Ten (or more) things you might not know about the R-model Shelby GT350
By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Ford Performance created quite a frenzy at the North American International Auto Show this week by revealing three new high-performance masterpieces. Obviously, the big-gun Ford GT is grabbing most of the headlines, but in our world the Shelby GT350R—a.k.a. the Hummingbird 2—is a far more attainable dream car.
Naturally, we can’t help but geek out about the potential of these marvelous vehicles, and that revs up our curiosity. Real information on the cars was a bit sparse at the time of the announcement, and we get the impression that there are still a lot of details that have yet to be finalized.
There’s no doubt that will happen soon with the cars expected to launch be year’s end, but we needed to learn as much as we could now. So, we stalked around the Ford booth trying to pick up whatever details were floating around. You might know some of them, and some you might not, but they are all worth mentioning. So, let’s count down 10 of the most interesting tidbits we uncovered:
10. Those 315/30ZR-19 Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires are the widest rear tires to find their way under the back of a production Mustang (so far). Since the GT350R maintains the same rear track width as all S550s, it was actually the quick-reacting MagneRide suspension that allows the use of the wider tires without rubbing. Carroll Shelby, who always fought for wider rear tires the production Shelbys, would be proud.
9. There is no doubt the Shelby GT350R will be a limited production vehicle, but how limited isn’t quite clear yet. What we do know, is that unlike previous R-models like the 1995 Cobra R and the 2000 Cobra R, buying one of these will not require any sort of competition license. If you do buy one, it’s a safe bet that the sticker price will be cheaper than what that track-ready Brand X pony car sells for.
8. You have seen the Liquid Blue show car before. In fact, this is the same car that was originally revealed to the world at Shelby American in California as a GT350. If you look closely at the badges on this car, you can see it was the same vehicle. It returned to Ford for a complete R-model conversion before it once again starred in a vehicle unveiling at the massive Ford press conference in Detroit.
7. In part because of the dynamics introduced by the lighter carbon-fiber wheels, and it part because this car is born for the track, the R-model MagneRide suspension control reacts even quicker—in as little as 7 milliseconds—than the system in the standard or Track Pack GT350s, which can change in 10 milliseconds. In fact, there are three separate MagneRide calibrations among the three versions: Tech Pack, Track Pack, a R-model. The R was described to us an all-out racing machine, so it obviously deserves the more aggressive calibration.
6. The aerodynamics improvements on this car are no joke. Striking a balance between reduced drag and improved downforce, the GT350R benefits from the obvious wing, and unseen air management under the car. The front pan extends from the front to approximately the edge of the fender vent. In back the pan goes from just in front of the rear tires all the way back. Not only does the air management allow for increased performance and handling, but it allows a simple scoop to feed air to the rear-mounted differential cooler. This saves weight versus having to feed fluid to a front-mounted cooler like the last-gen GT500 Track Pack cars did.
5. Those carbon-fiber wheels really do make a big difference. They are said to make the R feel even lighter and more nimble. However, if you were fretting about their durability, don’t. These wheels were built to pass all the same durability standards as Ford’s aluminum wheels. And, building a wheel to meet those guidelines was an intense engineering exercise, as the carbon-fiber is bonded to an aluminum hub, so that union must withstand the sort of heat created by all-out track lapping.
4. By now you know that the reveal show car is painted in Liquid Blue, which is not yet a production color, but it might be if demand is strong—and we expect it to be—however, did you know that the gray finish on those carbon fiber wheels was just for show too? The production wheels will be finished in black, as seen on the car hitting the auction block at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona. The show car also doesn’t feature the production-spec badging, which feature red accents to associate these cars with the Ford Performance stable.
3. We knew that introducing the longest-stroke Flat-Plane-Crank engine into a production Mustang would present some challenges. These Voodoo engines produce unique resonances not developed by a traditional crankshaft arrangement. As such, as many as 30 changes—including a new alternator and air conditioning compressor—were made to the engine and supporting hardware to make it deliver the sort of NVH and durability standards that Ford requires.
2. Dieting is never easy. When it comes to dropping 130 pounds from a modern Mustang, the task is daunting. A rear-seat delete dropped a few pounds, as did deleting the air conditioning, navigation, and audio system. Obviously removing the exhaust resonators saved weight too, but even the Tremec 3160 transmission (in both the GT350 and GT350R) features some lightweight internal components. That shows you how serious Ford engineers were about weight reduction.
1. Don’t forget that these cars often take years to develop. As such, Carroll Shelby was involved in this project. No, he wasn’t around to see it come to fruition, but early in the development process, Mr. Shelby was in contact people inside Ford—from management all the way down to engineers—letting them know what he expected out of a new GT350 and GT350R.
Undoubtedly much more information about these cars will come to light as their history is written over the coming months leading up to the launch, but for now this should whet your appetite.