CLEVELAND -- The 2007 Shelby GT Mustang will eventually end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Some star will drive one in a video, rock from the roof during a concert or smash one into a wall, becoming the latest, greatest, superstar to burn out too soon.
So with that in mind, I took the new Shelby GT to the hall and scoped out where Ford might want to place the fastest piece of metal in the museum.
A reincarnated pony car from Mustang's glory days 40 years ago, this Shelby lives up to the nostalgic hype. Bringing Carroll Shelby back into the Ford fold fits better than Sammy Hagar ever did in Van Halen. (And the Shelby's high-flow exhaust system sounds better too.)
The limited edition Shelby GT is part of Ford's "gather no moss strategy": Give the public fresh versions of the Mustang as often as possible. Like rock 'n' roll, the Mustang will never die. Today, Ford will announce plans to start building a convertible version of the Shelby GT.
Don't confuse this Mustang with the Shelby GT 500 or the Mustang GT -- the Shelby GT fits between the two in Ford's muscle car hierarchy. There's also the plain ol' Mustang and the Shelby GT 500 King of the Road, currently the ultimate 'Stang.
This Mustang is born at Auto Alliance International Assembly Plant in Flat Rock as a GT and then shipped to Las Vegas for lessons at the Shelby finishing school -- where it gets its power and distinctive branding, including Shelby's name stretched across the back.
But Shelby doesn't just add his name to these cars. He adds his LeMans-winning attitude, as well as the Ford Racing power upgrade package, which puts a few more ponies in the stable. The car's 319-horsepower engine doesn't start, it ignites, and then roars louder than The Who at Wembley Arena. It's raw, it's Megadeth (whose guitarist was Dave Mustaine -- say his name out loud.).
Wild and powerful
Grabbing the cue ball at the top of the Hurst short throw shifter, I muscle my test car into gear, drop the clutch and gun it. Yippie ki-ay
But the yippie fell flat once I crossed the border: "Welcome to Ohio: The land of cornfields and cops with hair-trigger radar guns."
The Shelby GT wants to rock open highways. It feels wild and powerful, ready to bolt if you don't hold the reins tightly.
Its lowered body (about 1.5-inches lower than the Mustang GT) loves flat open roads -- something Ohio has in spades.
The Shelby's throaty engine taunts you to drop to fourth and let the 330-foot-pounds of torque give your passenger whiplash
But not near Toledo. Instead, I dutifully grab my toll ticket for Interstate 80 and see my first of many state troopers in the medium, no doubt on the radio.
"Attention this is Buckeye Six," I imagine the officer saying into a mic. "We've got another one, heading east, and it looks fast."
It certainly does. The Shelby GT keeps all of the classic Mustang lines but adds an even more aggressive look. It's more Sex Pistols than Rolling Stones. It's the mean Mustang. The front-end snarls, with its low air dam and brushed-aluminum grille. Even the off-centered Mustang logo on the grille adds to its iconoclastic mindset.
Like all Shelby GTs, my $40,000 test vehicle included the silver Le Mans stripes that stretch from the front of the hood to the rear spoiler. The two hood pins keep the giant piece of aluminum in place and add to its old school looks.
The riveted faux hood scoop is the only piece of the exterior that takes away from this Mustang's lines. Decorative scoops are like pop music -- needlessly taking up space. That said, the side scoops in front of the rear wheels add character and are reminiscent of the old GT 350 of the '60s.
Pure Mustang looks
The ride inside the Shelby GT is rough. It's loud, boisterous and certainly not the kind of car you'd use to take grandma to the hospital. My knee rested against the emergency brake handle while cruising, leaving a dull pain. But none of that bothered me. The total package outweighs the sum of minor inconveniences. Mystique and style overrule slight discomforts. It looks right and feels right.
The Shaker stereo blasts through the road and engine noise, playing just about any tune you'd want from the XM satellite radio, CDs or your choice of MP3 player. Volumes can reach obnoxiously loud levels as you bob your head in the extremely comfortable leather bucket seats. There's a coarseness about the interior that seems to combine sophistication with function. Its simplicity makes it beautiful and the unique name plate with the car's VIN and Carroll Shelby's signature mounted on the dash erase the little interior gripes.
The back seats offer 30-inches of leg room, more than enough for an toy-sized Ace Freely action figure, but Kiss goodbye to fitting a full-sized Peter Criss back there, much less Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley.
And the Shelby's handling has the same raw kind of simple logic. The rack-and-pinion steering is very firm, but it feels right, both on the highway and in the city as the 18-inch wheels chew up the road.
The reverse L independent front suspension and three-link solid rear axle with coil springs make for a bouncy ride, especially when unexpected bumps arrive during a sharp turn as you're hitting the gas. But the car calms itself quickly and it's easy to maintain control.
But none of that takes away from this Mustang. Its unabashed blemishes are merely beauty marks on an amazing, fun machine that looks and feels the way it should.
Everyone knows it's a 'Stang
About 50 miles outside of Cleveland, my navigator looked at her hand scrawled directions and decided we weren't where we were supposed to be.
The test vehicle didn't have the optional navigation system so we simply took a left on some highway and drove until we found Lake Erie. The Hall of Fame was the big glass pyramid next to the Cleveland Browns Stadium, the home of the dog pound and a team with as many Super Bowl appearances Detroit's Lions.
The crowd outside the museum heard us before we arrived, cocking their heads to see. As they watched the Shelby roll closer, even the car illiterate knew it was a special Mustang.
The place to park this baby, it turns out, is right out front, so everyone can see.
2007 Ford Shelby GT
Type: Rear-wheel drive sports coupe Retail price: $36,970-$42.350 Models: One, but two colors, black or white Engine: 4.6-liter V-8 producing 319-horsepower, 330-pound-feet torque Transmission: 5-speed manual with Hurst shifter or 5-speed automatic EPA mileage: 16 mpg city / 23 mpg highway What makes it Shelby GT? All Mustangs are built in Flat Rock, but only 6,000 became 2007 Shelby GTs. It starts as a regular GT before heading to Las Vegas where Carroll Shelby's team changes the car. The revised sports coupes include:
A new front and rear fascia
An air scoop on the hood and side scoops on each side in front of the rear wheel well
A Hurst short-throw shifter
A high-flow exhaust system boosts power to 319 horses.
Specially tuned dampers and Ford's race handling package
Special branding: The name Shelby across the trunk and a nameplate on the dash with the car's VIN and Carroll Shelby's signature. Source: Ford Motor Co. Report card
Exterior: Excellent. Mean and powerful looking Mustang, special Shelby touches makes this car stand out.
Interior: Good. Spartan feel adds to the car's mystique, very comfortable for front passengers.
Safety: Good. Front and side airbags and traction control.
Performance: Good. Powerful and fun on open roads.
Pros: Pure Mustang. Looks, feels and acts like the muscle cars from its heritage.
Cons: Not nimble on tight corners and interior feels bare bones.
Notes: If you love Mustangs, you'll love this car. Grading Scale: Excellent: **** Good: *** Fair: ** Poor: *
Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.