We knew it was a longshot and that we would likely have to find an alternative way to get our hands on a 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Potentially, it would come down to the wire. After all, with other new cars, we’ve gotten them just days before they needed to be at an event. The “he” in question is Youtuber Speed Phenom, the leading authority on all things Shelby Mustangs on the internet. We found Speed Phenom while researching the GT500 and immediately reached out. It was mid-October; politely he told us there weren’t many GT500s available but that he would let us know if he found anything. We weren’t holding our breath.
A month and a half later, out of the blue, he replied. There was a GT500 in Fresno, California, that would be ready for pick up in a week and was ours if we wanted it. This was Thursday, December 5th. One day and many phone calls later, the car belonged to Xtreme Xperience. A buzz picked up around the office; everything we were seeing showed that the GT500 was going to be amazing, and we were one of the first people to have one. We really, really wanted to experience it for ourselves (we only had 3 photos of it from the dealership – below). The marketing team spent Friday afternoon throwing around road trip and video ideas that we figured would never get greenlit (usually our new cars get delivered to the garage on a truck). Still, it was fun to dream.
On Monday morning, our CEO stopped by our desks and told us, “If it creates great content and doesn’t break the car, go for it. You have to do it this weekend before it gets shipped here on a truck.” Over the next five days, we teased out a hundred different possible options, finally landing on sending one of our best drivers/instructors, Cal, with Stephen, our photographer/videographer, to Fresno. In the midst of our frantic planning, Speed Phenom told us that he would be at Willow Springs Raceway, a three-hour drive away for a track day. He would love to have us stop by with the car as he would have his GT500 there as well. Stephen and Cal would go for 48 hours; leaving Chicago Friday evening and returning on a red-eye flight Sunday night. The next four days were spent nailing down all the logistics to make these 48 hours perfect. Cal registered for the track day, a hotel was booked, the car was researched, we cleared picking up the car and dropping it back off with the (very confused) dealership. Everything was considered. The plan was to pick up the car, road trip to Big Willow, track the car, drive back to the dealership, and fly home.
Just nine days after we found out this car existed, Stephen and Cal landed in Fresno, California at 12:30 am to begin a weekend like none other. First stop, the dealership. The deep red of the GT500 skulked out of the garage at the dealership into view, the black stripes adding to its menace. The car looked perfect; a better part of the morning was spent gawking at it. Like us, the amazing crew at the dealership, loved the car and walked Stephen and Cal through all they needed to know. They probably should have known when Cal put his helmet on that this wasn’t a normal delivery. The time at the dealership culminated with probably the first and last burnout by a GT500 while still in the parking lot of a dealership.
As the content manager of the trip, Stephen researched the most scenic route to take to Willow Springs. On paper, Highway 155 was a winding two-lane highway that promised a great test of the GT500’s road capabailities. As you can see from the pictures, it was so, so much more. Mile upon mile of twisting turns void of any traffic, natures way of begging drivers off of major highways. It is not possible that there was a better route on which to test the car. Cal typically is driving on a racetrack in a supercar, or on a crowded Chicago street in his small Ford Fiesta. He enjoyed every turn, discovering how to get the most of the 4400 pound Shelby, while Stephen produced car porn that will make Ford’s press team salivate.
(We need to rewind a little to give context to the next day at Big Willow. In signing up for the track day, Cal was highly impressed by the caliber of program that was being run. Speed Ventures puts on track days around the country. This one, like most of their events, was being attended by car enthusiasts driving some heavy-hitting track cars. Cal is an excellent driver, he has been with XX for seven years, and yet in that time, he has never driven Big Willow, the track where he was headed with a brand new car. As a result, Cal was put in the “high horsepower, little Big Willow track experience” group.)
The road trip ignited an excitement for the track day; to see how the car would run on track. Arriving on track early Sunday morning, Cal headed out with a variety of competition. A few Miatas, a Camaro ZL1, a BMW M3, among others. Cal’s talent immediately shone, and so did the car’s. There was instant access to the 760 horsepower, and unlike previous generations, this Mustang was at home on the track. It took corners without showing its weight and allowed Cal to take the line he wanted. The combo of car and driver was getting the attention of others at the track.
That’s not to say that they weren’t already being noticed. The GT500 had its front covered with painter’s tape, a pair of GoPros mounted to the outside, and a 360 camera sticking off the rear window higher than Alfalfas best hair day. This was the first time a GT500 had been on track outside of early press days. Stephen launched himself into capturing all the possible content to chronicle the day.
This brings us back to Speed Phenom. He, like us, was taking his GT500 on track for the first time. He spent the day improving times and forming his own content (check out his channel here). Being more experienced at Big Willow, he was placed in a different group than Cal, so for much of the day, they didn’t get to connect. It seemed like we might not be able to get two GT500s on track at the same time.
Thankfully, like we said, car and driver were being noticed by everyone else. To be on the track at the same time, Cal needed to request to be moved up a group (into S.P.’s). Despite his lack of experience at Big Willow, Cal showed the event organizers his track times, and they gave him the ok to move up into Speed Phenom’s group for his final session. He spent his final laps on the track going back and forth with Speed Phenom as they both outpaced a Porsche GT3 RS – if you haven’t already watched this video, scroll back up and do it now. We won’t say who had the faster lap time between the two of them with the exact same car, but we will say that Cal unofficially ran a 1:31.6.
Off The Track
While the cars cooled down, Cal and Speed Phenom both geeked out over the track capabilities of the GT500. There was no doubt, the GT500 is a supercar and will take down other supercars on the track. Ford has created a Dual Clutch Transmission that activates power for you at any given moment so that you can be a hero on the track. The steering and suspension suck the tires to the pavement to ooze grip. The supercharged V8 roars at you, begging you to test its limits. At the same time, the car will give you a weekend on a road that will make you say, as Cal said, “Top three road trips, ever.”
Post Script: Following the track day, Cal and Stephen made it back to the dealership with just enough time to drop off the car and head to the airport. They made their flight, but not by much. The rest of our team cannot wait to get behind the wheel of this car.
If you’re as excited about the all-new Shelby GT500 as we are, click the link below to join us at a racetrack near you and experience it for yourself!