In recent years, the American muscle auto industry has seen an influx of steroids. It really has become a modern muscle car arms race between Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. When one of the big three releases a tuned-out beast, one of the other companies always seems to have an answer around the corner.
One of the most impressive cars to emerge from Detroit in the past decade is definitely the Shelby GT350R. Based on the popular sixth generation of the Ford Mustang, Shelby takes performance to the next level with the 350R delivering American muscle tuned for the track in a street-legal package.
However, when it comes to the legacy of the Shelby GT350 specifically, the 2016 GT350R marks the third generation of the legendary enhanced pony car. Ford Performance began producing the third-gen GT350 with the 2015 GT350 and continued making improvements each model year until 2020.
To this day, this car remains extremely desirable to both collectors and enthusiasts. Sadly, Ford Performance only made a limited number of the GT350R during its brief production window from 2015 to 2020.
In case you are wondering what the primary differences are between a GT350 and a GT350R, the short answer is simpler to explain. Ford Performance modifies the powertrain of the GT350R while also improving the timing chain design along with other enhancements.
Many people refer to this amazing machine as the Shelby Mustang GT350R but the truth is, Voodoo can cause a Coyote to become timid. That is a reference to the 5.2L Voodoo V8 GT350R engine versus the 5.0L Coyote V8 engine under the hood of the standard Mustang GT.
Under the hood of the GT350R is the 315 cubic-inch flat-plane crankshaft, naturally-aspirated V8 wonder dubbed the Voodoo. It even won a Ward’s 10-Best Engines award in 2016.
You can throw as many awards at this engine as you would like but the real treat is both driving and hearing it in action. This baby rips and it sounds orgasmic at wide-open throttle while giving a great V8 rumble at idle.
Even better, the 5.2L Voodoo is a high-revving V8 featuring a redline of 8,250 rpm. You reach max power at 7,500 rpm at which point you will have over 500 ponies stampeding to the rear wheels of the GT350R. 526 horsepower to be exact.
The way this engine is designed, you really have plenty of lower end torque to get your ass moving off the line while providing peak power near the top. To translate that into real numbers, you reach a peak torque rating of 429 pound-feet at 4,750 rpm.
To develop the Voodoo engine, Ford Performance purchased a Ferrari California with intent to study it. Why? Because the California is the only other flat-plane crankshaft V8 engine available.
Combined with a 32-valve design, Ford designed the Voodoo using a unique cylinder firing order to deliver the kind of sound and performance that makes any gearhead weak in the knees. There is no automatic transmission available in the GT350R. Instead, you get complete control over the mystical Voodoo through a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission.
Speaking of performance, the GT350R does not disappoint. You can launch from 0 to 60 miles per hour in only 3.9 seconds behind the wheel. Keep going to reach a top speed of 172 mph in the GT350R.
This car hauls ass for a naturally aspirated muscle car. Ford Performance put a lot of engineering into the development of the GT350R beyond the powertrain. However, the Voodoo V8 engine is the crown jewel behind owning a GT350R.
When you are rolling fully torqued, wide meat equals more gravy. That is also true when it comes to tires. When you are rolling with 500-plus hp and 429 pound-feet of torque, dependable rubber is a game changer.
Thankfully, getting all that power to the ground is no problem in the GT350R. In 2016, Shelby gave the GT350R exclusive 315/30R19 rear tires and 305/30R19 front tires. That’s a lot of gravy.
These wide tires keep you glued to the road as much as they possibly can. Beyond intentionally drifting, it is difficult to get these tires to slide when cornering. That’s a good thing. Of course, if you over pursue an upcoming corner, you’re on your own. That’s your fault, not the car’s.
With that being said, the GT350R is specifically designed and enhanced for cornering performance. It excels at handling, more than most front-engine, rear-wheel-drive V8 muscle cars are capable of. The blood, sweat, and tears it took to develop the suspension and tune the aerodynamics of the Shelby GT350R definitely paid off.
Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee
Aside from the development of the glorious Voodoo engine, Ford Performance emphasized the engineering of the suspension system. They also looked for ways to enhance the chassis and keep curb weight down. After all, the goal was to make a track-ready Shelby right out of the box.
The suspension system includes GT350-first MagneRide dampers. These dampers work with the advanced suspension system to make adjustments on the fly in a matter of milliseconds. This design provides excellent performance at the track without sacrificing comfort while driving on the road or highway.
Ford also tuned the rear springs of the GT350R for maximum effectiveness at the track, as expected. On top of that, the springs are spun in a different direction on all sides of the GT350R to provide even more rear-end stability. This simultaneously allowed Ford Performance to use a lower control-arm design.
To quote Ford directly regarding the engineering of the suspension system, “When you are engineering the most track-ready Mustang of all time, you can’t take any shortcuts”. Ford even reduced the weight of the nose to provide an optimized overall weight-balance for cornering.
They really engineered the GT350R from the ground up to be a capable track performer. From a stiffened chassis to adding an injection-molded carbon fiber composite grille opening for additional reinforcement, the GT350R is always ready to do a lap.
It has plenty of downforce for success at the track as well. Ford Performance equipped the GT350R with a large splitter and a carbon fiber rear wing. You will cut through the wind with the kind of agility and finesse you normally would not expect from American muscle while keeping those tires grounded thanks to the aerodynamic tuning of Ford Performance.
Carroll Shelby would approve. After all, Shelby and his team worked tirelessly to improve the aerodynamics of the GT40 in preparation for Le Mans back in the day. Just watch Ford v Ferrari to see how obsessed Carroll and his team were with aerodynamics. There’s nothing wrong with staying true to your roots.
Stopping Power Saves the Day
Should you run a little too hot, the Shelby GT350R features the most powerful brakes ever fitted to a production Mustang. After numerous 24-hour endurance tests, Ford decided iron rotors provide improved performance and durability compared to carbon ceramic alternatives. It is a two-piece rotor design assembled using an offset floating-pin to help with braking ventilation.
This powerful braking system uses 394 millimeter rotors up front and 380 mm rotors in the rear. As for brake calipers, the GT350R uses six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear. These Brembo brakes virtually stop on a dime, they can go from 60 to zero mph in only 100 feet.
Of course, keeping the GT350R as lightweight as possible assists the stopping power while enhancing cornering capability. Ford took several measures to ensure the GT350R was as lightweight as possible.
This includes using Recaro seats. There is even a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced polymer radiator support system to provide efficient cooling assistance without sacrificing weight.
Other weight saving measures include electing for carbon fiber rims from Carbon Revolution. The GT350R was the first mass-production road car in the world to feature carbon fiber rims from the factory. Believe it or not, using these carbon fiber rims sheds approximately 15 pounds compared to using aluminum wheels.
For those who really wanted to lose weight, Ford allowed buyers to save 130 more pounds by eliminating air conditioning, the stereo, and a variety of other options such as carpeting from the factory. Who needs a stereo when you have the exhaust note of a GT350R anyway, right?
Shelby Mustang GT350R Dimensions:
- Wheelbase – 107.1 inches or 2,720 mm
- Length – 189.7 inches or 4,818 mm
- Width – 81.9 inches or 2,080 mm including mirrors
- Height – 53.6 inches or 1,361 mm
- Curb Weight – 3,655 pounds or 3,703 pounds with the electronics package
As is the case with any Shelby car in history, driving the GT350R delivers an exhilarating experience whether its straight-line acceleration or doing some canyon carving. Hearing the engine’s crackling roar echoing off the mountains or ripping it at wide-open throttle at the track only makes you want to push the GT350R further.
The engineers developed several different driving modes for you to choose from. Taking a little time to understand how each mode works should help you select the right one for your driving conditions.
Shelby GT350R Driving Modes:
- Normal – Default setting for normal driving
- Sport – Better steering response, medium suspension stiffness, more aggressive acceleration, opens the exhaust up for an aggressive sound
- Weather – Provides less responsive acceleration while locking out launch control with increased stability control awareness ideally suited for slick or wet tarmac
- Track – Raises the traction and stability control thresholds, very stiff suspension, really opens the exhaust tone for the most aggressive sound
- Drag – Optimizes settings for an ideal launch, obviously good for drag racing
Speaking of drag racing, the Shelby GT350R can run a quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 115.8 mph. Not bad for a stock modern muscle car without forced induction, especially considering the outstanding handling ability of the GT350R. This car delivers the best of both worlds in a very balanced package.
Getting Your Hands On the Exclusive GT350R
In the case of the GT350R, limited production really means it is tough to get your hands on one. Ford only made a total of about 37 GT350R models in 2015 for the 2016 model year, the first year it was available. From there, production increased to 526 for 2016.
By the end of GT350R production in 2020, there were only a total of 3,511 GT350R models Ford produced during the entire production window. In many cases, unlike most cars, the second you drove your GT350R off the lot, it appreciated.
Demand was so high in the beginning that buyers were willing to pay double the sticker price just to buy one on the used market. As you can imagine, most owners had no interest in selling their newly acquired pride and joy.
Thankfully, as production pushed on, the GT350R became slightly more accessible. In the current market, demand is still high enough to keep the pricing of the GT350R hovering right around the sticker price, or close to $70,000 for examples in good condition.
For pristine examples, expect to pay anywhere from $90,000 to well over six figures. Don’t worry, it will all be worth it once you are driving the GT350R. Buyer’s remorse does not exist with this car.
Remember, serial number 001 of the GT350R sold for one million dollars at a Barret-Jackson auction in 2015. It was an auction for charity but that number is far above the original $63,495 MSRP. At least you will not have to drop seven figures to acquire a GT350R unless you want the very first model to roll off the line.
This car has won several awards including Performance Car of the Year from Road & Track in 2016. Car and Driver named the GT350R one of the 10 Best Cars of 2016. Most of all, the GT350R has captured the hearts of Mustang enthusiasts worldwide, including adding a whole new generation of fans to the mix. This car is special.
The only problem with owning a GT350R is every mile you put on the car feels like a sin. Yet, the more you drive it, the more you want to keep driving it. If that kind of guilty pleasure appeals to you, the Shelby Mustang GT350R is willing to tempt you every single day.