The Amazing Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R: A Love Letter to Driving Excellence
I have never experienced such an immediate connection with a car before. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R swept me off my feet, captivating me with its undeniable charm. Its reputation as a legendary powerhouse had preceded my encounter, but actually driving one solidified its status in my mind.
In today’s era of ever-shrinking turbocharged engines and electric motors dominating the automotive market, it’s crucial to acknowledge the significance of cars like the GT350R. These vehicles represent the pinnacle of a fading breed. As I reflect on my drive, one thing becomes abundantly clear – the GT350R truly is a special gem.
At the heart of this car’s uniqueness lies its naturally aspirated Voodoo flat-plane-crank V8 engine. Flat-plane engines are rare and expensive to develop, usually reserved for small, high-performance applications. Ferrari is renowned for utilizing this design. The beauty of a flat-plane crank is its ability to optimize exhaust flow, maximizing the engine’s fluid dynamics and enabling rapid revving. However, achieving balance in these engines is no easy feat, often necessitating the addition of counterweights to offset vibrations. Ford, though, rose to the challenge and successfully incorporated this design into a large displacement engine – a testament to their unwavering dedication.
It is essential to comprehend the level of engineering and research that went into the creation of this Mustang. Ford set out to build something historically significant, placing immense resources into celebrating the naturally aspirated engine. It’s truly mind-boggling to think they invested in an engine that would only be utilized in two of their cars: the standard GT350 and the GT350R. But the GT350R doesn’t stop there – it boasts various other notable additions.
The Tremec TR-3160 6-speed manual transmission sets this car apart, as it is the sole available option. While the standard Mustang GT offered a manual gearbox, it featured a Getrag 6-speed, which pales in comparison to the Tremec. The GT350R’s shifts are weighty yet crisp, perfectly aligned with its spirited personality. Engaging the gears felt utterly satisfying – a deeply profound experience. The gear ratios are well-balanced, catering to both high-speed thrills and city driving enjoyment.
Ford’s MagneRide system is another standout feature. As a sports car, the GT350R boasts a stiff chassis. Yet, thanks to the magnetorheological dampers, the suspension offers remarkable compliance. Although I typically prefer leaving cars with adjustable suspension in their “Normal” setting, the GT350R instilled great confidence in me even when pushed to its limits. Its chassis dynamics are truly sublime, giving a hint of the car’s impressive performance potential in corners – reminiscent of the revered 991 GT3.
Weight reduction was also a priority for Ford, evident in the GT350R’s design choices. Rear seats were eliminated, carbon fiber was added to the core support, and, surprisingly, this model even offered carbon fiber wheels – a groundbreaking feat in mass-produced vehicles. In its lightest configuration (without air conditioning), Ford claimed the GT350R weighed 130 pounds less than the standard GT350. Although the particular model I drove was not spec’d in this manner, the efforts made to shed any ounce of unnecessary weight are commendable, especially considering the standard GT350 wasn’t initially the lightest starting point.
Of course, the GT350R, like any car, has its imperfections. Aesthetic-wise, it retains its Mustang heritage, meaning the plastics aren’t exactly top-notch. Some models have even exhibited engine problems. However, I refuse to let these minor flaws overshadow the sheer pleasure of driving this car. It undoubtedly ranks among the elite echelons of the best driver’s cars I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. And despite the potential hiccups in the engine, this V8 powerhouse will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.
We are fortunate to be living in a time where the automobile is undergoing such transformation. As automotive enthusiasts, we will witness the gradual demise of the beloved gasoline-powered engines, making way for electric motors. Amidst this transition, manufacturers are embracing innovative ways to commemorate and bid farewell to the gasoline engine. This era of automotive history will undoubtedly be remembered as remarkable. As enthusiasts, we should savor every moment while it lasts, and that is precisely what the GT350R encapsulates – a poignant love letter to the naturally aspirated V8 and the sheer thrill of driving. It stands as a testament to Ford’s unwavering commitment to engineering excellence, making the GT350R an exceptional, pure, and undeniably special marvel.