2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible

2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible
Short Take Road Test

A Ford Mustang convertible is to many folks a highly emotional machine, an icon of American motoring that evokes images of classic Detroit iron cruising Woodward Avenue or blasting down drag strips in all-muscle throwdowns. Now, stir in a raucous Texas-size helping of horsepower and enough go-fast bits to shake a snake at, and the outcome is some serious Motown mojo: the 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 convertible.

Honest in Its Mission

Although the latest Shelby GT500 coupe is more capable and confidence inspiring in the twisties than ever, it’s no sports car. And for the convertible version, Ford softened things up a bit, knowing that most owners will treat it as a Sunday cruiser and be willing to sacrifice some back-road composure for a more forgiving ride.

And so the 2010 GT500 convertible sports softer springs and dampers than the coupe, as well as 18-inch wheels in place of the hardtop’s 19s. The suspension changes and the extra tire sidewall make for a fairly comfy ride. But nearly everything else mechanical is the same, including the 540-hp, 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 and six-speed manual gearbox. Compared with the previous GT500 coupe and convertible, the new Shelbys have revised steering and shorter rear-end gearing as well. Although chopping a top often means packing on the beef, at 4000 pounds even, the softtop is not even 100 pounds heavier than the coupe. Overall performance is commensurately close: 60 mph comes in 4.7 seconds versus the coupe’s 4.6, and the quarter-mile is conquered in 13.0 seconds at 112 mph versus 12.9 at 113. The convertible’s front-to-rear weight distribution actually is slightly better (57/43 versus the coupe’s 58/42), as is its 70-to-0 braking figure (172 feet versus 182).

Even though we understand the point of the less aggressive suspension—any firmer and the quivering windshield support and cowl would shake the rearview and side mirrors loose—the resulting pitching and rolling of the body are like going back in time 40 years, when chassis dynamics took a back seat to the quest for ever-greater horsepower. Combined with the wind in your hair and the cacophony of engine and exhaust noises, the way the big Shelby rears up under power and points its nose skyward is akin to skippering a 16-foot powerboat. Here is where we’d usually proclaim such a vehicle a disappointment and lambaste its makers for failing to embrace the modern age. But the thing about the GT500 convertible is that these characteristics feel right, and its loud, brash, and charmingly primitive behavior remind us exactly of what we all love and cherish about muscle cars.

Subtle as a Snake Bite

As you’d expect, the GT500 excels at making a scene in traffic. Our tester’s black and Grabber Blue–striped exterior might not be our preferred livery, but it was certainly eye-catching, with myriad spoilers, vents, and tacked-on Cobras further upping the visual ante. The stripes carry over to the leather upholstery, and they brightened up the dark interior despite looking a little too “ruffled-shirt-ish” for our liking. The aluminum interior trim and striped shift ball were also pleasing, as were the adjustable ambient lighting (we kept ours set to bright blue, to match the stripes) and the red illuminated “SVT” door sills.

If the folks inhabiting our local haunts couldn’t see the Shelby, they were certainly going to hear it. With the force-fed growl of the engine bellowing out the dual, four-inch tailpipes, they had ample warning of our arrival. The sound is utterly intoxicating, and we basically spent all our time with the top down and downshifting into a lower-than-necessary gear, just to hear the spine-tingling burble on overrun. Oh, and we did a couple dozen burnouts, too, since obliterating a set of 285-series rear Goodyears never gets old. Such antics are likely why we averaged a dismal 12 mpg over several hundred miles with car. But that’s okay; hypermiling didn’t exist 40 years ago.

A Playful Beast

So despite its, er, traditional dynamics and appetite for fuel, we thoroughly enjoyed this droptop Shelby; it plastered mischievous grins across our faces exactly like the ones our 11-year-old selves had when we discovered firecrackers for the first time. Yeah, it would be nice if the car were lighter, and the $5000 premium over the already steep $48,175 GT500 coupe is a bit high—particularly considering the hardtop is a more focused driving machine—but for those seeking a nostalgic open-air experience, the Shelby GT500 convertible is about as good as it gets today.