When the 2019 (or 2020) Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 finally arrives, we expect that it will be powered by a supercharged 5.2-liter cross-plane V8 delivering at least 700 horsepower. It will likely have a trick magnetic suspension system, unique aero bits, a huge braking setup and a package-specific interior layout, but the most important feature that the new GT500 has to have in order to compete with the quickest muscle cars in America is an automatic transmission.
Welcoming the Modern Automatic Transmission
In past generations of the Ford Mustang, the quickest stock pony cars always had a manual transmission due to the fact that automatic transmissions were very inefficient and slow to shift. Sure, when you modified them, they could equalize some of the advantages of the manual transmissions, but for the most part, manually-shifted muscle cars through the 80s, 90s and early 2000s were quicker than their self-shifting counterparts.
However, with the introduction of new, better transmission technology, the cars with the automatic transmissions have become quicker than the manually-shifted versions. For example, the Hellcat Challenger with the 8-speed automatic is quicker than the same car with the 6-speed manual and the same is true of the newest Camaro ZL1 – except the Chevy has a 6-speed manual and a 10-speed automatic.
The automatic transmissions in the Hellcat Challenger and Camaro ZL1 offer lightning fast shifts, but more importantly, they allow the driver to launch at a more consistent, ideal point in the RPM range. Simply put, the modern automatics shift quicker, they are more efficient and they make launching a high-powered vehicle much easier than a manual – making the cars without the clutch pedal the quickest stock models on the market.
That is the key advantage when the new Camaro ZL1 or Hellcat Challenger come up against the 2013-2014 Shelby GT500 Mustang on the street or drag strip. Many of the Camaros and Challengers have their quick-shifting automatic while all of the GT500s have the old manual, making the Mustang significantly slower (stock-for-stock) than the other two. Even though it has more power than the Camaro and it weighs less than the Challenger, the previous GT500 loses most stock races due to the extra pedal.
10-Speed to the Rescue
While muscle car traditionalists will scoff at the suggestion that the new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 should have an automatic transmission (at least as an option), there is no denying the fact that in the modern era – the self-shifting cars have the performance advantage. Fortunately, Ford already has a great automatic transmission in their arsenal and it is the same gearbox that comes in the current Camaro ZL1.
The 10-speed automatic transmission in the Camaro was developed jointly with Ford, so while they are not the exact same transmissions – the gearboxes in the 2018 Mustang GT, the 2018 F150 Raptor and the 2018 Camaro ZL1 are closely related. Since this transmission family has no issue handling the 650 horsepower and 650lb-ft of torque in the Camaro, it should be a fine option for the 700+ horsepower engine in the upcoming Mustang GT500.