Matt Stone
August 1, 2013

Most people expect the starring role in a front-line, fast-paced, high-action video game from Electronic Arts to be filled by a modern, "digital era" car like a Subaru, a Mitsubishi Evo, or perhaps a Nissan GT-R or Audi R8. EA had a completely different idea on boil when it developed Need for Speed: The Run, that being something a bit more old school yet modern and high-tech in its own ways. According to EA, Need for Speed, released in November 2011, "goes to the next level."

"We think that Need for Speed: The Run is going to surprise people with its intense, thrilling story and big action feel," said Jason DeLong, Executive Producer. But the game would be nothing without hot cars and crazy-fast chases. So that is what we're delivering—explosive racing that will have players flirting with disaster at 200 miles an hour."

Thus a 750-horsepower Shelby Mustang seemed just the ticket.

EA's need was for a searing hot ride to play the leading role in the game, and to feature on the packaging box art and in marketing materials. EA's in-house Vehicle Team worked with Shelby American to design and build its star player. What began life as a standard '11 Shelby GT 500 became Shelby Super Snake CSMSS110084, which then morphed into the star of Need for Speed: The Run via a straightforward but meaningful customizing plan that snarked up its look and brand-connected it to the game.

Shelby American's Gary Davis called an audible on the Super Snake production team so it could be built on the regular production line in near record time. The stock white-over-black paint scheme was retained, but the front and rear fenders were flared out an additional 1.5 inches, while a carbon fiber front splitter and side rocker panel skirts added a more aggressive ground effects look. The bumper treatments were also revised, as is all badging and graphic I.D. The front driving lights gave way to screened air intakes in the name of enhanced brake cooling. The Shelby supplied three-piece alloys were replaced with HRE C-90 10-inch modular alloys with dark graphite gray/black centers and highly polished aluminum rims. Shelby carbon fiber scoops replace the stock quarter windows.

The look is highly duochromatic, with the stock white paint finish retained but accented by all black and dark graphite stripes, trim, and graphic. Stark, wicked, and all business—appropriate for a game script that calls for cross-country high-stakes chase competitions at speeds up to 200 mph. All of the rest of the Shelby Super Snake upgrades are retained, while JVC provides a new touch screen infotainment head unit, speakers, and trunk-filled amplifiers.

Lift the composite hood, which is so light it practically floats out of your hand, and everything underhood is as it should be: Shelby/Ford Racing Whipple blown 5.4 equipped with Shelby billet fluid caps, Shelby serial badging, cold-air intake, and all the rest. The idle is dead smooth, the sound audio tract a combination of the bassy Borla pipes overlaid with the muted whine of the supercharger twirling around. As the EA build comprised no performance parameter changes, we expect a typical Super Snake driving experience. The Shelby short-throw shifter snicks into first, and we're away.

Horsepower is an intoxicating mistress. We drive a lot of fast cars; various sources quote 0-60 times for this model in the low four-second range. Our '08 Shelby GT daily driver is naturally aspirated, has 15 percent less displacement, and about half the horsepower of this EA Super Snake. And it takes a couple of seconds longer to get to 60 than does this great white shark. That makes the video game car F-F-F-fun with several capital Fs. Remember, Absolute Power Corrupts—Absolutely.

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There's so much torque on hand that you can easily pull away from lights in Second gear and putter around town all day in Second and Third; you'll never need First with the exception of steep driveways and V-max level launches and acceleration runs. The fortified 5.4 will haze the massive, sticky rear Falken P285/30ZR20s all through First and Second gears if that's your right foot's demonic demand. Fifth and Sixth are overdrive gears, but with so much power on hand there's actually a bit of acceleration to be found in each of them at legal freeway speeds. Fourth gear handles most passing chores; for all others there's Third.

And the sound is glorious: The big, polished, Borla pipes wail, snap, crackle, and pop depending on the rev range and whether you're under load or burbling down a hill in Third gear.

We didn't have the chance to validate if this Superest of Snakes will hit the 200 mph like the video, but we know these cars are good for the long, far side of 150 with room to run. Yowzah.

And BTW, this car handles too. The Shelby/Ford Racing adjustable shocks, plus the super-stiff yet sticky 20-inch rolling stock, sharpens every driver input and associated response; the electric steering gives some feel and feedback (so much better than when these systems started showing up on hybrids and economy cars just a half generation ago), and while all the heavy-duty suspension bits cost a bit of ride quality, it's not entirely over the top. If you want more compliance, you can always dial it in (the dampers are adjustable after all). Based on our non-test-track drive, it all feels pretty tight, firm, responsive, and fast—just as a Shelby Mustang should.

As of our drive, the odometer reads less than 2,000 miles, so the car is all but virtually brand-new and barely broken in. And you can own it. It will be auctioned off on eBay in July, with all funds benefitting the Shelby Children's Foundation. What a combination—a high-buck, high-visibility, custom-built Shelby Super Snake that starred in a front line video game, bought directly from Shelby American, benefitting the cause that meant the most to the late and great Carroll Shelby. Nice.

Visit the Carroll Shelby Foundation website to get updates, info, schedule and rules about the charity car auction. www.cscf.org

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