The Shelby Mustang GT 500 splashes smoothly through road pools at speed. This extreme 500-horsepower muscle car - the newest factory hot rod from Detroit - weathered that storm with ease and grace. But the GT 500 and other domestic muscle cars may face tougher tests ahead.

Although demand for the GT 500 is so high that it has pushed the car’s $42,000 base price to $50,000 or more at many dealerships, some industry observers think it could be the last 500-horsepower muscle car to come out of Detroit.

With gas prices high and baby boomer buyers nearing retirement, the sun may be setting on traditional American muscle cars.

Muscle cars may evolve into smaller, lighter, more economical vehicles that appeal to younger buyers, but they won’t fade away altogether, predicted Jim Sanfillippo, executive vice president of industry consultant AMCI Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Sales of those low-volume, ultra-high-performance vehicles are likely to slow first, industry officials say.

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