Ford has largely stood on the sidelines as Chevrolet and Dodge wage a full-fledged horsepower war to dominate the muscle car segment. Now it’s finally ready to jump in the battle with one of its most iconic nameplates as a weapon. The Mustang Shelby GT500 will return in 2019 packing over 700 horsepower, and a leaked image posted on Instagram gives us an early look at the model.
The picture was uploaded by Instagram user Sinister_Lifestyle and taken by an anonymous shooter during what looks like a preview event held at Ford’s headquarters for a group of hand-selected customers. Ford hasn’t commented on it but we think it’s the real deal. It shows a mean-looking evolution of the 2019 Mustang with huge air intakes up front, a heritage-laced cobra emblem attached to the grille, a sizable wing on the trunk lid, and wheels that appear to be made out of carbon fiber. The GT500 is finished in Ford Performance’s typical shade of dark blue and it wears a pair of white racing stripes for contrast.
It’s too early to tell precisely what lurks between the flared fenders. Ford previously hinted at a supercharged V8 engine rated at more than 700 hp; an earlier, unverified report pegs its output at 720. We know it will be the most powerful street-legal Ford production car ever made, topping even the last-generation GT500 and the mighty, 647-hp GT supercar. It will need that kind of power if it wants to take on its Detroit-based rivals.
When it comes to horsepower, the GT500 will easily beat the 650-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and likely fall in the same ballpark as the 717-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The 797-hp Challenger Hellcat Redeye will likely remain the most powerful American muscle car available brand-new, however.
The eight-cylinder will send its prodigious power to the GT500’s rear wheels through a carbon fiber driveshaft. The report claiming a 720-hp output also points to a six-speed manual as the standard transmission option, though Ford could add an automatic (possibly its 10-speed unit) to the list of extra-cost options.
Ford plans to introduce the Mustang Shelby GT500 during the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, but the leak might force the company to show us the car sooner. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear more about it in November during the annual SEMA show. While pricing information hasn’t been announced yet, we expect the GT500 will start under the six-digit mark. Act fast if you want one; like its predecessors, it will become an instant collector’s item.
Updated on October 19, 2018: Added leaked image and the latest technical specifications.