The engine from the GT500 plus a manual under a sleekier body? Sign us up!

The news that Superformance will pick up the nearly ancient Shelby GR-1 Concept and actually put it into production got us all excited. Now, we’re hearing that, while the engine might come straight from the Shelby GT500, the gearbox will be a manual, not the seven-speed dual-clutch unit in the new Super ’Stang.

The Shelby GR-1, a modern day tribute to the glorious Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe of the ’60s, could be the car to have if you want the punch of a 2020 Shelby GT500 but can’t swallow the automatic transmission, the only one available on the new model. Superformance, the company that will build the car, hopes to offer it with either an automatic or manual transmission and even an electric version is on the cards.

The GR-1 Will be Adequately Old-School Where it Matters

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5453

A while ago, we were talking about the upcoming Superformance-built Shelby GR-1 and how it is likely to be powered by the same supercharged V-8 as the 2020 Shelby GT500 launched at the 2019 North-American International Auto Show. Superformance’s CEO, Lance Stander, also said last month that his team aims to mate that supercharged V-8 with a six-speed manual transmission. This got us thinking.

Could the GR-1 become the fanciest way to rock the Shelby GT500's engine while also getting the item that the purists will miss most in the Blue Oval's Hellcat-killer?

Let’s first take a look at what we know. Ford unveiled the much-anticipated GT500 last month, and that’s when we first got to see the new 5.2-liter aluminum block cross-plane crank V-8 with its 2.65-liter Roots supercharger. While the engineers are still tuning the unit to extract as much power as possible, Ford keeps quiet on the precise output figures for its new flagship Mustang but we think it will have at least 700 horsepower and over 600 pound-feet of torque. I mean, the SRT Hellcat has 717 horsepower and the GM alternative, the Camaro ZL1, has 650 horsepower. Both offer around 650 pound-feet of torque, so the GT500 must come forth with similar numbers or else Ford will have made an already obsolete car performance-wise.

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5467

We also know something the Shelby GT500 won’t have besides all the clever gizmos and technology: an old-fashioned manual transmission. Both the Camaro and the Challenger offer a six-speed manual, the former is also available with an automatic. Ford forwent listening to its purist fanbase and, instead, boasts that the Tremac-developed transmission is the first dual-clutch in the segment. There’s no word on the price tag of the GT500 although the GT350 has an MSRP of $57,270, but is less powerful and less technologically advanced. Expect its big brother to cost as much as $20,000 more and even be made in limited numbers.

Now, on to the Superformance Shelby GR-1.

The whole thing was announced early this year during a press conference held at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The project is co-developed by Superformance, long-time builders of insanely accurate Ford GT40 replicas, and Shelby American. For those who didn’t read the previous news on the subject, the two entities plan to resurrect a 14-year-old concept that debuted at the 2005 NAIAS called ’GR-1’ or ’Group Racing 1’.

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5474

The original was developed in just a few months after Ford’s then-Chief of Design, J. Mays, was impressed by a sketch done by George Saridakis. A clay model was unveiled at the 2004 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and the running and driving prototype stood proudly at Ford’s booth at the ’05 Detroit Auto Show, one year after Ford presented the Shelby Cobra Concept. At the time, Ford actively considered putting the GR-1 into limited series production, but was discouraged by the poor sales of the reborn Ford GT and the whole thing was canned.

That lone prototype featured a 605 horsepower, naturally aspirated, aluminum, V-10 mounted in front of the cockpit.

Torque was said to be 501 pound-feet and, thanks to a weight of just 3,700 pounds (the Challenger Hellcat weighs 4,439 pounds), it was supposed to reach 60 mph from a standstill in just 3.9 seconds while its top speed was limited to 190 mph although theoretically, it could easily exceed 204 mph.

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5477

Superformance will build the GR-1 replica with Ford’s blessing so it will be as legitimate as possible since Ford itself won’t put it into production ever. The engine, though, won’t be a V-10 but, as I mentioned, it should be the supercharged V-8 from the GT500 because it offers adequate amounts of both power and torque. At the end of the day, it should have over 100 ponies on top of what the V-10 from ’05 had to offer and also 100 more pound-feet in a car that should weigh about as much and have cleverer suspension and other bits under the skin. The original’s suspension and steering and brakes were lifted straight off the Ford GT to keep costs down and build time at a minimum.

While Tremac might also supply some DCTs to Superformance for the GR-1, it will mainly be available with a six-speed manual according to Stander.

This means that, if you can get your hands on one of the few GR-1s that will come as soon as NHTSA greenlights the car, you’ll get - sort of - a manual Shelby GT500... with a way cooler body!

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5479

There is a catch or two within this story, obviously. First, that NHTSA thing. Due to the government shutdown, the NHTSA is unable to operate and test vehicles as it usually does. The GR-1 will be produced under the Low Car Volume Manufacturers Act that allows a ’boutique’ manufacturer to make a car that doesn’t fully abide by all of the safety regulations currently in place. With that being said, it still needs to be approved by the NHTSA which isn’t back to work until the government kicks into gear again.

The second catch is the price.

Superformance will initially build 100-200 polished aluminum cars, and each will be priced well above the suggested MSRP for a 2020 Shelby GT500 because, well, the GR-1 is marketed as a full-fledged exclusive supercar.

While you may think that a +$150,000 price tag might be prohibitive, Stander actually stated that people are piling up to get their hands on one. "We still haven’t opened the order book for the GR-1 and interest has far surpassed the GT40. It’s incredible and very overwhelming." Under the aforementioned Act, though, Superformance can build no more than 325 examples of the GR-1.

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5461

Our conclusion from this story? If the demand is so high for a manual supercar identical to a 14-year-old prototype, imagine how many people would place a deposit right now for a three-pedaled 2020 Shelby GT500!

Further reading

The Superformance GR-1 Could be the Six-Speed Shleby GT500 You Really Want
- image 5451

Read our full review on the 2005 Ford Shelby GR-1.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
- image 814305

Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: