Unorthodox means of getting more performance out of the Shelby
But engineers are eager to point out some of the tricks needed to harness all that power and ensure the most-powerful Mustang to date can handle turns as well as going straight. The process involved salvaging a GT350 to use as a buck in wind tunnels, thinking out of the box, printing 3D parts, bringing supercomputers to the track, and doing a lot of work on cooling and aerodynamics.
The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 goes on sale later this summer, joining the GT350 in the showroom now in a one-two punch consumers have not have seen before at a Ford dealership.
The GT500 is billed as the quickest-accelerating street-legal factory Mustang to date, but actual numbers won’t be released until closer to the sale date because engineers are still working to squeeze every last ounce of power out of the hand-built 5.2-liter cross-plane V-8 engine with a 2.6-liter supercharger and Tremec dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission.
Since inception, the young team behind the GT500 has been encouraged to use unorthodox thinking. With that mandate, they convinced management to let them use non-conventional parts—some came from junk yards, many were 3D printed—for real world testing of what they were learning in their simulations.
Reams of data were generated by having engineers and race car drivers take the car for a virtual spin, and the information was passed on to the designers before the first physical prototypes were built. More than 400 simulations were run, shaving cost and time. Two years of data gathering was whittled down to six months, said Matt Titus, Ford Performance vehicle engineer. It meant no surprises as they kept improving and validating.
Ford used its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan, to print 3D parts which engineers took by the bin to race tracks for testing, sometimes making changes in the pits for blind tests to get feedback from the drivers.
The car spent a lot of time at tracks, but before that there was a lot of testing in wind tunnels including the Windshear tunnel in Concord, N.C., the rolling road tunnel used by NASCAR, race teams, and automakers to get a better idea of drag under a vehicle with a low belly.
Part of the aero work was done on a used GT350 that engineers salvaged and used as a buck, putting it on hydraulic actuators to create pitch, yaw, and other dynamic events to generate more data to share with the development team. It was mocked up with a parade of 3D-printed parts for testing long before any prototype parts were made. Drivers would use the simulator, offer feedback, a new part would be printed, and the drivers would go again to address concerns long before the first car was built, knowing how hard it is to make major aero changes once the car is built.
To meet an ambitious aero goal, they went through 20 different hood vents and 15 different splitter wickers, and added underwing features to channel the air under the splitter extender (there are patents pending). In the end, the target was met and in some areas exceeded—but Ford is not releasing the drag coefficient yet, Titus said.
The huge louvered hood vent started out at an eighth of its current 6.03-sq-ft size and snowballed to vent the volume of cooling air entering the engine compartment. The Carbon Fiber Track Package includes the adjustable wing, which is from the GT4 race car with street and track positions that can create 550 pounds (250 kg) of downforce in the rear. Add the less elaborate Handling Package with the Gurney flap to the standard GT500 with the swing spoiler for 281 pounds (127 kg) of downforce. For perspective: there is about 250 pounds (113 kg) of downforce in the GT350. To put it more bluntly, Titus said if they took the wing off the GT500, “I would be terrified to drive this car.”
Printed parts were also tested on the track. Engineers took supercomputers to race tracks to get data from fully instrumented vehicles hitting 120 mph (193 km/h) and also turning. The GT500 has a top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and is capable of a sub-11-second quarter mile, Ford engineers say. But the goal is not a one-lap wonder, but sustained lap times, Matt Tranter, vehicle engineering supervisor, said.
For cooling, the front opening takes up the full face of the car to hide the two large radiators. It has a metal mesh grille to let more air in; it is thinner than the injection molded plastic grille on the GT350.
There are six heat exchangers, a unique water-pump impeller, and a second thermostat that sends coolant to the auxiliary radiator. The auxiliary thermostat is borrowed from the diesel-powered F-Series pickup that needs cooling when pulling a heavy load up the Davis Dam.
Pricing has not yet been announced for the GT500.