Ask anybody over 50 this question, "What's the coolest thing you've ever owned?" Without missing a beat, most people will mention a favorite car or truck. It's been this way for generations. Cars are cool. Americans love them, what they stand for, their technology, and the freedom they provide.
However, with the onset of Eco-Boomers coming of driving age, some are predicting the end of USA's love affair with the automobile. Trend watchers note that Eco-Boomers (those born between 1979 and 1994) identify more, and assign more social status to their cell phone or game consoles than the vehicle the already or may someday drive.
To maintain The American Way, this trend must stop.
Reality vs. Fantasy
A potentially effective antidote is the 2010 Shelby GT500 from Ford Motor Company. This is the most powerful of all factory-produced Mustangs. The car was developed in association with the legendary Carroll Shelby, one of the world's most famous race drivers and car builders. The newest Shelby incorporates all of the modifications we wrote about when we previewed the new 2010 Mustang last fall, but goes further by adding more style and much more performance (225 more horsepower than the Mustang GT!).
Trend watchers and their Eco-Boomer study subjects may find their priorities rearranged with exposure to the GT500, coupe or convertible. While today's young adults have grown up in a world of virtual experiences, perhaps the reason for their ignorance about great cars stems from never hearing the primeval growl of a supercharged V-8. Once experienced, virtual YouTube video encounters over iPhones become sad substitutes.
Certainly nothing can replace the actual experience of rocketing from 0-120 mph in 12 seconds; about the time it takes many vehicles to reach half that speed. No console can replicate the feeling 540 horsepower boosting you forward as if on a rocket sled.
Perhaps instead of mastering a driving game (emphasis on "game"), the Shelby GT500 will inspire Eco-Boomers to hone their skills behind a real steering wheel while mastering the shift pattern of a short-throw manual transmission. For those who never learned how to drive a stick, Ford doesn't offer an automatic transmission in the GT500.
Over exuberance with the GT500's throttle will send the Shelby's newly designed Goodyear Eagle F-1 Supercar tires up in smoke. Unless new gaming consoles include surround smell, nothing can prepare previously unassaulted nostrils for the acrid smell of molten rubber. Just like posting a high score in the virtual world, once you've developed the skill, hazing the tires becomes just as addictive in real life.
GT500 Performance Hardware
The details of the 2010 Shelby GT500 are this: its 5.4-liter, double-overhead cam, 32-valve V-8 produces 540 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 510 lb-ft torque at 4,500 rpm. The supercharger is mounted in the valley of the V-8, and sends highly compressed air through an intercooler to further increase the engine's power potential.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox has taller gear ratios in 5th and 6th for more economical highway cruising, so the GT500 is a relatively green performance car... try naming another four-passenger car with 540 horsepower that gets 22 mpg on the highway.
Suspension components are tuned to deal with the Shelby's formidable power. The suspension is stiff but not punishing. It soaks up bumps and broken pavement better previous Mustangs with live rear axles.
The car's uniquely programmed Advance Trac electronic stability control shows how this car with so much history has easily made the transformation into the modern electronic era (the first Shelby Mustangs were produced in 1965). Advance Trac boosts the Shelby's handling capability while providing an extra margin of dynamic safety, working in concert with racing style Brembo front brakes.
Regarding style, the Ford Shelby GT500 carries over the lines of the re-drawn 2010 Mustang... mostly. The new grill and aluminum hood are simplified and beefed up. A functional air extractor on the hood's leading edge helps rid the engine compartment of heat. The Shelby also gets unique forged 19-inch wheels on the coupe (18-inchers on the convertible). Its bold stripes can't be missed, even from the inside. The exterior stripes carry through the center sections of the leather-covered front and rear seats. Even the ball topping the short-throw shifter is striped.
While console players who have access to a reset button aren't interested in real safety, the new Shelby GT500 delivers on safety with a standard ABS, traction control, and four airbags. The GT500 also includes the SYNC infotainment interface with SYNC's 911 Assist.
The doorsill plates include an SVT logo (Special Vehicle Team worked up the GT500 within Ford) that glows when the ambient lighting is operational. Sirius NAV system with Travel Link is optional.
Salvation For Eco-Boomers
Powerful antidotes to awake Eco-Boomer's from their computer-induced comas should begin to reverse the generation's attachment to hand-held mobile devices and video games.
Dodge fired the first salvo with their 2009 Challenger SRT8. Unfortunately, the muscle car's summer-2008 launch coincided with the bottom dropping out of the economy. Timing is everything, and not even the 425-horsepower HEMI engine could accelerate sales.
Chevrolet followed just last month with the re-introduction of the 2010 Camaro. When the high-performance Camaro SS hits the street, its 426-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 should work like nitro glycerin for buyers who have been waiting for a car to jumpstart their automotive passion.
Ford expects Mustang enthusiasts to snap up the first of the Shelby GT500s when the car goes on sale this spring, but production will continue all year. Given the size of the Eco-Boomer generation (estimated to be a large as the Baby Boomers) and the historic ability of Shelby to provide a thrilling driving experience, the combination may lead to a swell of demand from drivers looking for excitement on pavement instead of from pixels.
At an as-delivered price just over $48,000, the 2010 Shelby GT500 certainly delivers. And there is no virtual substitute.
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