Snakes alive – Shelby Mustangs for NZ

The ultimate Shelby Mustang models are now officially available here – as Ford also feels the heat from the national safety agency.

CARROLL Shelby and Mustang – their ties go back to almost the start of Pony Car production, yet New Zealand is now seeing something wholly new for the iconic association.

CTB Performance, the Ford NZ-accredited outfit that already undertakes the majority of performance enhancements for officially imported Mustangs here, has just announced it will act as the official distributor of Shelby GT and Shelby Super Snakes here.

The twist to the tale is this: These are right-hand-drive cars, a first in all the many years of association between the Blue Oval and the tuning shop set up by the late Texan.

Until now, Shelby product has always been developed around North American domestic market fare; until now, in fact the Shelby versions of the current car – the first global ‘Stang – have been left-hookers. Some examples of these GT 350 and GT 500 products have already landed here.

The right-hand-drive cars result from a deal with Mustang Motorsport Official in Australia. CTB Performance has, in turn, gone into partnership with Mustang Motorsport to supply NZ fans.

There is no detail, yet, about how much a Shelby GT or Shelby Super Snake might cost here.

As with the Roush revisions that CTB has been offering GT buyers, supercharging is the key under bonnet upgrade – the Super Snake is said to pack just over 560kW from the 5.0-litre V8 that creates 303kW in factory-standard format and has 470kW with the Roush kit.

The ultimate Shelby rework delivers Whipple 750 or Kenne Bell 750 superchargers, an upgraded cooling package, differential cooling, transmission cooling, Shelby Wilwood four-piston rear brakes, plus an aggressive exterior kit which comes with Weld Racing one-piece Super Snake 20-inch wheels.

Meantime, Mustang is the spotlight on safety grounds, with the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) - the independent crash-testing authority that is part-funded by the New Zealand Government and supported by the Automobile Association – expressing frustration with Ford Australia’s intransigent approach to sorting a local market crash test result for the US model.

The iconic US-built coupe and convertible is the highest selling vehicle in New Zealand and Australia today without an ANCAP crash-test rating – a situation the organization wants to address as soon as possible.

However, it appears to have been stymied by Ford, which has been reluctant to co-operate with data or a sacrificial car. There is conjecture that ANCAP might go it alone and conduct the crash tests anyway – if it can actually find any Mustangs to buy.

"The Mustang is the most popular unrated vehicle in the market at the moment," ANCAP Chief Executive Officer James Goodwin told Australian media.

"We have certainly spoken to Ford about that and how we may get a rating for it.

"It's not been resolved yet, but we are in those discussions … we need to be providing a rating to the consumer."

The V8 GT coupe is apparently a candidate to join Australian police highway patrol ranks as various state forces roll over from the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. An ANCAP rating could play a role in the decision-making process there too. New Zealand police have already shown commitment to the current Commodore as well as the next-generation car, based on the next-generation Opel Insignia.

Goodwin reckons it will be “difficult” for law enforcement agencies to select a highway patrol car that lacks an ANCAP rating.

Some crash tests conducted by ANCAP are at a manufacturers' request and cost while ANCAP does sometimes buy cars it specifically wants to test.

Alternatively, the Mustang may be on the testing schedule of another of the global NCAP bodies, most especially its sister body, Euro NCAP. That may then provide ANCAP with the data it needs to issue a star rating without crashing cars locally.

Earlier this year, Mustang was tested by America’s Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, an ANCAP equivalent in terms of its status in North America. IIHS scores do not auto translate in ANCAP ratings, as Euro NCAP outcomes sometimes do, but ANCAP has said some IIHS test results might prove useful for examination.

The IIHS determined the Mustang did not warrant its 'Top Safety Pick' rating because it underperformed in what's called the 'small overlap test'.

If ANCAP does end up crashing the Mustang it would almost certainly go with the 2.3-litre four-cylinder coupe base model, Goodwin said in reported comment.

"We normally try and do the base model because that makes it easier for us to assess the variants.

"Anything above the base model you are assuming it's going to get better in terms of safety equipment it has onboard. So we generally go for the base model and then ask Ford, for instance, for in-house data."

This is not the only issue Ford's performance models have had with ANCAP. The latest Focus RS also does not have the maximum five-star rating meted other Focus models because it comes with hard-shell Recaro seats that cannot take side-impact airbags.

Ford Australia has not provided data to prove the car can achieve five stars without those airbags, so the ANCAP site makes it specifically clear the RS is unrated.