What Is the Mustang FR500?

What Is the Mustang FR500?

Last Updated August 9, 2023 | Meghan Drummond

The FR500 Mustang was developed in 1999 by the Special Vehicle Team (SVT). Though it used a Cobra as its base, the FR500 included many unique additions to make it race ready. Unlike the Cobra R, which was race-capable and street legal, the FR500 was designed exclusively for racing. Instead of a VIN, each car came with a racing number.

Sideview of Silver Mustang with unique aero

What Does FR500 Mean?

The “FR” stands for Ford Racing, now named Ford Performance. The FR500 used many of Ford Racing’s performance parts. This made it easier to control the standards of each piece, and also helped establish the quality of Ford Racing parts.

The “500” comes from “5.0,” a reference to the engine’s displacement. Though some later models of the FR500 had different displacements, the name stayed the same.

The FR500 was designed during the New Edge generation and produced through the first half of the S197 generation. The FR500’s looks are distinct from either generation, despite being based on production Mustangs and produced in the same factory.

Sideview of white S197 Mustang racing with red and blue side stripes

1999 FR500 Mustang Engine and Performance

The 1999 FR500 was equipped with a 5.0L DOHC V8 engine that could produce 415 hp. Though Ford had transitioned from OHV to OHC engines, the SVT team wanted something more powerful. McLaren Engines did the actual fabrication and assembly of the first engines, though Ford still created the design.

Sideview of the FR500 concept Mustang

The result was a modular engine with a dual overhead cam, Ford Racing cylinder heads, a magnesium intake manifold, all in an aluminum block. The engine used a spray-in metal liner for additional weight savings. The spray-in liner also allowed the engine to have a larger bore for extra displacement.

The T-45 transmission found in the Cobra was upgraded to a T-56 transmission. This transmission would be used the following year in the Cobra R as well.

One of the most eye-catching elements of the FR500 was the bodywork. This consisted of a more aerodynamic hood that was made of carbon fiber. Other carbon fiber parts included the fenders and front fascia.

One of the most exciting engineering changes related to the front suspension. By using a double-arm front suspension, Ford could lengthen the Mustang’s wheelbase. This allowed for better weight distribution and handling. A new crossmember and oil pan had to be developed for the longer wheelbase.

Only three of these concept vehicles were ever made. Two mules and one SEMA show concept car. With a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds, it proved the concept.

2005-2008 FR500C Mustang Engine and Performance

With the concept proven, the FR500 was ready for production. In 2005, it debuted, only now as the FR500C. The “C” stood for “Cammer R50” engine. This engine boasted 420 hp.

The FR500C Mustang was meant to be a “turnkey racecar,” so amateur racers could dip their toes into the professional scene. At $125,000, it was out of a lot of private racers’ budgets. So, Ford Racing sold many of their parts independently. You could buy almost any of the FR500C’s parts a la carte.

Meanwhile, the factory FR500C, dubbed “Boy Racer,” competed in the Grand-Am Cup against heavy-hitters like BMW, Cadillac, Nissan, and Porsche. It did exceptionally well, winning 5 of 12 races.

white S197 Mustang with racing logos pictured on the track

Most of the improvements in the 1999 concept car made it through to the production model. The production model was also fully seam-welded with an integrated safety cage. For the driver, a Sparco racing seat, steering wheel, and six-point safety harness completed the package.

FR500 Variants

Different racing leagues have different rules for their competition vehicles. Because of this, several variants were created for the FR500. Each variant was slightly different, though the performance modifications were similar.

White S197 Mustang with red and blue hood stripes

FR500 Mustang Variants
VariantHorsepowerRacing LeagueNotes
FR500S 325 hp Ford Racing Mustang Challenge
Uses DOT approved tires
FR500GT 550 hp Champ Car Codenamed “Man Racer”
Features heavily modified suspension
Large aero parts added
FR500CJ 900 hp Drag Racing Whipple blower supercharger
One-piece driveshaft
9” rear axle
Drag race spring set
FR500GT4 420 hp GT4
FR500C Salt Flats 550 hp Salt Flat Racer Reached 251 mph
FR500GT3 550 hp FIA GT3

The FR500 showed that the S197 Mustang could, with the right modifications, be a legitimate racecar. And its different variants established the wide variety of tracks it could be successful on. Though Ford stopped making the FR500, race-ready Mustangs are still put together regularly by enthusiasts and driven at places like NMRA.

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.