Although Carroll Shelby died last year, his company is pressing forward, introducing an updated version of its modified Ford Mustang, the Super Snake “Wide Body,” and expanding its line with a new modified version of the front-drive compact hatchback Focus ST.
With Ford’s development of the 662-hp (494-kW) supercharged Shelby GT500, it left Shelby American a tough task to improve on that. But at the same time, the upgraded car made a better foundation, explained President John Luft.
“The new suspension was of great benefit,” he said. “We had to do less than in the past because of the adjustable Bilstein shocks.” Shelby does bolt on a Panhard rod for improved control of the rear axle, and the company adds camber and caster plates to the front suspension, which let owners adjust those parameters for track driving.
The brakes are upgraded with Shelby-branded six-piston calipers provided by Wilwood. Those go on front and back axles, along with Wilwood cross-drilled rotors for racing-grade stopping power. Air ducts direct cooling airflow onto the brakes, and Shelby mounts a new three-piece forged wheel.
The 2013 Super Snake also gets a short-throw shifter from MGW Ltd. and a Borla 3 in (76 mm) diameter stainless steel exhaust system.
To pump up the engine to 850 hp (634 kW), Shelby bolts on a 4-L supercharger from Whipple Industries Inc. that is sold through Ford Racing. The higher compression ratio of the 2013 GT500’s engine made adding this supercharger a tougher challenge, said Luft. “It did require us to tune it a little closer than in the past,” he noted.
The extra power output creates more heat, so Shelby installs an aluminum radiator from C&R Racing Industries Inc.
The conversion of a customer’s 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 into an 850-hp 2013 Shelby Super Snake costs $39,995 plus another $17,995 for the “Wide Body” styling kit. The backlog is generally between four and six months, said Luft.
For customers who can’t quite afford to spend $40,000 or more on top of the GT500’s $60,000 purchase price, Shelby offers a more affordable alternative: the company’s tuned version of Ford’s Focus ST hot hatchback.
Sure, purists who recall the beauty and purpose of cars like the Shelby Daytona Coupe may blanch at the notion of a Shelby-badged economy car. But Luft points out that not only has the company been down this road before, with the Dodge Omni GLH and GLH-S of the 1980s, but that Carroll Shelby himself always defended those cars.
“He caught a lot of grief from enthusiasts for building those vehicles,” Luft recalled. “He said it was some of the best fun he had building cars.”
The rise of the U.S. sport compact enthusiast movement in the 1990s showed Shelby was right about the viability of hot-rodding four-cylinder front-drivers, he added. “Carroll was just 10 or 15 years ahead of his time.”
This time around, the base car is the excellent Ford Focus ST, which is already earning respect before Shelby’s wizards apply their hands. A Ford Racing-supplied suspension kit drops the ST’s ride by 1 in (25 mm). The kit includes shorter, stiffer springs, front struts, rear shocks, and thicker front and rear anti-roll bars.
Brembo four-piston calipers and cross-drilled rotors replace the front brakes while, at the rear, the only change to the brakes is the substitution of cross-drilled rotors.
Inside, the cabin is decorated in Shelby style, and a short-throw aftermarket shifter replaces the factory unit. Outside, the cars are wrapped in one of three available graphics packages: traditional Shelby stripes, a checkered flag theme, or rally-inspired racing graphics.
Converting a customer’s Focus ST into a Shelby costs $14,995. For an extra $500, the company plans to offer a software upgrade to the factory engine management system that will boost power to 300 hp (224 kW), but the programming and subsequent U.S. EPA and CARB certifications will take a few months yet.