SVTP discusses the Shelby GT350 with Fordâ€™s Global Performance Vehicle Chief Engineer
By Steve Turner
Photos by Stacy Stangz and courtesy of Ford Motor Company
If you are a fan of Ford performance, itâ€™s highly likely that the new Shelby GT350 has your engine warmed up. Obviously, we are tantalized by this high-revving, hot-handling version based on the benchmark S550 platform. So much so that we trekked out the official unveiling at Shelby American to see it revealed live. Afterward we made it to the Los Angeles International Auto Show where we had a chance to sit down with Fordâ€™s Global Performance Vehicle Chief Engineer, Jamal Hameedi, and discuss his latest progeny.
If you have followed the history of Ford SVT, you know that Jamal has risen through the ranks of Fordâ€™s performance division after a successful run with the companyâ€™s Rough Rider off-road racing program, which raced in SCORE Trophy Truck. He has had a hand in star vehicles like the Ford GT and he spearheaded the SVT Raptor and the last-generation Shelby GT500. The latest performance vehicle born under his purview is the new Shelby GT350, which is all about agility.
â€œEverything we did was about vehicle dynamics, all the way down to the engine choice,â€ Jamal told SID297 in our video interview. â€œWe wanted the lightest possible engine we could find that still made decent power. Power density was really important.â€
That power is courtesy of Fordâ€™s first production flat-plane crank engine, which will feature the longest stroke of any FPC engine to date. It is a high-tech engine loosely based on the existing 5.0-liter engine, and it is ready to rev to an 8,200-rpm redline thanks to features like pistons that are lighter than those in the FPC engine that powers Ferrariâ€™s 458.
â€œThe idea was there from the beginning, but we had to do a ton of simulation and engineering to make sure that we could pull it off,â€ Jamal explained. â€œItâ€™s got the same Coyote architectureâ€”bore spacing, all of thatâ€”but for all intents and purposes, itâ€™s an all-new engine: new intake, new heads, new block, new crank, new rods, new pistons. Itâ€™s an all-new engine.â€
While the GT350â€™s 500-horsepower, 5.2-liter engine is certainly exciting, there is more to this car than power. It is built for balanced performance.
â€œItâ€™s really been about throwing the kitchen sink at the car to improve the overall vehicle dynamics,â€ Jamal said. â€œThatâ€™s what a GT350 is all about.â€
Part of improving the vehicle dynamics was a give and take when it came to reducing weight, but maintaining the necessary brawn to handle the engine output.
â€œUnless you are going to build a carbon-fiber-tubbed car there arenâ€™t a lot of weight savings silver bullets,â€ he said. â€œIn order to get weight out or to offset weight add (from bigger brakes, wheels, and tires), itâ€™s really about attention to detail and shaving a kilogram or a pound here and half a kilogram there. So we tried to have that philosophy on every new part we touched.â€
That meant backing the engine with a lighter Tremec 3160 six-speed manual transmission, but retaining a two-piece steel driveshaft.
â€œThe transmission, for sure, isnâ€™t as stout as a 6060. This has got a dual-mass flywheel, which does ease the shock loads going into the trans,â€ Jamal explained. â€œWe never even thought of putting a 6060 in because they are way too heavy.â€
â€œWe needed the stiffest driveshaft we could get, he added. â€œWe looked at a carbon-fiber driveshaft and we couldnâ€™t get it stiff enough, so we went with the two-piece steel.â€
Aside from its obvious mechanical advancements, the GT350 is also a technological tour de force, which looks to democratize technology that is far more common on European exotics.
â€œWe now have five drive modes. We call them integrated driver controls. There are five settings that control ABS, traction control, exhaust valves, powertrain settings, and the damper settings. Thereâ€™s a lot of adjustability built into the system.â€
Key to the application of these driver modes is the new MagneRide suspension, which can adjust the dampers in as little as 10 miliseconds. It is becoming a more common suspension technology, but it is another tool in the Ford performance toolbox.
â€œItâ€™s cool. You tune the thing with a laptop instead of changing shims,â€ Jamal enthused. â€œItâ€™s really the equivalent of going from a carburetor, with jets and everything, to a fuel-injection system.â€
Like the dampers, the exhaust system also falls under the sway of the driver modes. Depending on what button you push, the exhaust will flow through to mufflers or detour out through straight pipes.
â€œThereâ€™s a couple of electric valves in there and when the valves open, itâ€™s a straight exhaust, basically. The valve is controlled through all the drive modes. If you are Normal the valve is usually closed, but when you are in Track mode it is usually open. â€¦Plus there is a button in the car that lets you defeat it. So if you want instant, flat-plane music, you just hit the button and there you have it.â€
Suffice it to say, the more we hear about the new Shelby GT350, the more excited we get to slide behind the wheel and experience it for ourselves.