In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the original, Ford and Shelby have decided to introduce the "King of the Road" model (hence the initials KR), with 540 horsepower (403kW) on tap and 692Nm of torque, from what is effectively the supercharged 5.4-litre quad-cam 32v V8 from the Ford GT supercar. Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a Tremec six-speed manual transmission, with a Ford Racing short-throw shifter. Capped with a white knob, the new shifter's lever is 25 per cent shorter than that of the GT500, giving sharper shifting.
The Shelby part of the name, of course, comes from racing and sports car building legend Carroll Shelby, the 1959 Le Mans-winning Texan who only took up making hairy-chested street cars after doctors said his heart couldn't take much more of him competing behind the wheel.
Shelby is renowned for creating Cobras by dropping Ford V8s into tiny British AC Ace sports cars, and taking over Ford's GT Le Mans programme in the mid-'60s, leading it to four consecutive Le Mans victories, starting with the era-changing Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon win in 1966.
But the direct connection with the GT500KR model comes from Shelby's refettled high-performance Mustangs of the late '60s, called the GT350 and GT500, which are regarded now as some of quickest and most desirable historic Mustangs of all.
The first KR Shelby Cobra, the GT500KR, was introduced in 1968 and based on that year's GT500, with Ford noting the marketing value of adding Cobra to the car's name. The Cobra name at that time referred to the new 428cu in (7-litre) Cobra Jet V8 stuffed under the '68 KR's bonnet.
Ford conservatively rated the 428 CJ at 335bhp (250kW), but in reality it made more than 400bhp (300kW ) and 600Nm of torque. That first KR model was also equipped with a modified suspension and was offered both in fastback and convertible models. Just 1570 GT500KRs were sold, with 1053 fastbacks and 517 convertibles finding owners.
The new car will be even rarer and produced as a limited edition of just 1000 units. The 2008 Shelby GT500KR coupe will come with a unique carbon-composite bonnet with intake venturi and very 1960s stainless steel twist-down hood pins. There will be a lower front air dam than on the standard (only 500hp/ 403kW) GT500, with chrome- trimmed brake ducts and enlarged 14-inch Brembo front brakes.
The Shelby GT500KR features 40th anniversary exterior badging, special striping and a distinctive interior with Carroll Shelby-signature embroidered seats and a 40th anniversary numbered dash plaque.
The Ford Shelby GT500KR's supercharged 5.4-litre, 32-valve V8 is the result of Ford's experience in developing its modular V8 and V10 engine series. The engine is force-fed air through a Roots-type supercharger providing nine pounds per square inch of boost. It borrows the four-valve cylinder heads, piston rings and bearings, from the Ford GT engine.
Ford Racing and Team Shelby worked together to develop the KR's suspension tuning, which still, sadly, eschews independent rear underpinnings. This is something Ford is going to think long and hard about as arch-rivals Dodge and Chevrolet get ready to bring their own respective high-performance Challenger and Camaro models into production - both sporting the IRS that the Mustang lacks.
But for the time being, Chrysler and GM will be in no doubt who has the King of the Road bragging rights.