The sixth generation Mustang, the S550, hasn’t yet reached its first year anniversary, and Ford has already added another thoroughbred to its line up, this time the ultimate track star. Along with the high performance GT model and the basic Shelby GT350 model, which was built to run on road courses, there’s a new kid in town -- the Shelby GT350R. Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, this latest Pony is making its rounds, most recently wowing the crowds at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale.
While we were at the Barrett-Jackson event, eClassicAutos had a chance to talk with Jim Owens, Ford’s Shelby Mustang Development Manager, to learn more about this race-ready Mustang.
eClassicAutos: Seeing the Shelby GT350R in the flesh, it’s certainly an aggressive-looking road racer. I’m sure Carroll Shelby would have liked it.
Jim: Although Carroll is no longer with us, when the R project first started, he did have input to its conceptual development. Carroll had a direct line to Ford engineers, and he never hesitated to call the person working on suspension components or other performance parts to offer his latest idea. The R model is the embodiment of what Carroll did for the first 1965 Mustang, when he added power, cut weight, and tuned the suspension, changing it from a mild “Secretary’s Car” to a track-dominating race car. The team at Ford, who worked on this Mustang, has continued his legacy with the new GT350R.
eClassicAutos: After taking a walk around the car, I see the GT350 badge, but where is the R?
Jim: The R designation is not displayed on the outside, only on the dash. But there are a couple of clear differences in appearance between the R and the standard GT350. First, in the front of the car, the R has a unique air splitter and a more aggressive air dam. Another difference is that the race stripes have red accents and the brake calipers are red. In the back, there’s a special rear wing that has been fine tuned to give the R improved track prowess. A final tip-off is that the Shelby Cobra emblem in the front and rear is red.
eClassicAutos: Okay, what are the other not-so-obvious differences that make the R the car to beat on race day?
Jim: The R is a no-compromised track car. It’s more about balance and handling than raw horsepower, although the latter has certainly not been overlooked. In fact, the car features the first-ever production V-8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft – the most powerful naturally aspirated engine Ford has ever produced (500+ HP/400 ft-lb). On the other side of the power-to-weight ratio, the R drops 130 pounds from the standard GT350. If you’re racing, you don’t need a rear seat, stereo, or air-conditioner, so those items were removed to shave off this unnecessary weight. Reluctantly, Ford will install AC as an option, but this tips the scales in the wrong direction. Here are some of the other upgrades to reduce lap times:
eClassicAutos: Obviously, this will be a future collectible. How many will be build, and when will they be available to race?
Jim: The overall Shelby GT350 production run is expected to be similar in magnitude to the second generation Boss 302s. Regarding the GT350R production quantities, it is expected to mirror the Laguna Seca edition Boss 302. (+/- 5000 total production of all new GT350s with ~700 Rs). Orders will start to be accepted this summer with deliveries in the 4th quarter of 2015. Therefore, the year designation may be 2016, although this has not yet been determined.
eClassicAutos: Thank you for discussing the new GT350R with us, It looks like you have another winner on your hands. We can’t wait to see what else you guys come up with next.
For all the latest news on the new Shelby GT350, including the special GT350R, go to Ford’s website.