Ford is reinventing the wheel. The new Shelby GT350R will be the fastest street legal production Mustang ever. To prove this point, Ford is making it the first mass-production car to come standard with carbon fiber wheels.
“The GT350R wheels and tires were developed to be the most track-capable parts we’ve ever produced. The carbon fiber wheels reduce vehicle weight by 60 pounds compared to aluminum, yet are stiffer for better steering response. We believe this is a game changer for the industry. A great example of improved performance through innovation,” says Adam Wirth, chassis supervisor, Ford Performance.
Ford says that the tires have been specially designed and tested to deliver optimum chassis performance, weight reduction, and overall improved driving dynamics. The carbon fiber allows the wheels to be only 18 pounds eachs, which is nearly half the 33 pounds of the standard aluminum wheels.
The wheels are covered with a ceramic plasma arc spray. It is the same process that was used on the original Space Shuttle’s main engine turbine blades. This means that the wheels are thermally protected against heat generated from braking.
The coating is applied at key points of the wheels, including around the inner wheel and on the back of the spokes, using a plasma arc gun that liquefies the ceramic material. Once dry, it creates a is nearly “diamond-hard” coat. The wheels then underwent stringent braking and heat testing so that they can handle temperatures over 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ford wanted to forever refute the claim that carbon fiber is brittle by putting the wheels through a “striking a curb” test. According to Ford, the car reacted so fast due to its low weight and suspension that the driver thought the test had been executed wrong and did it twice to make sure.
Under the hood of the super fast Shelby will be the new 526-horsepower with 429 lb-ft of torque generated from the new 5.2-liter flat-plane crankshaft V8 engine.
Even though it will be setting the record for the first ever mass produced car with carbon fiber wheels, there is still only going to be 37 Shelby GT350R models built for 2015 making them extremely exclusive.
The less exclusive non-R GT350 uses the same engine, but does not come standard with carbon fiber wheels. Only 100 GT350’s are being built for 2015 but production will continue into 2016. Look for it to go on sale later this year.