GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

1968 Shelby Mustang Cobra GT500

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SPEX

Year: 1968
Class: Muscle Car / Pony Car
Type: 2-door convertible
 
Country: USA ``````````````````````````````````` Host: GT2
 
Price: $63,600
 
Length: 186.8" // Width: 70.9" // Height: 51.8"
Wheelbase: 108"
TracK: 58.1" front & rear
Overhang: @ 6 feet 6.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 6.1"
Weight: 3,569 lbs.
F/R Wgt. Distribution : 56.8 / 43.2%
Layout: Front Engine / Rear Drive
Brakes: disc / drum (all power assisted)
F. Suspension: coil / wishbones / anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: live axle / semi-elliptical springs / leaf springs
Tires: E 70-15
 
Engine: 428 cubic-inch ohv V8
Construction: iron block & aluminum heads
 
 
Tested Hp:    364 @ 5,500 rpms
Tstd Torque: 421 @ 3,000 rpms
 
Lbs. / HP: 9.80
Hp per Liter: 51.9
Credit per hp: $174.72
 
Aspiration: normal
Fuel system: 4-barrel Holley carburetor
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 4.24 x 3.74"
Compression 10.6:1
 
Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: 7,000
Transmission: 4-speed manual
 
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
0-100mph: 12.0 seconds
 
400 M: 13.645 @ 106 mph
1 KM:
24.343 @ 138 mph
 
Test Track: 1: 44.925
 
Top Speed at redline
1st: 59 mph (est)
2nd: 81 mph
3rd: 107 mph
4th:152.91 mph @ 7,000 rpms
 
 

 

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EXTERIOR / HISTORY-----------------------------------

For several years after the 1950s came and went, Ford and Carroll Shelby had been in courtship. They decided to tie the knot, making their love-affair official in 1968, when Ford allowed Shelby to start manufacturing his versions of Ford's Mustang in Michigan, along with the 'regular' Mustangs Ford was building. One of the results of this marriage was the Shelby Cobra GT500...of which some versions were also known as the KR, or ‘King of the Road’. Anyone for ego?
 
This car was mostly built by Ford, but several components (such as the hood) were left off so that Shelby could bolt on their own parts. The hood (featuring functional air scoops), front end, and rear of the car were all made of fiberglass in an attempt to save weight, though a few extra inches of body length in Shelby's version (and absent from the standard '68 Mustang) also added pounds, possibly making any advantage here just about nil. Another feature Shelby added was a functional roll bar in the driver's compartment, which is present even in the convertible model of our game, but unfortunately we'll never see it since the imaginary driver never puts the top down. The car also featured fog lamps to assist the Ford-produced high beams, as well as a tail light assembly borrowed from the Mercury Cougar.
 
The original price of the Shelby GT500 Convertible was (believe it) just $4,494, which seems a crime. Why does the car in GT2 cost over 14 this amount? Well it may have something to do with the fact that 317,404 regular Ford Mustangs were sold in 1968. In contrast, Shelby produced 4,450 Cobras; and out of these, just 318 were convertibles! What else can we learn about this lovely machine other than the fact that it's rare and expensive?
 
Well, it had an 18 gallon gas tank, got 9 miles to the gallon in the city, and only 11 on the highway, even if you were driving like a grandlady. 1967 was the year Ford decided to enlarge the Mustang's body and chassis so it could accomodate an engine larger than the 289, and Shelby engineers (not to mention ponycar fans) were not complaining. Lastly, it's important to note that the “500” in “GT500” means absolutely nothing. It has nothing to do with engine size, power, or the car's dimensions, it's just a random figure that sounds cool.
 
As with other muscle cars, this one is heavy, so hopefully the buyer can afford to get weight removed. There is no racing body, but with all three stages applied, the car is now 3,174 pounds, and we're gonna want it this way.

Also, GT2 didn't skimp out on color options. As usual, the palette is overwhelming. It's way too much fun trying choose one if you're a car nerd like I am. There's always that voice in the back of the head (well, it's in my head, anyways) that promises to get more than one car, so we can have several different colors...who can live with just one in the garage? Not that I listen to voices or anything.
 

ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN-------------------------

Cobra-Jet...King of the Road....GT500. It seems the promotional phrase folks at Ford (not to mention Dodge, Plymouth, Chevy, American Motors, etc.) never tired of making up little slogans and figures for their cars in an effort to make them sound racy. Now, we learn that this car came equipped with several engine choices -- one of them being the 428 cubic-inch “FE-series Police Interceptor” motor. Yikes! And to top things off, Shelby made their version of the Mustang even better than the factory did. Stronger connecting rods, dished alloy pistons, a new crankshaft, engine porting, and a hi-flow 4-barrel Holley carb which could suck 735 cubic-feet a minute. But ‘Police Interceptor’? Come on...
 
Actually, the car in the game is loaded with the Cobra Jet engine, not the Police one. My mistake. The 428 CJ became available about 2/3rd of the way thru 1968, and though it was rated lower than the 360 hp police engine, Shelby grabbed it anyways, bilking up those parts mentioned above. About halfway thru the model year, Shelby learned that GM was about to release the new 396 cid V8 Camaros, and were planning on calling them ‘King of the Road’. If the story is true, it means Shelby beat Chevy to the punch.
 
As usual, the engine in this car wants to move. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. NOW. It devours the quarter mile quickly and makes lots of precious noise in the process.

Website after website tells the same story about the 428 Cobra-Jet, which was factory rated at 335 hp, but rumored to have 400. Gran Turismo's dyno may disappoint a bit since it ‘only’ rates 364 hp @ 5,500 rpms. Oh well.

Again, we've got a car with plenty of mid-range torque... ...loads of it. The GT500 could easily tow a big motorboat or a camper if we weren't so busy racing, though towing stuff around would probably make for a boring video game. Despite the high price of the GT500, it's got a good power to weight ratio and an even better credit to power ratio.
 
Three tuning options are available on top of the permanent mods and engine management 'computer'. Real-life 428CJ engines could be factory modified for higher compression (like 12.5:1 or something). All paid, we can acheive 607 hp at best, and drop pound to power from 9.8 to just over 5.5. But first, it's advised to get rid of the car's 4-speed tranny, which tops off at 153 mph. This seems alot, but a modifyable transmission will do even better.
 
......Now we're really about to fly, so let's do it in style.
 

CHASSIS / HANDLING-------------------------------

Does anyone have any doubts about the role of camber on a muscle car? If you do, try this test: take a stock GT500, add a suspension upgrade but keep dampers at 1 and don't lower the car. Do not add sport tires or slicks. Now take it for a spin. Notice how when you're really wanting the car to turn, it seems to prefer going straight?!!? That's called understeer. Now take the same car and add about 5.0 of camber to the front. Same car, same crappy handling, the only difference is: now you can actually steer it with some reliability!
 
So, yeah, you may have gathered that this car doesn't handle well. It doesn't. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved.
 
The 15" wide tires, power-assisted front disc brakes, live rear axle, and 6.1 inches of ground clearance all are great, but remember that big-block Shelby Mustangs were really made for acceleration runs...it was the 302 cubic-inch V8 cars that saw most of the road circuit glory.
 
The GT500 will never be fully tamed, especially once it's got over 600 hp to work with, but we can try. The sports suspension package lowers the car about an inch, and with semi-racing parts, the car now has a minimum of 4.68" of ground clearance. Semi-racing or full racing parts + fully modifyable LSD unit are recommended, and with super-soft tires (or perhaps a combination of soft and super-softs), you'll perhaps win some races and feel like partying like a rawk star.
 
Don't get me wrong, this car is not for beginners, but in the right hands it can truely become the next King of the Road on your block.
 

 

  

PROS

1). Lots of power & torque. Typical big-block V8 is the main character of this story. Sub-5 second 0 to 60 times and 13 quarters are easy to acheive while your KR is still bone-stock.
 
2). 150+ mph top speed available--again, stock. Most '60s-era muscle cars can't make it past 130.
 
3). This car looks cool! Sorry...that's 100% of my emotions talking, but I can't help it. For those unfamiliar with Shelby, the GT500 may seem downright exotic. Lots of color schemes, too. Very nice.
 
4). Engine sample sounds kick ass.
 
5). Good credit to power ratio. Engine mods will easily add lots of power, more than usual for a '60s era car.
 

CONS

1). Expensive.
 
2). Poor tires, crappy handling. What else is new?
 
3). 4-speed factory transmission doesn't hurt top speed in most racing situations, but it should be replaced nonetheless for better versatility, especially with serious power upgrades.
 
4). Lots of understeer, unless you've got super-soft tires, appropriate suspension settings, and drive with care.
 
5). Lots of oversteer & spinning is of course a danger... though it's not so bad if the car's engine isn't modified yet.
 
6). Weight. I expected the mighty Shelby Mustang could be lowered to about 2,900 pounds, but it gets nowhere near this even with full reductions. No racing body available, either.
 
7). Poor brakes, difficult maneuverability.
 

Originally Published: October 5th, 2004
Lightly edited: September 11, 2007

 

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