Oh, what can change in a few months’ time. Only months ago we were roaring with excitement at the new GT350 Mustang which debuted at the L.A. auto show, and now we’re having endorphin flashbacks as the even wilder Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang roars onto the stage at the Detroit auto show.
The unmistakable howl of Ford’s flat-plane crank V-8 engine ushers in the latest Mustang variant, and the GT350R is all about using that engine’s power to its full potential. That means 130 lbs less weight than the Mustang GT350 with the optional Track Pack — no air conditioning, no back seat, no backup camera — essentially, no BS.
The flat-plane crank V-8 is set to make more than 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, but the latest Shelby Mustang is about more than just numbers. “This isn’t just about horsepower,” Ford product development vice president Raj Nair said in a statement. “The Shelby GT350R is an all-around balanced athlete – one that is extraordinarily precise and agile.”
The stiffer 19-inch carbon fiber wheels (!) alone cut 50 lbs of unsprung weight, wrapped in model-specific Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. These are among the first series-production carbon-fiber wheels available on any car. Ford also recalibrated the MagneRide dampers from the regular GT350 for maximum track capability, also adjusting spring rates, revising bushings, and lowering the car’s ride height. Aerodynamic upgrades to the already fearsome GT350 include a revised front air splitter and carbon fiber rear wing, which improve high-speed downforce.
Drivers will row their own gears using a Tremec six-speed manual transmission with its own cooler, while a track-tuned Torsen limited-slip differential at the rear ensures monster grip at high-speeds and lateral G’s.
“This is the pinnacle of performance Mustangs today,” says Ford Performance director Dave Pericak. “The Shelby GT350R Mustang lays the groundwork for a story that will play out for years to come on the track and the street.”
Things are surely getting heated in the muscle car wars, but the Ford Shelby GT350R looks to carve out a name for itself on the track more so than on the drag strip. When the GT350R arrives later this year in very limited volume, we’ll have to see if it lives up to the legacy of the ’65 GT350 Competition that helped put Shelby on the map.