It was at the 1992 Chicago Auto Show that Ford's high performance arm, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT), entered the automotive scene with the debut of the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra and SVT F-150 Lightning. In the 20 years since, more than seven different SVT vehicles have been produced around the attributes of "Performance, Substance, Exclusivity and Value." To mark the 20th anniversary of SVT, the company has decided to let its top down by debuting the new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 convertible at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. The topless version packs the same 650 horsepower powerplant as the hardtop model that debuted in L.A. late last year.

While the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra that debuted in Chicago 20 years ago packed a 5.0-liter V8 engine producing 235-horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2013 Shelby GT500 convertible boasts a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 producing a whopping 650 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque, which Ford says makes it the most powerful production V8 in the world.

An optional Performance Package, which includes SVT-designed Bilstein electronic dampers, coupled with all-new chassis tuning and new Brembo brake system, allows the 2013 model to go around the Sebring International Raceway almost 3.5 seconds quicker than the 2011 and 2012 models.

To eek out every bit of additional horsepower, the powertrain has been optimized with a new supercharger, new cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft profiles, new carbon fiber driveshaft, and upgraded clutch, transmission and axle. SVT has also revised nearly every gear to better manage the torque.

With a push of a button on the dash, drivers can switch between normal mode - designed for a more comfortable ride - and sport mode - designed for performance with less body roll on the corners and reduced pitch when braking. Ford says the new Bilstein dampers are key to the SVT engineers being able to tune the vehicle more aggressively for the track, while still maintaining comfort for the road.

The vehicle also comes with a commemorative lighted sill plate to mark SVT's 20th anniversary.

Ford didn't reveal any further performance or pricing details for the GT500 convertible, but it is due to go on sale later this year.

Source: Ford