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The car is powered by an iron-block, aluminum-head, 330-cubic-inch engine. The transmission, as it should be, is a six-speed manual (and that helps thin the wannabe hot-rodder herd.)

The transmission can be played up and down the power scale like an alto sax. Shift from first to third to fifth and you can save gas, but lose little in performance, thanks to 480 lb.-ft. of torque reaching deep for tug. There are pickup trucks with snowplows that don't have the push-pull advantage of that much torque.

So why rave about this coupe when I was dismissive of the convertible GT500?

As a politician might say, It's the roof, stupid!

I have nothing against convertibles and think they make lovely cruisers when the air is warm and the sun high.

But force a car without the reinforcement of its steel roof to handle 500 horsepower and almost 2 tons of weight and you may be asking too much.

No roof means extra vibration in virtually any convertible. In a powerhouse such as this, it means a stampede of thumping shake. Leave the roof on, however, and here's what you get: a fantastic, high-performance four-seater that lets you use all that power, and play its notes through the six-speed transmission.

Brakes are 14 inches in diameter up front and 11.8 in the rear, plenty of good stopping power for such a strong car. The suspension also has been stiffened, which can make for bouncing rides at slow speeds on lumpy roads, but which holds the car flat as a brick in hard cornering and at launch.

Its interior is a classic mix of two-toned leather seating, a three-spoke steering wheel, aluminum-circled vents and gauges, and a short, nifty shifter.

The tachometer sits central, where the speedometer is placed in most cars, because watching rpms for shift points is more important to a power enthusiast than the speedometer.

From the outside, it radiates power, with a massive lower fascia intake with fog lamps set like dark eyes on each side, headlights beneath a bulging hood, and a black mesh grille with, appropriately, a cobra emblem. Twin white stripes, running from front to rear over the car's spine, date to the 1960s.

This is a world-class, high-performance car that, were it not for dealer price gouging, could be had for less than $50,000.

Ford reached back decades to raise the GT500, but dipped into the modern gene pool to produce what is virtually a race car you can buy right off the showroom floor. Thankfully, most of them will be sold with fixed roofs.
 
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