If there's one thing about Shelby Mustangs, it's that for half a century they've shown what Ford can do when it takes the gloves off. At the 2015 NAIAS in Detroit, the "most track-ready road-going production Mustang ever built" – the Ford Shelby GT350R – took a bow to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Shelby GT350 Competition.
The emphasis for the Shelby GT350R Mustang is weight reduction, with 130 lbs (59 kg) shaved off in comparison to the Shelby GT350 Track Pack. The unmistakable bulky lines of the American muscle car have been bumped up a notch with a more aggressive front that's all scoops and splitters, all with the form-follows-function style that marks a Shelby modification. There's a strong sense of unity to the lines – the rear spoiler balances the nose instead of sticking out like a sore thumb and the rear diffusers have a calculated feel to them.
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Ford says the new front splitter and the carbon fiber rear wing deliver better aerodynamics and enhanced downforce. This is augmented by the bonnet vent for lift reduction and cooling, the underbelly pans, diffuser, vented wheel wells, and fender vents for turbulence reduction. There are also wheel air curtains and side skirts.
Billed as the most powerful naturally aspirated engine Ford has ever produced, the GT350R has a 5.2-liter dual-overhead-cam V8 engine – the first Ford has used with a flat-plane crankshaft. Instead of attaching the connecting rods to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, the new V8 puts in all the crank pins at 180 degree intervals for better high-speed performance. This gives it over 500 bhp (373 kW) and 400 lb-ft (542 Nm) of torque by way of the six-speed gearbox. In addition, there's an air-to-oil engine cooler and an electronically modulated rear-mounted air-to-oil differential cooler.
Another innovation that Ford is keen to highlight is the GT350R's specially tuned suspension with revised spring rates and track-tuned alignment settings that put the Shelby closer to the ground. In addition, there are revised brushings, new cross-axis ball joints in the front, and a revised calibration controlling the MagneRide damper.
The GT350R is also the first production car by major automaker to sport carbon fiber wheels, which shave off about 13 lb for each wheel over the aluminum variety, yet have higher levels of stiffness. These are clad in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance tires made with a proprietary rubber compound and construction.
Of course, cutting down on weight means trade offs, so the GT350R has dumped the air conditioning, stereo, rear seats, boot floorboard, carpets, backup camera, exhaust resonators, and emergency tire system. However, Ford is offering an option package for those wanting a few creature comforts, and the interior does have high-contrast red stitching and a D-shaped steering wheel with a red center mark.
The Shelby GT350R goes on sale in the United States and Canada later this year. There's no official pricing available as yet, but guesstimates put it in the US$80,000 range.
The video below introduces the Ford Shelby GT350R.