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RoadTrip | If Baywatch was filmed in Cape Town, the real star would be a 600kW Super Snake

2020-04-25 04:30

Ferdi de Vos

Shelby Mustang Super Snake

2019 Shelby Mustang Super Snake. Image: RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott

If the popular lifeguard drama Baywatch, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, was produced in South Africa, Camps Bay in Cape Town - with the impressive The Bay Hotel as a backdrop and an iconic Shelby Mustang on set - would have been the perfect location for it.

It has been thirty years since the sexy stars of the TV series Baywatch first bounded along the beach in slow-motion - supposedly to rescue fumbling bathers from strong sea currents while continuously being distracted by constant interpersonal troubles.

At about the same time, Ford was also facing intercompany turmoil that nearly led to the cancellation of the Mustang pony car program, and it took three "superheroes" to secure its future.

Anyway, the storylines in Baywatch never really mattered as much as the bouncy bits, and the series became a global hit, reaching an estimated audience of one billion viewers worldwide. 

Read the latest RoadTrip edition here!

Shelby Mustang Super Snake

2019 Shelby Mustang Super Snake. Image: RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott

Successful series

The action-drama, about a group of elite lifeguards on the pristine beaches of Malibu, Southern California (and later Hawaii), was aired in over 200 countries, was translated into 48 languages, and was described as "the most popular show in the history of the planet."

It also made Mitch, CJ, and their pals patrolling the beaches in skimpy swimsuits household names. It shot actors such as David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Erika Eleniak, Gena Lee Nolan, Jason Momoa, Alexandra Paul, and Yasmine Bleeth to international stardom.

First airing in 1989, the series ran for eleven years and spawned a plethora of spin-offs, from associated TV programs to feature films. Last year, to mark 30 years since Baywatch began, the series was digitally remastered in HD, with over 350 new songs created to score the montages.

A new Pantone colour, Baywatch Red, was also created, as featured in the costumes worn by the cast of the era-defining series. Interestingly, those memorable one-piece suits worn by the female leads were designed by a sport swimsuit company. Inspired by actual competitive swimming gear, each red swimsuit was tailored differently, as well.

Shelby Mustang Super Snake

2019 Shelby Mustang Super Snake. Image: RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott

Mustang and Baywatch

What is not so well known is that after an unspectacular premiere season, broadcaster NBC canceled Baywatch in 1990, and the series was on the brink of extinction. 

Intriguingly, around the same time, the Ford Mustang pony car, which recently celebrated its 52nd anniversary and is still the most popular sports car in the world, faced a very similar fate.

The decision that would irrevocably change the future of the iconic, all-American muscle car was already taken in 1985. The idea was to phase out the third-generation Mustang based on the Fox platform in favour of a front-wheel-drive platform developed jointly with Mazda.

REVIEW: Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Convertible

However, when word got out that Ford was planning to abandon the rear-wheel-drive layout of the Mustang, the American buying public revolted, sending Ford hundreds of thousands of letters in protest. 

Still, Ford went ahead with the front-wheel-drive (FWD) car (the Probe, debuting in 1989), but the carryover Fox-body Mustang outsold it, prompting Dearborn to order the development of a new rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Mustang. 

Shelby Mustang Super Snake

2019 Shelby Mustang Super Snake. Image: RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott

Saved by the Terminator

Again, the company did not completely discount the FWD idea, and the development of both platforms went ahead. In 1990, some people at Ford realised the FWD model would not work and quietly swung resources towards the RWD concept. 

By now, it was too late for a new platform, so the existing chassis was overhauled and dubbed the Fox-4. Mustang program manager, John Coletti, and designer Patrick Schiavone, secretly prepared three concepts with the code names Bruce Jenner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Rambo. 

"Jenner" was deemed too conservative to be a Mustang, "Rambo" was considered too wild, so "Schwarzenegger" was chosen to become the generation-4 Mustang. In the end, The Terminator saved the RWD Mustang from termination.

What became of Baywatch? Well, after being rejected by NBC, it was resurrected for syndication in the international market, and British broadcaster LWT (now part of ITV) stepped in to help save the program. It became so successful it was aired on all continents except Antarctica.

Shelby Mustang Super Snake

2019 Shelby Mustang Super Snake. Image: RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott

Snake in the Bay

Special Mustang models like the SVT Cobra and Cobra R returned with the fourth-generation model. After an update in 1999, it spawned the first Bullitt, a Mach 1 revival, and the 2000 Cobra R. There were no Shelby versions, though, as the Shelby-Ford partnership was over by 1969. It was revived in 2007, and since then, Shelby has developed several bespoke Shelby Mustang models.

Still, we are convinced that the stars of Baywatch - if it were to be resurrected now (there are rumours) – would be seen in the Super Snake version at least. Well-known racer, Peter Lindenberg, the local distributor of Shelby, kindly supplied us with the latest 2019 model for our shoot.

It is an eye-catching beast. Based on the latest S550 Mustang, this limited-edition package, each with a unique CSM number included in the Official Shelby Registry, has been extensively reworked. It features a new hood, rockers, spoilers, splitters, grilles, rear tail panel, and rear diffuser assembly. The Shelby theme is continued inside with finely appointed stitching and badges.

READ: Drag strip destroyer! This one-off Ford Mustang Cobra Jet is a 1490Nm all-electric beast

Powered by an 800 horsepower (nearly 600kW) cross-plane crankshaft variant of the Ford 5.0-litre V8 Voodoo engine (named the Predator) with a Whipple supercharger, the powerful Super Snake emits a magnificent sound. With nearly 1000Nm of torque, it whips from 0 - 100km/h in 3.5 seconds.

With a Penske-tuned suspension, MagnaRide dampers, 20-inch forged wheels, high-performance tyres, Brembo six-piston front, and four-piston rear brakes, and Shelby exhaust it effortlessly carved up the Chapmans Peak road. Yet, it is still tractable enough to burble down the Camps Bay main drag at snail's pace. The track-tuned suspension is hard, though, and amplifies every road undulation.

Nonetheless, this fastest of all Shelby Mustang specials is a magnificent and very collectible machine, ready for everyday use but with more than a healthy dose of muscle car appeal.

Shelby Mustang Super Snake

2019 Shelby Mustang Super Snake. Image: RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott

Our vehicle: 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby Super Snake GT Premium

• Engine Ford Voodoo petrol V8, Whipple supercharger

• Capacity         5038cc

• Bore/Stroke 93.0mm × 92.7mm

• Maximum power 600kW @ 7400rpm

• Maximum torque 980Nm @ 5250rpm

• Weight 1681kg

• Power to Weight 357kW/tonne

• Transmission 10-speed automatic

• 0-100km/h 3.5 seconds

• 0-400 metres 10.61sec @ 214km/h

• Top speed 290km/h (restricted)

• Brakes 380mm, six-piston (f); 380mm, four-piston (r)

• Wheels 20.0 × 9.5-inch (f); 20 × 11.0-inch (r)

• Tyres 275/35 ZR20 (f); 305/30 ZR20 (r)

• Price R2.4-million

Read the latest RoadTrip edition here!

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