My ride in Shelby’s new 1,000 horsepower Ford Mustang

Mar 27, 2012

By Sue Callaway

FORTUNE -- Finally I can tell you the truth: Racing/hotrod/muscle car/sports car czar Carroll Shelby secretly invited me a few weeks ago to test-drive his latest and greatest beast, the Shelby GT1000. I was one of only four journalists to be invited ahead of the car’s unveiling at the New York Auto Show (opening to media April 4) to experience its guts and soul in the heat of the Vegas desert, and the only one to be given the nod to first post impressions, thanks to Carroll himself. One of your black hats off to you, Carroll.

Shelby, 89, has always known how to upend the automotive world; it’s been his peculiar specialty since he began internationally racing in the ‘50s. He has spent the intervening decades bringing only minimally tamed cars to an adoring, adrenaline-addicted public. This year -- the 50th anniversary for Shelby American (the Las Vegas-based company that has long translated his visions into uproarious sheet metal) -- the man and his company are making their most audacious and yet street-legal steed yet: the 1,000 horsepower Shelbyized version of Ford’s (f) already excellent GT500 Mustang, with a retail price tag starting at $149,995.

Here are my favorite Shelby qualities brought not only to life but to market (watch the video to viscerally understand). Who, besides Volkswagen Group’s Ferdinand Piech, with his never-to-be-repeated $2.4M Bugatti Veyron flight of engineering fancy, would attempt to put 1,000 hp into the marketplace—and into real people’s hands—except Shelby? Shelby felled Ferrari in the ‘60s at Le Mans; they have not won the grand endurance race since. On the production side, none of the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Audi or Bentley are putting 1,000 legal horses to the ground. If they do, they might make a more refined ride, but Shelby’s once again done more than just okay in outsmarting the competition. Gotta love that from a world champion, an octogenarian double organ transplant survivor, and a good friend. You go, Shelby. Like hell! As you always have and always will.

[cnnmoney-video vid=/video/pf/2012/03/26/pf-w-shelby-mustang-1000.fortune/]

Update: An earlier version of this article said the retail price of the Shelby Mustang starts at $200,000. It starts at $149,995.

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