Shelby GT350 brand manager, Jim Owens, reveals some new details in Texas
By Steve Turner
Photos by lilredcoupe and courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Over the weekend, Ford’s Shelby Brand Manager showed up at the Track Guys performance-driving event at Texas World Speedway with a pre-production Shelby GT350 to share with the enthusiasts on hand. It stands to reason that he would bring it to a road course, as Jim says Ford plans to market the GT350 as the “…the fastest production Mustang on a road course.”
While showing off this car, which is known at TT model, or Technical Tool, which is built to prove out the tooling before the production tooling is complete. As such, it was a bit rough around the edges, so the Ford crew was resistant to having cameras under the hood of the car. However, it did mark our first opportunity to get eyes on the new Avalanche Gray paint scheme thanks to some shots from SVTP member lilredcoupe (see his thread here).
The new color looks nothing like the renderings we first saw and reminds us a lot of the rare Dove Gray paint found on early ’90s Fox Mustangs. It is definitely different. We can’t wait to see it with stripes.
Of course, Jim didn’t just park the GT350 and walk away. It made some parade laps around the track, and when it was parked he spent time fielding questions from the enthusiasts at the event. Jim confirmed that the new GT350 would indeed hit dealer lots this year.
“You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong if you thought early fourth quarter,” he said. “We said late ’15. I would think it would be earlier in the fourth quarter than later, and we haven’t divulged the model year yet.”
We are still putting our money on the latest Shelby being a 2016 model, but whatever it’s official model year, it can’t get here soon enough. Jim said that he was submitting pricing to management on April 2, so it’s not finalized yet. He did, however, assure the audience that they would get a lot of performance for the money.
“It will continue to be a relative performance value. I’m not going to say it’s cheap, but if you think of all the stuff we’ve done—from the Focus SVT to the Contour to old Cobras to the Terminators—while they weren’t inexpensive, from a performance value standpoint, we will still have things in the car that you can’t get at any price.”
Interestingly, Jim intimated that the pricing would be more horizontal on the GT350 than it was on the GT500, meaning the packages will be similar in price so you can just pick the one that fits best.
“Pricing won’t be why you choose it,” he said. “We are going to make you chose based on what you want to do with the car.”
One of those things you can’t get elsewhere for any price is that Voodoo 5.2-liter engine that has everyone so intrigued.
“It will be over 5.2 liters. It will be over 100 horsepower with the Flat-Plane Crank. There’s nobody on the planet that I’m aware of that goes over 4.2 liters now. So, I don’t care what you write the check for, there’s no production company that does it.”
Jim really danced around the horsepower figure, but he seemed to hint that it would produce 100 more than the Mustang GT’s 420-horsepower Coyote 5.0-liter. That would make it at least 520 horsepower.
“When we say over 500 horsepower, I’m not saying 501, 502,” Jim said.“Legitimately, this one dyno’d right before it came out. I know exactly what this dyno’d at, and it’s over 500 horsepower.”
Whatever the official rating, Jim all but confirmed the GT350 would be underrated like most of its predecessors in recent memory. He even referenced the debacle of the underpowered 1999 Mustang Cobra. That lesson still resonates today.
“We made a mistake a long time ago and we overcalled horsepower, and we’ll never, ever, ever do that again. And, Carroll, before he passed away, always told me ‘Til the damn SAE got involved, horsepower was a marketing number.’ So, it will be well over it. It will be a relative performance value.”
Speaking of marketing, Jim also referenced the Special Vehicle Team, which, apparently, still lives under the Ford Performance umbrella.
“I have been doing this with SVT since 2003. I really, really believe in the SVT branding and the men and women that do it. They haven’t gone away,” Jim explained. “They are globalizing under the Ford Performance moniker. So you have Team RS, SVT, FPV out of Australia. All those groups under one leader (Dave Pericak)… Who was the one that brought out the Boss 302.”
Speaking of the Boss 302, Jim was asked about the production-number rumors floating around the Internet. He didn’t give an exact figure, but he did put the projected numbers in context with the last couple of high-performance production Mustangs.
“I would say it would be safe in saying it would be somewhere in between the Boss 302 and the GT500,” Jim said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the R was akin to the Boss 302 Laguna Seca—if I get my way.”