On April 17, 1964, Lee Iacocca changed the automotive landscape forever when Ford released the Mustang to the public. About 6 months later, the desire to give that car a performance upgrade led to the infamous partnership with Carrol Shelby and the production of the first GT350. Fast forward more than fifty years after that and the Ford/Shelby partnership has arrived at what many consider the pinnacle of Mustang development. Housing one of the greatest engines currently being produced in America today, the Voodoo 5.2L naturally aspirated V8 which produces 525 horsepower and 420 lb/ft of torque. Sporting seriously high-end carbon fiber wheels along with an endless list of heavy-duty performance upgrades, this car delivers all the thrills of a European exotic sports car while costing only a fraction of the price.
Few exterior cues differentiate the GT350 and its “R” counterpart. Aside from an exaggerated front splitter, a large rear wing, and the lightweight carbon fiber wheels, the GT350R appears more or less the same as its non-R counterpart. The key to the differences between the two is not how radically different they appear, but rather how radically different they perform. For instance, Ford partnered with Australian carbon guru’s Carbon Revolution to provide a carbon fiber wheel that makes for a dramatic reduction in unsprung weight. As any race engineer or physics professor will explain, every one pound of unsprung weight loss equates to nearly 4 pounds of sprung weight. Reserved for only the GT350R and the legendary Ford GT, a set Carbon Revolution wheels like this retails at nearly $27,000.
One glance at the interior is all it takes to realize this is a track-ready sports car and not a luxury car. The first thing you notice is the Alcantara covered Recaro racing seats, designed to keep the driver firmly in place. Next, the removal of the back seats in order to save weight. Speaking of removals, the temperature control buttons for the seats have been deleted and they have replaced the heated steering wheel controls with a button to direct the feel of the steering. The gauge cluster display screen keeps you informed of all the things you never realized you wanted to know and lets you adjust all of it. From the Air/Fuel ratio and cylinder head temperature to a line lock feature which allows the driver to do a burnout at the dragstrip increasing tire grip, this car lets you customize everything about its performance and response.
The GT350R prides itself on maximizing performance by making minor adjustments where it really counts. A revised steering system along with suspension tuning and a flat crankshaft capitalizes on the V8’s power while navigating the vehicle with a precision found in the highest levels of vehicle performance. The modifications with the cylinder firing order in conjunction with a finely tuned exhaust system equate for a delightfully torquey powerband and one of the sassiest sounding V8’s on the market today.
In recent years, most car manufacturers have decided to style their high-performance models in such a way that there is no mistaking them for the less expensive, slower counterparts. Unfortunately, the automotive design world is almost completely void of nuance. The GT350R is a refreshing contradiction to this policy. Instead of the excessive use of carbon fiber and limited edition badging, subtlety and quality reign superior. While the car is a sight to behold, the true joy of this vehicle is reserved for the driver, and what a joy it is. With over 500hp fed to the rear wheels all linked up to a 6-speed manual gearbox, the GT350R is an honest, capable and flat out fun sports performer. Don’t we all need a little more of that in our lives?