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AUG 17, 2017 | MATT STONE / INSPIRED COMMUNICATIONS

2017 50th ANNIVERSARY SUPER SNAKE LIVES UP TO SHELBY LEGACY

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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, Part two covered the newest version of the Shelby GT-H and last time around we reviewed the Shelby Terlingua Racing Team Mustang. As we wrap up our driving tour of the current Shelby American Mustang model roster, it only makes sense to finish at the top of the lineup with the company’s top seller, and the model named after an historic Shelby Mustang that Carroll himself built and drove.

Today’s Shelby American has built its Super Snake model for some years, and through a couple iterations of Mustang now. Yet company president Gary Patterson says that the Super Snake  “remains our rock star in the lineup” as a best-seller and a poster child for what the modern-day Shelby American is all about. Patterson said his customers love their cars, but “asked us for something more: better build quality and a more OEM-like design, a quicker build time, continued world-beating performance, and more attractive pricing.”  This is what the Shelby team has delivered for its 2017 “50th Anniversary” Snake.

What 50th Anniversary you may ask? Well, Shelby built one – truly one-of-one, and just one – Ford GT40-spec 427-powered GT500 back in 1967. That utterly unique monster got a beefed-up rear axle, trans, and experimental Goodyear Thunderbolt tires. Plus its FE big-block 427 scored aluminum heads and water pump, a forged crank, Le Mans rods and just about everything else the Le Mans-winning GT40 427s got. Some consider it the most desirable and perhaps most valuable Shelby Mustang in the world . . . and in history. Might be – it sold at auction for $1.3 million in 2013 and not likely to be for sale again anytime soon. So that’s the car by which all subsequent Super Snakes were inspired.

Pre-2015 Shelby Super Snakes were built upon factory GT500s. The 2017 rendition has been rethought and redeveloped from the tires up to maximize the current Coyote-powered, IRS-equipped 5.0 GT. Underhood the work begins with a Ford Performance supercharger, exhaust system, cold air intake, and amped-up tune for the ECU. The result? A pump-gas streetable 670 horsepower. Correct:  6 – 7 – 0.  Not enough? Then Shelby American will supply you with an optional blower cranking it up to 750. A Ford Performance track-spec suspension package helps get it all to the ground, and keeps you flat and stable while doing so. Shelby goes to the wall on rolling stock, with mega-wide 20-inch forged alloys – in your choice of black or polished – wearing commensurately meaty top-brand summer performance rubber. Go needs whoa, so Shelby ups the brake ante with six- and four-piston Wilwood brakes; the binders, bearings, and hubs protected by a cooling duct package.

The design team also stepped up with a great-looking style neatly incorporating a special hood, grilles, rockers, rocker splitters, front splitter, rear spoiler, rear tail panel, rear diffuser and lower rear splitter, plus new integrated (and factory looking) LED fog, running, and turn-signal lamp assemblies, plus the usual round of Shelby, 50th Anniversary, and Super Snake badging and ID.  All that . . . plus an AutoMeter wireless programmable ancillary gauge stack, CSM badging inside, a Shelby engine caps kit, and special floor mats and door-sill plates.

Plus there are LOTS of options, a few of which our blue tester carries, like racy Ford Performance wheel studs, and a Shelby by Katskin leather/suede seating upgrade. This car is “just a 670 horse tester” says Patterson, but we don’t anticipate any disappointments.

Many Shelby fans, customers and hopefuls lamented the loss of the Ford-designed and built 2013-14 Shelby GT500, as it was a truly unique and special machine, even among Shelbys and GT500s. Recall that it got a model-exclusive supercharged 5.8-liter Mod-Motor V-8 rated at 662 horsepower. And when Ford Performance elected to go in a different direction (5.2-liter, flat-plane crank naturally aspirated Coyote) for the reborn GT350, some enthusiasts were disappointed that Ford never updated and replaced the big-bruiser GT500, especially when Chrysler showed up with 707 horsepower Challengers, and the Camaro just seemed to get ever and ever more powerful.

We’re not at all ashamed to tell you that this 2017 Super Snake is really that car. It absolutely looks, feels and drives as would a new Ford Performance factory developed machine would; modern, muscular maturity, with a Shelby edge. The design work is top notch, and the new LED lighting clusters add another layer of OEM look and feel. The body mods, pieces and parts are of production quality, and even though there remains a “bespoke” feel to the new car, in that each one is built individually to order in a wide variety of colors and options, it doesn’t feel in any way like a hacked-together aftermarket tuner toy.

It starts easily and runs smoothly; still with an authoritatively aggressive, yet not over-the-top exhaust voice. The engine idles like a (supercharged) Rolex, with snappy throttle response and more-than-adequate torque for an easily pull-away or aggressive launch as you wish. The clutch is firm yet butter-smooth, the shifts are snick-snick perfect, and the power is impressive; not quite as manic as the Terlingua, but big-game muscle car strong. The engine sounds marvelous and muscular, from its smooth mechanicals to the soft blower whine, to the big, chesty exhaust pipes; yet with control, and again, a decidedly OEM feel about it. The handling and ride are spot-on for an aggressive street muscle/sports car that will still be plenty at-home on track days, and you won’t believe how feelsome, yet stable, the steering is. It’s also the one you’ll want to drive from L.A. to Boston, if for nothing but the chowder, in speed, comfort and relative quiet.  The programmable ancillary gauge cluster is trick, and the uprated upholstery smacks of sporty luxury and quality.

What kind of performance can you expect?  Shelby’s numbers are as follows from an up-model 750 horsepower Super Snake with automatic transmission:

•      0-60 mph: 3.5 seconds

•     Quarter mile: 10.9 seconds

•     Skid pad: 1.2g

If you’ve been wondering what would be the ideal new Shelby Mustang for your everyday car, your weekend car, your track runner and your long-distance road animal, trust us that you could do little better than the new 2017 50th Anniversary Super Snake. And in an environment where the next one always costs more, you’ll be happily surprised that this generation Shelby SS costs less than previous editions, at $36,795 plus the base cost of a new Mustang GT. And if all this isn’t enough to get you a little stoked . . . there’s always the 750-horse option. (Learn more or build your own at www.shelby.com.)

FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COURTESY KIRK GERBRACHT / INSPIRED COMMUNICATIONS