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2013 Shelby GT500 Convertible a Mistake with All That Power

The web is alive with the rumor that Ford is going to introduce a 2013 Shelby GT500 convertible at the Detroit Auto Show - and from this viewpoint it's a horrible idea. In what world does a driver need a 650 horsepower V8 with a soft-top convertible? It's got death trap written all over it.


As I reported back in November here on TorqueNews, the 2013 Shelby GT500's 5.8-liter V8 aluminum-block engine produces 650 horsepower and 600 lb. ft. of torque. Nearly every part of the powertrain has been optimized for producing the additional horsepower, including a new supercharger, new cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft profiles, a new carbon fiber driveshaft and upgraded clutch, transmission and axle.

In simpler terms, the 2013 Shelby GT500, see picture accompanying this article, is built for speed. Why put a convertible top on it? Where does the silly horsepower race among high-performance convertibles come to an end? This car, when 0-60 times are announced, should be able to hit that mark probably below the 4.0 second mark. That's great for a racecar but a convertible?

The problem is the car companies are playing the locker room game of "Mine's bigger." It's a race between Camaro and Mustang to see who has phallic domination. The Camaro ZL1 has a supercharged 6.2-liter engine that is SAE-rated at 580 horsepower and 556 lb.-ft. of torque – making it the most-powerful production Camaro ever and it's going to be available in a convertible.

The Germans are just as culpable. The Audi R8 Spyder with the 5.2, FSI V-10 produces 525 horsepower with a soft top. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster with a soft top churns out 563 horsepower.

Somehow the Japanese have avoided the soft-top performance competition and so have the Koreans, which just seem to abhor the idea of convertibles in general. Asian manufacturers have a reputation for long-term planning. They must know there is no sane reason for high-performance convertibles and I applaud them for that.

This isn't some rant against high performance – far from it. I love taking my largely inadequate skills and flogging them around a racetrack. A recent week behind the wheel of a 2012 Ford Boss 302 Mustang left me lusting for more. High-performance machines are a great idea but high-performance soft-stop convertibles are well, frankly, stupid.

The 2011 Ford Mustang GT has a 5.0-liter 32-valve DOHC V-8 that delivers 412 horsepower and 390 ft.-lb. of torque. What more do you need in a convertible? Really? Aren't convertibles supposed to be about cruising? The 0-60 time for the GT500 without the Shelby add-on has been rated around 4.5 seconds and 4.6 seconds for the convertible. Those are great numbers.

Where does it all end? Ultimately it has to end in some idiot's death. In spite of all the safety features like electronic stability control, roll bars, and a plethora of airbags, 650 horsepower in a soft-top convertible is just too much power. As Porsche likes to point out, you can't overcome the laws of physics.

Yes, Porsche produces the 911 Carrera S cabriolet can reach 60 mph in as little as 4.1 seconds and has a top-track-speed of 187 mph. I'd consider it culpable but its the Carrera S comes with a 3.8- liter boxer six-cylinder DFI engine developing 400 horsepower.

This horsepower arms race among convertibles has to stop. OEMs need to demonstrate some self-control. Sometimes the customer isn't always right. This is one of those times. By the way, I know some people are going to consider my views idiotic. Convince me I'm wrong.

Keith Griffin has been writing continuously about new cars since 2002. He used to be the guide to used cars at former as well as a contributor to The Boston Globe and Automotive Traveler. He is the founder and president of The Internet Car and Truck of the Year, where "Internet Pros and Average Joes" pick the car and truck of the year. Currently, Keith is the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter.


Patrick Rall    December 30, 2011 - 12:31PM

The 2013 GT500 is no worse an idea or no bigger of a death trap than any performance oriented convertible in the history of the automobile. Look at the long list of supercars that will comfortably eclipse the 200mph mark like the Bugatti Veyron, the Pagani Zonda or any of the recent topless Ferrari and Lamborghini models...those vehicles are all substantially faster than the GT500 in every way not to mention lighter - so in a collision with another vehicle those lightweights are far more likely to lose the battle. If anything, I would say that the Mustang is safer than those other models and no one ever questions them. To say that the GT500 is a bad idea, even though it is subject to the same crash safety standards as every other convertible available in this country, is to suggest that any high performance convertible is a bad idea.

Next, look at the brutally powerful convertibles in the history of the American automobile. The high performance drop tops of the 1960s and 70s were far bigger death traps as they didnt have any sort of real safety devices - nor the engineering design with safety during crashes in mind. The way that an American performance car has been designed has made them much safer than the older models, so are you saying that every older model (which packs similar power into a vehicle with no safety features) were all also a bad idea? You know how much effort automakers today put into safety engineering and design, especially with performance cars. Based on that, the new GT500 is probably one of the safest high performance vehicles Ford has made. Another example...look at how many of the Dodge Vipers were sold as roadsters/convertibles? At some points, they didnt offer a Viper with a top and the roadster was always the most popular. Throughout the existence of the Viper, it was always one of the most powerful production models sold in the US (if not the world) and unlike the GT500 - the Viper didnt have traction control, stability control or any other driving nannies...but I hear few stories about the Viper being a death trap.

While most of the people who buy models like the ZL1, the GT500, the R8, the Viper or the AMG SLS are crusty old dinosaurs who cant muster the strength to push a car of that sort to the limits without extensive help from the people at Pfizer - there are those of us who want the power and performance of a ultra high performance car while also being able to enjoy the freedom of a convertible. ultimately, if you are pushing any of these performance cars to their limit and you crash to the point whether or not having a roof makes a difference, the odds are good that youre not going to live through it anyway.

In the end, building a car is never a bad idea if people are going to buy it!

Keith Griffin    December 30, 2011 - 3:30PM

In reply to by Patrick Rall

You're right - any high performance convertible is a bad idea because most of the people who own them are incapable of handling the power. I'll defer to your expertise on the high performance drop tops of the 60s and 70s but I don't think any hit 650 horsepower stock, did they?
Maybe I'm old school but I think manufacturers should restrain themselves and not offer convertibles over 400 horsepower like the Germans do with the restricted speed of 155 mph on most of their vehicles.
Nobody needs more than 400 horsepower, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, and a convertible top from a manufacturer.
Heck, I'd be willing to bet you would not be willing to take a 650 horsepower Mustang GT with its top down to its full potential on a major highway even if it was shut down and you were the only driver.

Patrick Rall    December 30, 2011 - 4:19PM

In reply to by Keith Griffin

I think that there are two types of people who buy those super high end it supercars or the new super muscle cars.

You have the people who have the money but not the know-how to drive it...but they are purchasing it as a status symbol. these are the people like paris hilton who putter around town in a 700hp Lamborghini that probably never sees anywhere near their top speed. unfortunately, these are the people who occassionally decide to open the cars up and those are the people who wreck and kill themselves. the key issue here is that some of these morons give the keys to kids and those kids end up doing the damage. these are the people who shouldnt be buying those cars.

The other group is the people like me who want an ultra high performance car to drive and race. people who have experience with high performance vehicles and who appreciate their capabilities. it seems that in many cases, these people (like me) realize the risk and costs of the vehicle so there is more respect for the vehicle and while accidents still happen, you rarely hear of an experienced driver wrecking high end cars unless it is on the race track.

You are 100% right that some (perhaps many) of the people who buy these cars dont need them and shouldnt have them but there is no reason to punish those of us who do respect the capabilities of these cars by having companies not offer them. believe me, i would love to see less morons like paris hilton out there ruining supercars by bottoming them out in the mall parking lot. perhaps automakers should start doing what ford did for the older Mustang Cobra R. To buy one, you had to carry a professional drivers/racing license, such as from the SCCA, NHRA, etc.

Patrick Rafferty (not verified)    December 30, 2011 - 2:03PM

Someone somewhere will always try to be The Best-Fasterst-Quickest, etc.....and as long as somebody else is willing to pay for it---why not build outrageous stuff?

How much is too much horsepower? To some, it might be anything that causes the rear tires to spin during acceleration. To others, there's never enough power---no matter what the mechanical consequences might be.

I own a 2012 Shelby GT500. The stock 550 HP quickly became boring. I've added lots of aftermarket goodies and have once again become bored with the almost 800 HP under the hood. What's next? A different supercharger and 1000 HP? I doubt it but it's nice to ponder.

Am I sick in the head---absolutely!!!! And I love it. IMO, there is no such thing as too much power.

Another thing to consider......the more horsepower---the more money is needed to pay for it. Because Shelby offers a 650 HP vehicle, not everyone will be able to afford it---hence lots of immature younger drivers will only be able to drool at the sight of such an awesome vehicle going down the road.

I think for some of us, the search for "Better" applies to jobs, houses, boats, motorcycles and girlfriends. The lure of something nicer over the next hilltop is the basis of a great adventure.

Keith Griffin    December 30, 2011 - 3:24PM

In reply to by Patrick Rafferty (not verified)

Nothing wrong with being sick in the head!
But where does the madness end? It seems like there should be some special training required before you can drive a 650 hp convertible on a local road.
BTW, I'm drooling at the thought of a Shelby GT500 with 800 hp. I can only imagine how many tires you must go through!

jimprw (not verified)    December 30, 2011 - 3:46PM got it right. I'm all for muscle - I own a new Boss 302. Outside of a race track, there are few places or occasions when I can really let it go - and it will max out at over 160 mph. Anyone taking a tumble at that speed, even in a coupe, will be lucky to see the sun come up the following day. The new GT 500 is purported to be capable of 200 mph. If you're a extreme thrill-seeker and it is your aim to get high by putting your life on the line to get the rush, have at it. But we've already seen a rich kid total his 2012 Boss 302 with under 4K miles on it. Sure as shootin, an oft-absent rich daddy will be giving a 2013 GT 500 convertible to junior or little miss for some graduation and they'll down a bottle of Grey Goose with their friends and take what is essentially a NASCAR limit vehice out on the interstate and stomp on it - rolling it 135 mph as they try to hit an exit ramp to avoid the highway patrol chasing them. Car will look like a crunched beer can and the kids will resemble raspberry jam somewhere in the car and vicinity. Then again, it's the people providing and driving the vehicles that ultimately have to take the responsibility. What is the real benefit to owing a 200 mph convertible? Just having it and knowing what it can do...anything much more extreme is simply idiocy.

Keith Griffin    December 30, 2011 - 4:16PM

In reply to by jimprw (not verified)

Your point is good because it even gets around the issue of requiring special training to own one of these cars. Some unwitting teen just needs to take the keys, grab the bottle of booze (I won't pick on Gray Goose) and be on the path to destruction - another victim of too much horsepower and not enough ability.

Anonymous (not verified)    December 31, 2011 - 6:36AM

Your whining about HP, convertibles and such makes you sound like a wuss. Get a grip or change professions!.

Keith Griffin    December 31, 2011 - 11:57AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Your comment makes you look illiterate. I'm a huge fan of horsepower. Read my comment about the 800 hp Shelby above. I love horsepower in the right circumstances. There's nothing wussy about saying some cars just don't make sense from a safety perspective. I don't think a cloth top convertible that has 650 horsepower is a smart choice for anybody. There's not enough protection in a rollover even with rollover bars.

Anonymous (not verified)    December 31, 2011 - 7:12AM

In a free country and with free markets, let the buyer decide. I'm glad Ford is free to make them and that people are free to own them if they so choose.

Keith Griffin    December 31, 2011 - 12:00PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd agree with you if this was truly a free market. We had mandatory safety equipment in place, in spite of what the free market wants. I think there should be some safety regulation in place for cars like this. We would never have had seatbelts, airbags, etc., if the market decided. Sometimes government regulation has to occur - especially when society ends up paying the medical costs associated with reckless behavior.

Bink (not verified)    December 31, 2011 - 12:16PM

Suggesting that a 650hp convertible is any more dangerous than a 400hp convertible is silly, a cursory search of "idiots" ( I say "idiots" because George Carlin said it best - and I'm paraphrasing; whoever drives slower than you is an asshole and whoever drives faster than you is an idiot) who have killed themselves in convertibles will yield quite a few results using substantially less horsepower.

Tony Alonso (not verified)    December 31, 2011 - 1:32PM

In all likelihood, at the price point and production number this car will be offered, there will be very few opportunities to "test the danger". There are plenty of people on the road now with skill gaps or attention deficits that can turn their lower-powered cars into lethal machines.

Good laugh (not verified)    December 31, 2011 - 4:42PM

This is one of the funniest posts I've read in a while... I like how The GT500 is so obtrusive to your car laws. Meanwhile, the likes of the Viper ACR, XKR , DB9, GT Speed, SuperSport, M6, Corvette, Gallardo, Murcielago etc.. I'm sure I can come up with several more if I thought about it but these CONVERTIBLES just jumped out at me in all of 5 seconds... Why not label these the reckless endangerment to society??? Meanwhile by your definition, a Smart car with 75 horsepower is ok? lol Get a clue. firstly SHOW more than 2 examples of a rollover by ANY of the above mentioned cars- it's so rare it's not even funny.

I would rather take my chances in a rollover in a 2013 mustang GT500 at highway speed of 55-65mph. than to crash with a smart car at 55-65mph- it's instant death. Your priorities in regulation are ridiculous. Stop writing.

Keith Griffin    January 2, 2012 - 8:01AM

In reply to by Good laugh (not verified)

My priorities aren't ridiculous when you consider none of the cars you mention has stock horsepower higher than the GT Shelby 500. And, your ignorance of the architecture of the smart shines through. It is not "instant death" at 55-65 mph. Plus, when I talk about the Shelby, it's more of a concern for a convertible that can go 200 mph. Nobody was talking about crashes at highway speeds. Death in this car isn't going to come at highway speed. It's going to come in collisions with unbelted drivers at 140 mph, something you can only do in a smart when it's falling off a cliff.

Jim Stewart (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 1:20AM

In reply to by Keith Griffin

I have 2012 GT500 convertible and I love it. I resent the nanny comments suggesting convertibles should have a limit on horsepower. Piss on that. I'm wishing I had waited one more year for the 650 horse ragtop. For the most part the people who can afford these cars are smart enough to avoid being stupid with them. Just knowing that I can smoke most cars on the road is enough of a thrill for me. I don't have to prove it at every stoplight like the kid in the rice burner with the fart-can muffler.

Now if your nanny urge can't be suppressed and you feel the urge to ban something go after those crotch rocket plastic motorcycles. Wander over to YouTube and run a search for "crotch rockets" and get your fill of idiots in motion. You'll be hard-pressed to find videos of people trying to drive that stupid with a GT500.

Good laugh (not verified)    January 4, 2012 - 11:54PM

In reply to by Keith Griffin

How do you write car articles? Your points don't even make sense... "it's more of a concern for a convertible that can go 200 mph". The Bentley Supersport Convertible does 200MPH all day. Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder Performante top Speed 202MPH. Dodge Viper Convertible is 198MPH. Murciélago LP 650-4 (AND 640-4) Roadster 205MPH. I mean, do some research... Yea yea, I already know oh but those are all 100k+ and the 65K Shelby is more affordable, so more people can get it and blah blah blah. That's a moot point. considering it all comes down to the driver and not the money.

"My priorities aren't ridiculous when you consider noneof the cars you mention has stock horsepower higher than the GT Shelby 500"... Fact is, Horsepower is a NEGLIGIBLE as it's not the only factor in arriving at a top speed of 200+. Have you never seen a Hayabusa go 200+ on 197HP? Regardless a flip/collision at 120mph+ in any convertible... practically any coupe either... and the person is gone.

Needless to say- You should have wrote this article 6-7 years ago when convertibles were starting to approach 200mph. I Welcome you to 2005.

Again, great laugh.

Done and dusted.

bt4 (not verified)    January 2, 2012 - 8:35PM

While I can understand your rationale, I think the counter-posts have made telling points. Berating Ford for offering a 650-HP convertible seems to be a very arbitrary choice--particularly in light of your praise for the restraint of European manufacturers limiting the power to 400-HP. As if some moron couldn't manage to roll a 400-HP convertible.

The justification cited for singling out the GT500 is that no other convertible offers that much HP. What is the limit? 600? (Dodge Viper) 580? (Camaro ZL1) Though I agree with you that the amount of power offered by the GT500 is outrageous, it is far from the only offering to provide killing/thrilling performance. In point of fact, a Viper, or a Corvette, or the new ZL1 Camaro have more power than anyone will ever need on the roads. (Actually the Boss 302 has more power than you will ever need to merge onto the interstate.)

Whether you are willing to admit it or not, horsepower is not the problem. Most accidents are the result of the loose nut behind the wheel. Just out of curiosity, do you know how much horsepower the Suzuki Samurai offered? (Hint: it was a 1.3L 4, so if you said over 63 you said too much.) Yet, I'd be willing to bet that fewer deaths and injuries have occurred in rollover accidents with a 600-HP Viper convertible than in a 63-HP Suzuki Samurai.