Cars have come a long way since 1964 when the first-ever Ford Mustang was released. The most powerful version of the iconic pony car in the first year was the K-Code with a 271hp 289ci V8. If this wasn’t enough for you, and let’s face it, at the time it was already plenty of power, you could instead purchase a Shelby-modified Mustang. Called a GT350, the Shelby vehicles had the same 289ci engine, albeit modified to produce 306hp.
Fast forward to 2007 and, having got back together for the first time since a fallout in 1969, Carroll Shelby was once again in bed with Ford, and 500 GT350Hs Hertz rental cars were built to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original vehicles. Also released that year was the GT500, which was fitted with a 5.4-litre 500hp supercharged engine. And just like 40 years ago, a horsepower war was once again brewing, with manufacturers trying to outdo each other by producing ever more powerful vehicles.
Not wanting to be left out of it altogether, Ford themselves once again reintroduced the Boss 302 name in 2012. With looks and performance characteristics reminiscent of the Boss 302 of old, Ford were on to a sure-fire winner.
By this time, Shelby too had tried to keep one step ahead of what the factory were offering, but with the factory cars being so well built and high performing, that task was getting harder and harder.
To keep ahead, Shelby would continue to offer supercharged engine packages, with a number of different horsepower options — the more boxes you ticked on your order form, the more parts your car would come loaded with. And that is exactly what happened with the black 2011 Shelby Super Snake you see here.
Brutal in Black
West Auckland–based Robin Thomas has been a speed freak for as long as he can remember. From the early days of hotting up Zephyrs, through to racing his current Corvette-bodied speedway car, going fast is in his blood. Until he saw a similar Shelby parked on the side of the road in 2010, he’d never considered owning a Ford though, but that soon changed. “I just loved the way it looked, so I had to take a closer look,” says Robin. At the time he had no idea who owned the car, but after tracking them down, it turned out he already knew them. The more he spoke to the owner, the more he knew he needed to buy one himself.
Being well accustomed to driving the 500hp Corvette sideways on dirt, it was going to have to be something pretty special to get Robin excited, and perhaps the guys at Shelby knew that, as any time they rang him to offer him more options, he accepted.
He purchased the base car itself in North Carolina to take advantage of the lower tax rates applicable in that state before getting it shipped to Shelby in Las Vegas where the build began. Seven months and plenty of phone calls later, the car was ready to be collected, and doing what any sane person would do, he made the trip to Vegas to go and pick it up in person. While he’d asked for it to be in the dyno bay at Shelby, by the time he arrived it was already detailed and ready to go, the dyno sheets that were in the car told the story though, with a massive 726hp at the wheels! Factoring in drivetrain loss through the manual transmission, and you’re looking at 900-odd horsepower at the engine, and the most powerful Shelby vehicle produced until earlier this year.
We can only imagine that the drive from Vegas to LA where the vehicle was shipped by GT Logistics was a fun one!
Besides the upgraded supercharger that helps to give these power figures, the list of components that have been changed on the vehicle is a lengthy one. Gone are the stock brakes, and in their place are a massive set of six-pot calipers and giant-sized rotors. Peer beneath the rear end of the car and you’ll find an impressive suspension set-up with more adjustment than most people would ever know what to do with. Included in this is a set of tramp rods, which give a clue to the vehicle’s performance orientation.
On the exterior Robin requested red stripes, but was soon told that he only had the choice of black or white. Despite black on black sounding like it wouldn’t work, the subtleness actually creates a fantastic look, as the stripes only appear in certain lights and at certain angles.
The glass roof on the car makes it even more rare, not that 900hp Shelbys are a common vehicle to begin with, but it’s a valid point of difference. The rest of the exterior including the genuine carbon splitter, carbon side skirts, massive vented bonnet and Shelby badging are a touch more common, but still impressive.
So what does it drive like? When people say they’ve got 900hp, you could easily think they’re stretching the truth somewhat. With the Super Snake, we can assure you that there’s no bullshit, only real-deal horsepower. The revs rise as fast as you can continue shifting gears and the speed limit is easily reached before you can count to four. Robin is not one for being foolish on the road though and tends to take things a bit easier these days. For full use of the power, he’s had the car out on Hampton Downs, and being a competitive driver, he wasn’t afraid to drive most of the track sideways with plenty of smoke billowing from the rear end.
His biggest, and in fact only complaint is that the seats are not supportive enough for the G-forces that the car can create, but after being used to getting strapped into a speedway seat, no factory car seat ever will be.
The Shelby package cost considerably more than the base car itself, but Robin couldn’t be happier with it, and with no plans to ever sell the vehicle, he isn’t too fussed. It does everything he could ever wish for in a car, and has inspired him to start thinking that a dedicated Mustang circuit car wouldn’t be a bad thing to own.
Waiheke Island’s Clive Lonergan has battled it out in the speedway arena a few years ago too. Since then he’s settled down a bit, and decided to buy a Harley. It wasn’t long before he could see himself getting into trouble on the bike though, so when his son’s friend made an offer for it, a deal was done.
While in America, he decided to rent a Shelby GT350H. Sure, it wasn’t a 900hp weapon like Robin’s, but it was still enough to make him realise that it would be the perfect car for him to own. A day or two later he popped into a dealership, and soon noticed a bright red 2012 Boss 302. The looks of the car were perfect, and the fact that it had an impressive 444hp naturally aspirated five-litre Coyote engine under the hood made it even better. Like the Boss 302s of old, the cars are built to be as much a race car as they are a road car, or more realistically speaking, a race car with road manners and interior. Its track orientation is obvious when looking inside at the harness-friendly, ultra-supportive Recaro seats, amongst other things.
The Minilite-style wheels hark back to the days of old, and give an interesting retro twist to the vehicle, which is unmistakably brand new. The long intake runners combined with the dual exiting exhausts (which vent in front of the rear wheels as well as at the tailpipes) make a distinctive rumble that lets even the untrained eye know this is not your average Mustang.
While the suspension is not quite as advanced as on the Super Snake, the factory shocks have a range of adjustments, which Clive is happy to leave untouched. The road holding is already superb, so we would leave it alone too, for fear of messing things up.
What the car lacks in comparative visual aggression to the Shelby, it more than makes up for with its striking black on red finish, and perhaps turns more heads due to the brighter colour.
The TracKey system used in the 2012 Boss is the first of its type. Upon purchasing the car the owner gets given two keys. One for everyday use, and a second, the ‘TracKey’, which when inserted changes over 600 parameters on the vehicle’s ECU including cam timing, ignition maps and fuel control.
The TracKey also gives drivers the option of a two-stage launch control system via steering wheel buttons. The result of the two ECU tunes is a perfectly behaved performance vehicle around town, but an all-out race machine when required, giving the best of both worlds.
While Clive hasn’t had his car on the racetrack as yet, he has managed to have a few runs down the drag strip in it with impressive results given the fact that conditions were damp at the time. He’s keen to give it a go again on a better track surface, and also get in a few laps of the circuit at some stage too.
Despite the obvious difference in horsepower, the Boss is a formidable opponent to the Shelby, with it having a more usable level of performance, rather than one which is simply over the top (don’t get us wrong, we love insane amounts of power too, but there’s only so much you can use). There’s also a notable difference in price between an off-the-floor Boss and a fully optioned Shelby, which should be factored when comparing the two.
After wanting a Mustang since the ’80s, Clive’s now living the dream, and already he’s got his sights set on the 2015 cars when they’re made available. Then again, after spending a day with the Super Snake, we wouldn’t be surprised if he starts looking in that direction too, and we could hardly blame him.
2011 Shelby Super Snake specifications
Engine: 5.4-litre supercharged V8
Brakes: Six-pot Shelby calipers
Wheels: 19-inch forged
Exterior: Full Shelby kit
Interior: Shelby upgraded
Performance: 726hp at the wheels (900hp at engine)
Occupation: Transport company operator
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 specifications
Engine: 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8
Brakes: Four-pot calipers
Wheels: 18-inch Minilite replica
Exterior: Boss 302 upgraded
Interior: Boss 302 Recaro seats
Performance: 444hp at engine
Occupation: Real estate agent
Words: Todd Wylie
Photos: Adam Croy