Why this new Shelby GT500 had to be destroyed

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Words: Matthew Hansen
20 Oct 2020

While the whole fang-new-cars-for-a-job thing might look quite glamorous from the outside looking in, there is at least one dark reality on the other side — at least from the perspective of a car enthusiast.

Many of the cars handed out to journalists for testing are pre-production samples or prototypes. This means some of the parts fitted to these cars might not have quite had their t’s dotted and i’s crossed, particularly for the purposes of things like safety and emissions regulations.

The sad reality therefore is that many of the famous cars that adorn glossy magazine covers through slick press imagery don’t get to live long. These cars, if circulated in the world after being promotional tools, represent a legal liability risk for manufacturers.

So once they’ve completed their press requirements, they need to be taken off the road. While a lucky handful become race cars (or get converted to production specifications), a large portion of them are scrapped with minimal parts salvaged from their construction.

This is particularly true of press cars in America, like this 2020 Ford Shelby GT500. Although in this case, the car wasn’t simply turned into a cube. Instead, it was donated to the Dearborn Fire Department in Michigan, the same state in which Mustangs are constructed.

The Shelby was chopped up as part of a vehicle extraction exercise — its roof severed at the pillars, its bonnet cut in half widthways. As sad as it is to see, the testing performed with the vehicle may help the local fire department save lives down the line when it has to action these learnings in real-world scenarios.

“Your Dearborn Firefighters train daily. This week we trained on vehicle extrication. It almost broke our hearts to cut up this 2020 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 test vehicle,” the department said on social media.

“Thank you to Dennis Lark and FoMoCo for the opportunity. Other training included special operations and equipment familiarization.”

This isn’t the first time an American car brand has donated a performance car for the benefit of other people’s studies. In the 1990s and noughties, Chrysler donated various Vipers to colleges across America as tools for students studying automotive engineering.

In a fascinating turn, Chrysler then got in a spot of bother in 2014 when it ordered the 93 prototype Vipers in circulation at these colleges to be destroyed — many of them having been cherished and well maintained for most of their lives.

“As part of the donation process, it is standard procedure -- and stipulated in our agreements -- that whenever vehicles are donated to institutions for education purposes that they are to be destroyed when they are no longer needed for their intended educational purposes. With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students,” the firm said at the time.

“Chrysler Group has no record of any legal proceedings involving Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions being involved in accidents and product liability lawsuits,” it added.


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