Back in mid-2013 I was standing on Oakwood Blvd in Dearborn, Mich, when a prototype Mustang emerged from the gate of Ford’s Dearborn Development Center. As the driver accelerated away, this particular car emitted a wail quite unlike anything that ever came from a Mustang before. This was the new Shelby GT350. It was fun while it lasted, but now it is gone.
As soon as I heard that car, I knew immediately what it was. At the time, I was working for an agency that supported Ford’s communications department and I had an assignment that was perfect for a lifelong Mustang fan. I was the editorial lead for the 50th anniversary of the Mustang and the launch of the upcoming redesigned 2015 model. I’d seen a clay model of the GT350 in the design studio several months earlier and in my role I spent a lot of time talking with the engineers about what was new.
After years of supercharged GT500s, the GT350 was to be powered by a new 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 codenamed Voodoo. The Voodoo V8 was the first in the history of the Mustang to feature a flat-plane crankshaft. Without getting into all of the technical details (which you can read about here), a flat-plane crankshaft V8 is able to rev up to higher speeds than a comparable V8 with a cross-plane crankshaft.
In the case of the Voodoo in the GT350, the red-line is 8,250 rpm compared to 7,000 rpm for the 5.0-liter V8 in the 2015-2017 Mustang GT (7,500 rpm on 2018-2021 models). It also generates a unique audio signature quite different from the rumble of traditional Mustang V8. It’s not the wail of Ferrari V8, but something somewhere in between and just as intoxicating for the enthusiast.
Alas, the 2020 model year is the last for the current generation of the GT350 and its Voodoo V8. The order books were closed several months ago, and as this is written, assembly of the final examples is winding down at Ford’s Flat Rock, Mich. assembly plant. Whether there will ever be another GT350 or what might power it if it does happen is not at all clear in the closing months of 2020.
To commemorate the end of this run of GT350s, Ford created a heritage edition. Similar to heritage edition GT supercars, Ford has gone back to the vaults to find a classic livery to apply. In this case rather than the colors of the 1960s-era GTs that beat Ferrari at Le Mans, Ford chose the color scheme from the original GT350s built in 1964 – Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue stripes.
Doing this right proved a bit more challenging than expected. Ford has offered Wimbeldon white as a color option on some limited edition Mustangs over the years including the 2015 50 years edition. But the original GT350s were built at Shelby American’s shop in California and Ford never actually painted a car in Guardsman Blue. In order to get the color right, Ford design had to go to the Shelby archives in Las Vegas to get an original color master. Since the modern GT350 stripes are vinyl, rather than painted, they had to get the supplier to match the color. It took a couple of iterations, but they eventually got it right. To finish off the look, Ford also replaced normally red cobra badges on the grille, tail and dashboard with Guardsman blue versions.
Aside from the retro color scheme, the rest of the GT350 heritage edition is unchanged from those in other liveries. The only mechanical changes on the 2020 model are a revised steering knuckle based on the one used in the supercharged GT500 and a new steering rack and recalibrated power steering.
With the last GT350s nearing completion, Ford offered up a heritage edition GT350R for a couple of hours of driving near Ann Arbor. The GT350R is the most track-focused version of the Mustang and builds on the base GT350 with enhanced cooling, larger splitter, carbon fiber wing and 19-inch carbon fiber wheels. It also rides standard on Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires.
The most prominent changes to the GT350 came for the 2019 model year with suspension recalibration both enhanced performance and made it a bit more forgiving to drive. I was fortunate to spend a day lapping the track at M1 Concourse in Pontiac last year and later got to spend a week with it at home.
Frankly, Ford didn’t really need to mess with a good thing and they didn’t. Despite its immense performance, the standard Magenride dampers make the GT350 surprisingly comfortable on real roads, including those in southeast Michigan. It certainly isn’t plush, but it also doesn’t pound your spine into submission. The GT350R is track focused, but it’s equally capable of being a daily driver, at least as long as it doesn’t rain because those Cup 2 tires are barely more than slicks.
The best way to truly appreciate the Voodoo’s sound is to drive it through a tunnel or under an old stone railway bridge. The echo of that roar will make your spine tingle. Once out on open roads, the GT350R feels remarkably nimble and responsive despite its 3,700-pound curb weight. The engine revs so smoothly and quickly that you won’t want to short shift it. Just leave it in second or third and let it go all the way to redline. This kind of activity won’t do much for fuel economy, but then again, this is GT350R, so who cares? That’s what the Mach-E is for.
If this sounds at all appealing, you’ll want to move quickly. Some Ford dealers likely have some stock, but they probably won’t last long, unless they decide to put a ridiculous markup on them. The GT350R is probably my favorite Mustang of all time, beating out my prior favorite, the 2008 Bullitt. The blown GT500 accelerates faster, but it’s also a lot heavier and doesn’t offer a manual gearbox. The GT350 only comes with three pedals. For a road course Mustang, the GT350R can’t be beat.
I’ve spent my adult life working in and around the automotive industry. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from GMI I spent the next 17 years working on
I’ve spent my adult life working in and around the automotive industry. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from GMI I spent the next 17 years working on electronic control systems that help cars stop, go and change direction before I drove away to write about what other engineers were creating. Since then I’ve been trying to educate my readers, viewers and listeners about how the latest automotive technology works, what it can do and perhaps more importantly, what it can’t do. Since 2014 I’ve been combining my communications and engineering knowledge as a principal analyst with Navigant Research covering alternative fuels, advanced driving technologies and connected vehicles. I also co-host the Wheel Bearings podcast at https://wheelbearings.media/
Shelby Mustang, Ford Motor Company
World news – THAT – Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Bows Out With Heritage Edition