We all knew it would happen eventually-a Shelby GT500 would break into the 9-second zone in mostly stock trim. Evolution Performance is credited with the first 11-, 10-, and 9-second runs in Ford's latest super ponycar. This accomplishment came through the use of the '03-'04 Cobra as a guiding model, the existing S197 marketplace, and the design of new parts to achieve the goal.
"We bought the car to help promote our tuning and performance business," says Nelson Whitlock, owner of Evolution Performance in Aston, Pennsylvania. To get a leg up on the competition, the shop plunked down $70,000 to get a car early in the production run. According to Whitlock, the vehicle came from a dealer in Kansas, and as soon as it was delivered, they took it to Cecil County Dragway in northern Maryland for an immediate dragstrip evaluation.
The Shelby had to be driven 5.5 miles before the car's computer would allow the engine to produce boost, despite the driver holding the pedal at WOT. A quick ride around the streets was more than enough to unleash the Shelby. The Stang initially proved to be a bit of a disappointment. "Our best pass that night was 13.1, which we thought was pretty pathetic for a 500hp car," says shop foreman Fred Cook. Before the crew left the track, they made a commitment to evolve this Shelby into the first 11-, 10-, and 9-second car of its kind.
The first set of mods were a few tried-and-true tricks that have been applied to the S197 cars, namely an aluminum driveshaft (saving 30 pounds of rotating weight) and adjustable shocks and struts as well as upper and lower control arms. The parts were stripped from Cook's '05 Mustang GT as it sat in the corner of the shop. Dragstrip testing at NMRA's Atco event yielded 12.60-second performances-better than initial testing-but Cook and Whitlock knew there was a lot more left.
The following day, Cook called BMR Fabrica-tion to order its complete line of suspension components. Further attention was given to the traction department as a set of 17-inch Bogart GT Series wheels were employed along with M&H Drag Radial tires (325/45-R17) out back and skinnies in the front. Despite running a 17-inch-diameter wheel, the drag racing rims did not clear the factory-supplied Brembo front binders. Aerospace lightweight front brakes were tapped for service, but first Evolution Performance had to modify the factory spindles to accept the billet-aluminum rotors and calipers. A custom dual line-lock setup was also added to the Shelby.
S&W Race Cars was called upon for a roll-bar installation since the team expected to run quicker than 11.50. Knowing the time constraints, Whitlock decided to lend a helping hand to the S&W staff. An eight-point rollbar was carefully welded into place and custom fit to the inside confines of the Pony. Total design and installation time was just under one week.
Upping the horsepower was a custom off-road x pipe and Borla after-cat exhaust system. On the intake side, a cold-air kit was made, and Cook used SCT software to tune the factory computer. In this trim, the Shelby bounced out 500 rwhp and 502 lb-ft of rear-wheel torque on a Dynojet chassis dyno.
First to the 10s! Nelson Whitlock of Evolution Performance has run as quick as 9.96 at 141
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