I sat in the audience as Ford broke a lot of news at this year’s North American International Auto Show. As its huge press conference wore on, the expected moment arrived and the new Bullitt broke cover. That was punctuated by the reveal of the real movie Bullitt, which rumbled to the stage belching raw exhaust on its merry way. Then Ford announced a new electric SUV might just be called the Mach 1. Talk about two different vehicles.

Naturally, my favorite part was the rowdy Bullitt’s lumpy idle contrasting with all the talk about technology, efficiency, and mobility. It was as stark a contrast as you can possibly imagine, but some how it worked. The new Bullitt served as a bridge between that performance history and a future that might be quite different.

The following day, Ford Performance teased its worst kept secret. Just a brief video that showed flashes of the rendered halo Mustang, but simply confirming the next Shelby GT500 existed stoked the passions of performance enthusiasts all over the globe.

This new Mustang is engineered to stand apart on roadways and race tracks, thanks to its new innovative track technologies… — Ford

“Embodying Ford Performance team’s motorsport expertise, this new Mustang is engineered to stand apart on roadways and race tracks, thanks to its new innovative track technologies, performance hardware, plus aggressive and functional track-tuned styling,” Ford said when it teased the next Shelby.


Worlds Collide?

All that’s been made official about the next-gen GT500 is that it will be over 700 horsepower. Considering the last version — produced in 2014 — generated 662 horsepower from its supercharged 5.8-liter engine, it should be no surprise that the new one might produce more horsepower. What we also know, thanks to a series of leaks, is that the powerplant will likely be a version of the latest 5.2-liter V8 fitted with a traditional cross-plane crankshaft and topped by Eaton’s latest 2650 supercharger.

Such a combination should be able to produce over 700 horsepower, but will it be able to propel the halo Mustang to the kind of Demon-slaying speeds that Ford might have in its sights? Could it make for a car that can run 9-second e.t.’s at the drag strip and over 200 mph in a top-speed run?

Several internet prognosticators have surmised that this dash image on the left hints that the next-gen GT500’s Predator 5.2-liter engine might deliver 772 horsepower. What if the engine produces 772 (gear plus MPH) and 743 lb-ft of torque (mileage) as a combined number from a hybrid powertrain fronted by the supercharged V8?

It’s certainly possible, but what if the Predator V8 had some assistance to truly make the next GT500 an alpha predator? What if the juxtaposition of the original Bullitt versus an electric Mach 1 wasn’t the only contrast we might experience?

When we discussed the Mach 1 SUV with Ford representatives, one made a passing reference to the way Porsche has expanded its branding. That thought process certainly influenced the idea of — for the first time — selling a Mach 1 that is not a Mustang.

What if that wasn’t the only Porsche concept that the Blue Oval made note of? Could it be that the Mustang Hybrid promised by 2020 and the new Shelby GT500 are one in the same? People are always trying to read into the hints the company might drop in the background of photos or the details of its dashboard. Maybe the Blue Oval has already told us something that shifts the paradigm without actually saying it?


Charged & Supercharged?

“As more and more consumers around the world become interested in electrified vehicles, Ford is committed to being a leader in providing consumers with a broad range of electrified vehicles, services and solutions that make people’s lives better,” Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said when the hybrid Mustang was announced. “Our investments and expanding lineup reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.”

A hybrid version of the iconic Mustang that will deliver V8 power and even more low-end torque. — Ford

While many people are concerned about the Mustang losing its V8 engine, it’s hard to ignore that kind of investment in electrification. It might be more likely that the V8 lives on, but a traditional powertrain gallops off into the sunset.

“A hybrid version of the iconic Mustang that will deliver V8 power and even more low-end torque,” Ford said of the electric-assisted pony car. “The Mustang Hybrid, built at the Flat Rock Plant, debuts in 2020 and will be available in the North America to start.”

Could Ford follow Porsche’s path with cars like the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, which combines a forced-induction engine with an electric motor? This package offers and intriguing way to boost both efficiency and performance, while adding some weight. The latter could be mitigated by an increased use of carbon-fiber as employed by the Ford GT.

That last statement is vague. It could imply that a smaller engine with a hybrid powertrain simulates V8 power and exceeds V8 torque. Or, it could mean that hidden under the rear of the next GT500 is a hybrid motor that delivers a electric boost of performance on demand to push that supercharged V8 to a new level.

Porsche is doing it with the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, which produces 680 combined horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 and and electric motor. Could it be that the next Shelby GT500 pumps out 772 combined horsepower from a hybrid powertrain fronted by a supercharged V8? The Porsche also happens to be all-wheel drive…

There is no way to tell for sure just yet, but time will tell. However, if the Mach 1 isn’t a Mustang, anything is possible.