The Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang will be the first vehicle from a major automaker to come standard with carbon fiber wheels.
As the most track-ready, road-going production Ford Mustang ever, the American automaker knew it had to do more than just shove horsepower under the hood with its new flat-plane V8 engine. The company teamed up with Australian supplier Carbon Revolution to take on the challenge of crafting the first mass-produced, track-capable carbon fiber wheels as standard equipment for the sports car, helping save weight while also improving driving dynamics.
Although Carbon Revolution had experience producing carbon fiber wheels mainly for aftermarket use, Ford recognized that “significant innovation” would be needed to meet the Shelby GT350R’s needs. The wheels would have to endure tests that include curb strikes, UV and chemical exposure, as well as extreme heat durability testing.
Along with abusive and intentional curb testing and track testing, Ford measured brake temperatures to ensure the wheel design would conform to a thermal standard more suitable for motorsports. The result is not only the first mass-produced carbon fiber wheel, but a product that features a special coating that was developed to protect the resin from harsh UV environments, corrosive salts and road chemicals.
Before getting mounted and bolted onto the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang, each wheel is analyzed using a 3D computerized tomography (CT) imaging process, taking more than 18,000 X-ray images as part of its inspection process.
According to Ford, the wheels weigh about 18 lbs a piece, compared to 33 lbs for a standard aluminum wheel, and reduces rotational inertia by over 40 percent.
“The GT350R wheels and tires were developed to be the most track-capable parts we’ve ever produced,” said Adam Wirth, chassis supervisor, Ford Performance. “The carbon fiber wheels reduce vehicle weight by 60 pounds compared to aluminum, yet are stiffer for better steering response.”
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