They say you can’t reinvent the wheel. Ford begs to differ. Ford Performance has revealed that the Shelby Mustang GT350R, its new street-legal track car, will offer the world’s first mass-produced carbon fiber wheels as a standard feature. Using highly advanced manufacturing methods and exhaustive batteries of testing, Ford and wheel supplier Carbon Revolution have created wheels that are purpose-built to handle the high-stress environment of the race track.
Weight reduction is one of the most immediate benefits of using carbon fiber wheels. Unsprung weight is significantly reduced, thereby drastically improving acceleration, handling and braking. These wheels weigh nearly fifty percent less than equivalent aluminum wheels; they are so light, in fact, that the Mustang GT350R’s suspension had to be completely recalibrated. Each wheel is molded in a single piece and undergoes intensive testing to ensure quality; 61 individual checks, over 246,000 data points, and more than 18,000 individual X-ray images are used to determine any flaws in the wheel before it is finished and shipped.
A car as advanced and powerful as the GT350R presents engineers and designers with a unique set of challenges, especially when dealing with a material like carbon fiber. It was necessary for Ford and Carbon Revolution engineers to ensure the carbon fiber wheels were strong enough to absorb impacts such as high-speed curb strikes. Thanks to the low weight and sky-high impact strength of the wheels, the suspension reacted so quickly to the curb strike that the driver performed the test twice to ensure that the impact had actually happened!
Additionally, resistance to heat, ultraviolet rays, and road chemicals were priorities in the design of these wheels. Temperature readings on the GT350R’s beastly brakes came in at more than 900 degrees Celsius, or 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit! A specially-designed ceramic plasma arc coating inspired by the process used on the space shuttle’s engine turbines effectively shields the wheels from this intense heat.
The initial production run of the new Shelby Mustang GT350 and GT350R will be limited to just 137 units to honor the 50th anniversary of the original 1965 Shelby GT350. Production will be ramped up for the 2016 model year. Visit Randall Reed’s Planet Ford in Humble, TX for more information, and watch for these track-born beasts to hit dealership showrooms starting this fall!