The year was 1812 and stories claim British officers were dining with their American counterparts at Fort George in what was then Upper Canada. During the meal, word suddenly arrived the two empires were at war. The Americans immediately stood up to leave, but the British insisted they stay and finish their meal before being safely escorted to the river bank and sent on their way. In the end, America won their independence and the stranglehold of the British Empire was never the same.
I am reminded of this opportunity to fight another day as I drive the 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 through the historic streets of Niagara-on-the-lake. With the resurgence of American muscle cars taking back battleground most recently held by their European counterparts, it seems we are once again in the middle of a combat for supremacy. Ford, along with its fellow American automakers, may have just enough horses under the hood to win the war. It seems history has a funny way of repeating itself.
The 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is a beast of vehicle to drive. This is the first production Mustang to top 200 mph (322 km/h) and it shows with every press of the accelerator pedal. Performance numbers indicate 662 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 631 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Matched to a 6-speed manual transmission, this rear-wheel drive, 4-seater coupe sprints from 0-100 km/h in under 4 seconds.
Unbridled horsepower can be risky business, so Ford equips the new Shelby GT500 with Brembo disc brakes. Additional safety features include traction control, ABS and electronic stability control. Our test vehicle is equipped with the optional SVT Track Package, adding the TORSEN differential to the standard 3.31:1 drive ratio for optimized performance.
Inside, Cobra-style Recaro leather seats are another bonus for our Shelby GT500. Not only do they look cool, they grab in all the right places, keeping you firmly planted for high speed driving and stopping. Ford SYNC takes care of the sound and mobile device interface. There is even a round white shifter knob to celebrate a storied past, while the clutch and 6-speed transmission is strictly 21st Century.
The Charles Hotel is one of Niagara’s best kept secrets. Situated at the top of Queen Street, it is a short stroll from the many stores and restaurants lined up to greet a daily onslaught of visitors from all parts of the globe, Americans included, of course. This year celebrates the 200 year anniversary of the War of 1812, and there are banners everywhere announcing the event. At the entrance to Fort George, cannons are polished and gleaming as tour buses pull up and eager visitors arrive.
A Manor House built in 1832; this former residence features thoroughly modern accommodations in a luxurious, historic setting. Our room highlights a 4-poster king-size feather-top bed, LCD TV, wood burning fireplace and enough lounging space to truly stretch out and relax. A full-size bathroom displays a rain shower, pedestal sink and large white and black heated ceramic flooring.
Throughout the hotel, floors creak and history oozes around every corner. Some historians believe this one-time home of Charles Richardson, a Member of Parliament for Niagara from 1834-1836, played a significant role in helping black slaves escape into Canada. Though not proven, a sealed concrete opening in the basement seems to indicate there may be some truth to the story.
Lunch and dinner is served in the old parlour under the watchful eye of Chef de Cuisine Steve Sperling. His menu is salivating as we dine on fresh pickerel and salmon for the main course, plus a fine selection of Niagara’s finest wines.
A sunny day dawns after a rainy night and I twist the key of the Shelby GT500 to break the silence. No war is declared this day, but I smile as we drive down the main street only to pass a beautiful coupe of the British feline persuasion. A blip of the throttle and 600+ ponies is a quick reminder who truly owns the road on this day.
2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Trim level: GT500 Coupe
Configuration: front engine/ rear-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 5.8L 8 cylinder/ 6-spd manual
Power/torque: 662 hp/ 631 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): Premium (60.6L)
Fuel economy ratings: 13.9 L/100km city; 8.3 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 11.9 L/100km over 500 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic)
Competitors: BMW M3, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Dodge Challenger 392 Hemi SRT8, Nissan GT-R
Where to Stay:
The Charles Hotel
209 Queen Street