Ford is pulling out all the stops in its quest to create the ultimate lightweight trackday sports car. We already knew that the Shelby Mustang would be quick, but we now know just how far Ford has gone to save weight and improve performance. The new GT350R will feature carbon fiber wheels by Australia's Carbon Revolution, which uses space shuttle technology to make them strong, light and durable.
Using carbon fiber to create wheels carries with it a huge range of benefits compared to more conventional aluminum or steel constructions. Because they reduce unsprung weight, carbon fiber wheels allow the suspension to respond to imperfections on the road faster, as well as contributing to a reduction in rotational inertia of over 40 percent. They can also be made incredibly stiff and strong, which means they stand up well to the rigours of daily life – kerb strikes, potholes and general bad driving all have very little impact on the strength of Ford’s carbon wheel.
Because the GT350R is a track day special, the wheels, tires and brakes will be subjected to abuse that most regular road cars don’t see. To make sure they can handle the heat, Carbon Revolution has turned to a heat shielding method that was used on the Space Shuttle’s engine turbines.
A thermal barrier is created by liquefying a ceramic material with a plasma arc gun, and coating key structural points around the wheel in the resulting substance to create a coating that is incredibly thin, light and tough. This shields the resin in the wheels from being damaged by the immense heat created by repeated stops from the GT350R’s big brakes.
Because these wheels will be use on the road in day-to-day driving, heat isn't the only threat to their durability. The Carbon Revolution wheel will need to deal with salt, chemicals, extreme cold and prolonged UV exposure when people take their cars from the showroom, so the GT350R's wheels are finished in a gloss black coating designed to protect them from the elements.
That gloss black finish also looks brilliant to our eyes, a positive side effect of Ford and Carbon Revolution's quest for a strong, durable, lightweight production wheel.
Once they have been manufactured, the GT350R's Carbon Revolution wheels are subjected to rigorous testing, which involves 61 individual checks across 246,000 data points before the wheels are checked in 3D imaging software. If they pass these tests, the finished unit is machined to include mounting holes, painted and coated in its protective finish.
The Mustang GT350R will hit US and Canadian showrooms later this year.