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The Shelby Cobra Mustang, Waiting Is The Hardest Part.

  I first saw the new Shelby Cobra GT 500 Mustang at the New York Auto Show in April 2005. This car had special racing graphics that made it look as sweet as any car I have ever scene. It was the incarnation of a true American muscle car just like the ones they built in the sixties. The most amazing part of this story is that I have never been so wrong about the suggested retail price. This car, with 450 horsepower, falls into the category of super car like the Porsche 911 because of the incredible legacy of the original cobras. Yet when I asked the Ford rep how much he thought it would cost, he told me “only around $40k”. I was in shock; I actually did not believe him. I told the colleague that I was with that he obviously doesn’t know because this car has to be at least 62k.

   I know that a Pontiac GTO can be had for under 40k but this car is different, I have scene a few new Mustangs on the street so I know the car is for real. The GTO is probably a great car too, but when I went to a dealer for a test drive they failed to have any in stock. In fact I have yet to see one on the road. In contrast, I see many of the new Mustangs some with incredible paint jobs that actually do justice to the true specialness of these cars.

   The Shelby Mustang is the first car I ever reviewed that I know will cause a lot of 5 year old Lexus owners to scamper down to their nearest Ford dealer to trade in their car for one of these legends. I am not going to argue that this is the best car ever built, it probably is not. What this car is is a vehicle that makes the leap from everyday runabout to exotic super car flawlessly. The truth about Ferrari ownership is that it comes with a lot of baggage, you can’t park it at the mall, you won’t drive to Florida for a long weekend, and your sure as heck won’t let your friends at the local garage give it a quick tune-up. With the Shelby Mustang you can drive it anywhere you drive now. You might get a little more attention down at the 7-11, but unless your Tom Cruise, that’s a good thing.

   When I was in high school in 1978 Ford produced a King Cobra that cost about twice as much as a regular Mustang but only had 134 horsepower. I checked on eBay and a pristine condition one can be had for $12,500. In contrast the 1969 Boss 429 Mustang with a butt-kicking 375 horsepower in good condition will fetch over $90k. When I think about the new Shelby Mustang in this context I can only imagine that in twenty years this will be one sweet car to drive. Cars are never an investment, because they tend to depreciate, however some cars have an inherent collectability like most Ferrari’s or Porsche Turbo’s. This new Mustang will be one of these cars that someone will always want to drive

   When comparing cars, one of the most important items to consider is what other vehicles share the same engine as the car you are considering buying. Sometimes this comparison doesn’t hold much weight, like when one of the cars is much heaver or a different type of vehicle, but in the case of the 2007 Mustang Shelby Cobra the engine a 5.4 liter V8 is the same engine used in the much sought after 2005 Ford GT that are currently selling for a little over 200 large. So as to not to sell the GT short, boost on the GT is set at 12 lbs compared to only 8.5 lbs the Mustang, this results in a horsepower rating of 550 for the GT whereas Ford has promised 450 for the GT but some automotive engineers out there think that when Ford finally gets around to selling some of these Shelby’s the stated horsepower will be about 470-475 so as to distinguish this car from all of the other cars that by 2007 will have 450 horsepower on tap.

   Ford may be taking this retro thing too far, as the word is out that Ford plans on using a live axle in the Shelby Mustang. Back in the sixties live axles were common on rear wheel drive cars. A live axle suspension uses a single-piece axle to connect the rear wheels together. In contrast most cars currently use an independent rear suspension that allows the wheels on either side to move up or down without affecting the other wheel. Live axles are still in use today mostly on large trucks that carry large payloads or on trucks that are built to do a lot of towing because a live axle does increase the amount of torque delivered to the rear wheels. The reason why I question Fords decision to use a live axle is because; with 450 plus horsepower under the hood there should be enough get up and go to get down the road without having to make every pothole a coffee spilling experience. The live axle will not stop Ford’s primary customer, those who have always wanted to own a car bearing the Shelby name from buying one, but a few people considering a BMW M3 may not change their mind to the Mustang because they just won’t understand what Ford was thinking.

   The two things that Ford needs to get on top of are development time and production numbers. A couple of years ago when the new Ford GT  was coming out I started making some phone calls to see if any of my high school motor head car buddies would be up for pooling our resources and buying a GT. After I found six other guys willing to pony up   $25k each, I started looking for a car to buy, at that time about twelve months ago, the lowest price I found for an actual car was $235k. I wasn’t going to pay close to 100 grand over list just because Ford couldn’t beef up their production schedule. I have no problem paying up to ten thousand over sticker because I know each dealer only gets so many. During my search I found many dealers wanting $125k over sticker. If Ford had just produced a couple thousand more, the price would have been a lot closer to list. If you think about it, who is Ford hurting? If they had built three times as many, set the list at $175k instead of $145k who (besides the dealers) would have been hurt? This new Shelby isn’t due out till the end of 2006. At that time, it is an easy prediction that it will be hard to get a hold of an early one. Besides dropping off lunch every Friday for the next year and half at your local Ford dealer, Ford could make it a lot easier by just anticipating the demand and building enough cars. If Ford new it had a convertible and a Shelby Mustang in the works from the get go, then why does it take years longer to bring these cars to market. Ford could learn something from the Japanese about how long it should take from inspiration to showroom. It almost seems like Ford is thinking, there is only one die hard Mustang fan out there and how do we get him to buy three cars. So they first sell him a Mustang GT in 2005 then the convertible in 2006 and then a Shelby in 2007. Ford has to recognize that there will always be over a hundred different models for sale at any given time, and that it is a manufacturers job to make sure that many of the coolest, fastest and safest cars available at all times are made by that manufacturer. This is job one.
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