Carroll Shelby's name is legendary among Ford fans, and for good reason. Since the 1960s, cars bearing the Shelby logo have been feared by foes and cherished by owners. The latest in the Shelby line, the 2010 GT500, is primed to carry on the tradition, taking the title of Ford's most powerful SVT-tuned Mustang ever.

“We’re proud of the many enhancements that were developed jointly by the Ford and Shelby Automobiles team last year that we’ve now incorporated into the new 2010 Shelby GT500,” said Carroll Shelby, founder of Shelby Automobiles. “Building on what we learned to create the Shelby GT500KR, this new car offers a great combination of power, handling and braking. It is truly a special car that is a great deal of fun to drive.”

With that kind of endorsement, it's already a sure thing in many fans eyes. The more skeptical will wait to see how it feels in a seat-of-the-pants sense, but with 540hp and 510lb-ft of torque on tap, it's unlikely to feel like it's lacking power. The 2010 GT500 gets its power from a supercharged and intercooled 5.4L DOHC V8 that redlines at 6,250 rpm.

Some of the advances made to allow the new Shelby to generate all that power include an open-element intake and conical air filter instead of the more typical factory enclosed flat-panel system. Snaked to a cold-air location, the intake also helps get the coolest air possible into the system, reducing charge temps and increasing horsepower.

Routing all that power and torque to the rear wheels is a six-speed manual transmission mated to a twin-disc clutch. The clutch itself has been upgraded to a copper/fiberglass blend and enlarged to 250mm discs, 35mm larger than the previous GT500's. To keep the clutch from being undriveable on the street, a unique mechanism controls the intermediate disc, making for smoother launches and shifts. The transmission also gets some improvements to reduce noise and vibration. Fifth and sixth gears are also made slightly taller, accounting for the 2mpg highway fuel efficiency improvements, though a shorter 3.55 ratio in the rear diff boosts acceleration in the lower gears.

All of this driveline work means that the car will accelerate faster than last year's car, but Ford isn't saying how much faster just yet. With the similarly-outfitted (but even shorter-geared at a 3.73 rear diff ratio) 540hp GT500KR making the 0-60mph (96km/h) dash in 4.1 seconds, expect similar figures from the 2010 model.

Exterior appearance changes for 2010 are similar to those found on the standard 2010 Mustang. The redesigned slimmer look, improved interior and modernized trim all carry over where they are not replaced by unique elements. Special attention was paid to the front end of the car, which gets a redesigned splitter among other upgrades.

“We worked hard to get as much downforce with as little drag as possible,” said Kerry Baldori, chief functional engineer for SVT. “We worked to seal off the air that comes in the front so it can’t go underneath the car. We spent a lot time sealing components such as the radiator and intercoolor to get rid of all the leak paths. The result of this evolution of aerodynamics is we’ve increased downforce, reduced drag and improved the overall efficiency of the 2010 Shelby GT500.”

The suspension also gets new SVT tuning, with revised spring and damper rates for better roll control, thanks in part to work done in the GT500KR program. Handling is further improved with new 19in Goodyear F1 Supercar tires on forged aluminum wheels.

“All our changes were about making the car to respond as fast and as predictable as possible,” said Jamal Hameedi, chief nameplate engineer for SVT. “The 2010 Shelby GT500 conveys an athletic, confident feel. The shifter, clutch pedal, brake-pedal efforts and overall steering efforts are easier now. We wanted to make sure we had a nice, crisp short-throw shifter that was easy to go from gear to gear.”

The 2010 Shelby GT500 goes on sale in the early part of 2009, though the very first car will be auctioned along side the first 2010 Mustang and the first 2010 Chevrolet Camaro at the Barrett-Jackson auction, January 13-18 in Scottsdale, Arizona.