says Jay O'Connell, SVT chief vehicle engineer.
The show car's front structure is designed to absorb energy in a controlled manner and help dissipate it before it can reach the passenger compartment. The 2005 Mustang's front rails have an octagonal shape designed to distribute crash forces and progressively deform for increased protection in demanding, offset frontal crashes.
Combine a stiffer chassis with features such as all-speed traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Ford's Personal Safety System™, and overall passenger protection is enhanced. When you add in the driver and front-passenger side-impact air bags, the GT500 provides a comprehensive safety package.
The Ford Personal Safety System™
The GT500 features Ford's Personal Safety System™, a cutting-edge safety technology package. The system provides increased protection in frontal crashes by predicting crash severity and deploying restraint devices. The Personal Safety System™ utilizes dual-stage driver and front-passenger air bags – capable of deploying at full or partial power – as well as safety belt pre-tensioners and energy management retractors.
Shelby Cobra GT500 features a unibody safety cage designed to help dissipate the force of an impact.
Standard front-passenger classification sensing builds on the strength of the Personal Safety System™ to tailor deployment of the front-passenger air bag. If the passenger seat sensor detects no weight – or very little weight, like a briefcase or purse – the passenger air bag is automatically deactivated. If more weight is detected on the seat, such as that of a small child, the air bag remains deactivated and an instrument panel light alerts the driver. If a larger, adult-size occupant is in the passenger seat, the air bag automatically switches on.