It’s hard to ever move on from a project car, even after completion. It only makes it harder when the car proves why it’s such an invaluable vehicle for performance. Our 2020 Shelby GT500 was not a max-effort build though – in fact, it was quite the opposite. Instead of installing the most amount of products to our chassis in hopes of sequestering maximum horsepower, we applied the least amount of bolt-ons to see what power could be possible. The allure of this short-list recipe was strong and one that sent us into a multi-part series that involved installing products, hitting the dyno, and then visiting the dragstrip, rinse, and repeat.
While we termed our 2020 Shelby GT500 a project car, the truth of the matter is, the GT500 is far from what most would consider a “project.” We knew this, and our goal was to not degrade the integrity of Ford Motor Company’s halo car by reengineering it. We wanted to keep the aesthetics, luxury, and design intact, but optimize the performance with improved efficiency and enhance it for the racing application.
Getting Firm And Sticky
The S550 Mustang, including our Shelby GT500, all came equipped with an independent rear suspension (IRS). This suspension works fantastic for road racing and performance cornering, however, we had adjusted our focus to the dragstrip. So, the choice was made to contact BMR Suspension to firm up our IRS. The parts list includes lower control arm bearing kit, IRS subframe support brace, cradle bushing lockout kit, differential bushing lockout kit, and differential hardware upgrade kit.
Once the suspension was addressed, our next step was to address our wheel game with a set of Forgeline Motorsports GS1R beadlock wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson ET Street R tires. Since the Shelby GT500 provides massive brake calipers, it was decided to keep the wheel size large enough to cover them, but also maintained a matching tire height to keep our ABS satisfied.
Our first rounds of modifications would net us more than just cool looks. Only a few passes into our second dragstrip outing we knocked off nearly a tenth of a second in the 60-foot from our baseline. The results wouldn’t stop there, as we were able to trim down half a second in the eighth-mile.
Seeking A Higher Power
Even though our generation of Shelby GT500 came equipped with 760 horsepower at the crank, we’re car people…we knew we lacked the self-control to turn away horsepower, and it wasn’t long before the bolt-ons began arriving at our shop’s doors. The one thing everyone agreed on was keeping it simple. This is where a smaller supercharger pulley from ZPE, Fuel Injector Clinic E85 injectors, JMS Chip fuel pump voltage booster, JLT intake, Ford Performance oil separator, and a tune from Lund Racing came into play.
Our numbers after this bolt-on affair triggered the dyno ticker at 828 horsepower and 666 lb-ft of pure evil torque. This made for a whopping 154 horsepower and 104 lb-ft of torque increase! Incredible numbers by spinning the supercharger a little more and adding more air and fuel into the mix.
To Taste Horsepower
Much like an animal in the wild gets a taste for something it likes, our desire for more horsepower after the first round pushed us to port our blower and installing an intercooler. While Ford had done a stupendous job with the engineering on the GT500, there was just something telling us there was more power left on the table.
We sought out the skillful hand of Kong Performance to port our blower, but also decided to use their 108mm throttle body to optimize the incoming airflow. Since the stock unit was only 92mm, we were trying to eliminate any potential bottleneck in the system, and the throttle body inlet was second only to the stock intake.
Increasing that air was not the only hurdle to clear, we wanted to make sure our 5.2-liter supercharged engine was receiving cool air to perform its best. Although the stock unit isn’t as susceptible to heat-soak as other boosted Ford applications, Whipple’s intercooler lured us in with its 33-percent larger than stock intercooler.
Aside from a few murmurs at the water cooler requesting we push the tune to the limits, the majority of our staff realized our goal was to keep the tune conservative. After all, have you priced a 5.2-liter Predator engine lately? Only two passes in our new combination showed the benefits with a jump from 828 horsepower to 940. At this point, we knew it was time to visit the local 1320 again.
Viva Las Vegas!
Unfortunately, the local quarter-mile tracks suffer from a lack of track preparation and our first runs are usually our best. While we knew we would struggle off the line, there just wasn’t enough top end on the 660-foot strip to make up for it with brute horsepower. So, we decided to make a trip to Sin City for a little action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The bright lights, gambling, and all around over-the-top city provides something for everyone, including the drag racer looking for a well prepped quarter-mile track.
Although we were only able to make one pass, it still gave us our best time of 10.35 at 135 mph. The extra top end showcased what 940 horsepower can do when given the room. Compared to our home state, this would be one of our fastest eighth-mile passes with a sinister 6.667 timeslip attached. We were only able to get one run in before the extreme ambient heat had taken hold and we were ready to head back to cooler weather.
Getting Catty In The Final Round
Once we returned from the track, Lund Racing informed us that our ambitions had netted us almost 300 horsepower over stock. As we patted ourselves on the back, it became evident it wasn’t a celebratory statement, but a word of caution. We were rapidly approaching the not-so-safe zone for factory catalytic converters. We decided instead of blowing out the catalytic converters that the GT500 came equipped with, we would order an aftermarket set from FabSpeed and shelve the others until the car was returned to stock or sold.
The FabSpeed units claimed an extra 20-horsepower gain, but after throwing it back on the dyno, we embarked on another journey to the faithful dragstrip instead of the rollers. We decided to return to where it all started with another round at the infamously slippery eighth-mile. However, it was a pleasant surprise that we were able to cut 60-foot times similar to Las Vegas, and the car was only marginally slower than the well-prepped Las Vegas quarter-mile, and we were rewarded with consistent 6.7-second eighth-mile et’s. This spoke wonders to the BMR Suspension, Forgeline Wheels, and Mickey Thompson tires gripping on what could easily be considered a no-prep situation.
A Salute To Ford And The Aftermarket
It’s no wonder the Shelby GT500 is Ford Motor Company’s halo Mustang. The raw power of the supercharged 5.2-liter engine provides plenty of power, and the chassis is tuned for road racing. However, where the car shines is its ability to accept changes with ease, including motorsports direction. Our goal went against the contemporary GT500 notion and settled us in for straight-line racing. The GT500 didn’t mind and was able to produce fantastic results from a basic setup.
Where the GT500 wasn’t aimed at, it still provided the perfect product for the aftermarket to step into. While we knew traction at these horsepower levels was going to be problematic, even in stock trim, BMR Suspension provided everything we needed to avoid wheel-hop and IRS deflection. The Forgeline beadlock wheels gave our GT500 killer looks, less rotational weight, and a wide enough platform to fit a nice size Mickey Thompson drag radial.
In the performance department, we saw extreme horsepower gains with just simple bolt-ons and supplementary products. The E85 conversion, opening the intake pathway, intercooling, and tuning had us close to the four-digit horsepower mark on a very conservative tune. It’s no wonder the Shelby GT500 is such a formidable foe on the track.
We’re proud to say Code Orange not only showed us what it can do, but the engineering that went behind it to allow it to successfully gain horsepower with ease. While the S550 platform has come to the end of its production run and the GT500 ends its reign in late 2022, we hope that Ford produces another.