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AUG 9, 2017 | MATT STONE / INSPIRED COMMUNICATIONS

750 HP MAKES SHELBY’S TERLINGUA A SERIOUS MEGA-MUSCLE MUSTANG

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. – After a recent visit to the Shelby American Headquarters in Las Vegas, we were offered test drives in all of the latest high-performance Ford Mustangs from the Shelby factory. The first part of our four-part road test series took on the 2017 Mustang Shelby GTE EcoBoost, and Part Two covered the newest version of the Shelby GT-H. Now it’s time to find out what happens when you take a 2016-2017 Mustang GT, add some chili pepper personality, a good dose of Shelby American, and lots of tuning spice. What you get is the Shelby Terlingua Racing Team Mustang.

As we tested our way through four new Shelby American built Mustangs, there’s no way we couldn’t drive anything with a name like this. Or perhaps it should be called Wild Thang. Just look at this “god awful yella” (which is what Carroll Shelby named this color back in the 1960s), 750-horsepower screamer, and it shouts wild child from every pore.

A “Terlingua” is a lot of things. It is first a place in central Texas near Big Bend National Park, which today is largely a ghost town save for a handful of residents, a fun and appropriately touristy general store, an observatory, and a few other plantings. The word itself translates to “Three Tongues” and the town was named after the nearby Terlingua creek. The settlement was originally driven by silver mining, and later became famous for championship chili cook-offs – including Carroll Shelby’s, among others.  Carroll co-owned a rambling ranch house there, a place where he and his posse of pals used to gather for all manner of rebel rousing. Among his troop were lifelong friend and artist, Bill Neale, and former editor in chief of Car and Driver and Automobile magazines, the late David E. Davis Jr. The parties there are rumored to have been positively epic.  Neale once told me of the odd mule or donkey wandering through the kitchen or dining room some mornings.

More related to cars, Shelby chose to name his 1967 Mustang SCCA Trans-Am squad the Terlingua Racing Team, not wanting to run it under the Shelby American banner, as he still had many irons in the fire with Ford and didn’t want any perception of conflict. Ford’s official factory backed Trans-Am effort was running Mercury Cougars that season, so the yellow-and-black notchback Mustangs ran the series as a somewhat back-door effort, not officially the Ford factory team. Artist Neale developed the “Screaming Rabbit” logo as yet another of Shelby’s ongoing efforts to poke a stick at Enzo Ferrari’s “Prancing Horse” identifier. To this day, Terlingua Racing Team stickers are omnipresent on Mustangs, assorted Fords and toolboxes around the world.

The factory Cougars didn’t win the Trans-Am championship in 1967, nor did those pesky guys named Donohue and Penske either; nope, it was the screaming yellow “privateer” Terlingua Racing Team effort led by Shelby and racing greats such as Jerry Titus and Milt Minter that brought the title home for Ford (even if corporately the company was obviously rooting for Mercury).

The modern-day Shelby American has twice developed a Terlingua street package Shelby Mustang honoring the team and celebrating that championship. The first-gen reborn Terlingua of a decade ago packed a supercharged 4.0-liter V-6 that could run with – and often outrun – the V-8s. The 2015-16 example features a supercharged V-8 only, cranking 750 horsepower out of its breathed-upon Coyote 5.0.

Lots of lightweight carbon fiber makes up the body mods for this decidedly Type A Shelby Mustang. The vented carbon fiber hood is a Terlingua-specific piece, are the composite front splitter, brake cooling ducts, mirror cap covers, rocker panels, a special rear spoiler, and model-unique grilles. The Big T gets its own unique taillight panel, rear fascia diffuser, and upper and lower grilles. The black-and-yellow paint scheme mocks that of the T-Team race cars of ‘67, and the ID package includes Neale’s unique grille badge, a C-pillar emblem, Shelby lettering on the tail, and Terlingua Racing side panel decals, plus a set of door number meatballs.

The stock GT’s 435 horsepower becomes 750 at the hands of a yellow-powdercoated aftermarket blower, a Ford Performance / Borla exhaust system, special tuning, and heavy duty cooling. Shelby will build the car to automatic or 6-speed manual spec. Our test car bears serial number 1, the car used to develop and test the package; it is owned by Shelby American, and has been known to go head-to-head at the dragstrip with a Hellcat. Or two.

The Venice-model alloys come courtesy of Weld Racing Wheels, taping at 9.5 x 20-inch front and 10.5 x 20-inch rear, wrapped by appropriately sized high-performance rubber. Eibach amps-up the suspension with its adjustable shocks, and Brembo provides the massive six- and four-piston brakes. Ford Performance serves up a 3.73:1 rear-diff gear for manual-trans cars (3.55 for automatics), plus the rear halfshafts and a short-throw shifter. The engine compartment enjoys a Terlingua caps kit, and adjustable caster/camber plates. Inside the cabin bears a CSM numbered ID plate carrying the reproduced signatures of Carroll Shelby, Bill Neale and Jerry Titus. The headrest covers get a makeover, and the upper IP also earns a carbon fiber gauge-pod cluster, with dials monitoring boost, fuel and oil pressure. The backlit door-sill plates and floor mats are also Shelby pieces. And naturally, there are several options if you want to go wilder yet.

This one lights up with a husky bark, underpinned by the whine of the supercharger and the rumbling pipes. And it launches as loud and hard as you want. The powerband is ferocious, with a healthy tire bark between shifts. We noticed a few small dents in the powerband, the power delivery not as glassy smooth as we expected, but again this was the first one built, has a fair number of miles on it, and it has withstood hundreds of track laps and countless hard runs through the quarter, so it’s not as fresh or dialed-in as would be a new car wearing any production updates, and not so many WOT miles under its belt.

It’s by no means poorly mannered, mind you, but it feels like a unit that’s lived hard – yet generally no worse for the wear. It starts and runs fine, every time, with no funny noises, overheating, rough idle or other particularly bad manners – meaning that the underlying Mustang platform and powertrain can take the heat, and that the Ford Performance and Shelby upgrades really deliver the goods, and also last. This one absolutely feels edgier and more track intensive and intended than the others; we’re confident you’ll be running with, and outrunning, some seriously big name “exotics” at your next weekend open track event in this.

Even in spirited (OK, aggressive) street driving, we noticed handling improvements similar to those found on the GT-H and GTE, perhaps with those Ford Performance suspension-equipped cars riding modestly better; the Terlingua’s adjustable Eibachs are a little firmer, and the 20-inch rolling stock means less sidewall, although the ride is still street worthy, just not as polished as the other two. Which is all right, because this screaming-yellow zonker honors a championship race car, earning its Wild Thang Shelby stripes. You won’t hide this car’s big personality from anything, or anyone. Now bring on those Vettes and Hellcats, but bring money – Shelby commands $65,999, plus the cost of the new Mustang underneath, to have your very own Terlingua – a lot of speed and solid content but a lot of dough plus the base cost of the car in any light. It’s not being actively marketed as member of the 2017 model roster, but Shelby American will gladly custom build you one if it’s the one you want.

FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COURTESY KIRK GERBRACHT / INSPIRED COMMUNICATIONS