Ford’s forthcoming Mustang flagship, the Shelby GT500, has been spotted testing on the public highway ahead of its 2019 release. The images of the disguised prototype confirm a manual transmission will be available, although they also pose questions regarding how track-focused Ford’s leading pony car will be.
Our spy photographers managed to capture shots of the test mule’s interior, crucially displaying a manual gearbox, thought to be the same six-speed Tremec transmission found in the GT350R. However, Ford is expected to offer an automatic option, too, likely to be the new ten-speed unit (co-developed with GM).
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What still remains a mystery, however, is the engine. All we know so far is it will produce in excess of 700bhp, according to Ford, placing it on a par with Dodge’s Hellcat models. It’s been mooted the Shelby will receive a heavily-revised version of the 526bhp, 5.2-litre flatplane crank V8 out of the GT350R; maintaining reliability though could prove problematic with the lofty power target in mind.
That’s why others believe a crossplane V8 will feature instead, and our spy photographers agree this could be the case having heard the car up close. They reported a lumpier, gruffer note, suggesting the presence of a more traditional V8 configuration. Either way, the engine will be boosted by forced induction, likely to be a supercharger.
Whatever form the engine takes, its influence on the exterior design is undeniable. The GT350R-based front end features enlarged air intakes to satisfy the engine’s likely greater cooling and oxygen requirements. While above, on the bonnet, a pronounced power dome ensures you won't be mistaking the Shelby for any old Mustang.
However, the test mule isn’t clad in the full aero bodykit with which Ford teased the car in a video earlier this year. The fixed rear wing is nowhere to be seen, although the corner plates, extended sills and rear diffuser are all present, as shown in the teasing video. Perhaps the wing will come later, or, Ford Performance, which has been tasked with developing the car, has looked to alternative downforce solutions. Ford previously stated ‘innovative track technologies’ and ‘functional track-tuned styling’ will be a feature of the GT500.
Ford is yet to reveal any pricing for the range-topping muscle car due in 2019.