The new Shelby GT350 features a heads-up display shift light
By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company
If you have driven a modern Ford with the Collision Avoidance system, you may have seen the warning light flash above the dash if you are approaching another car too quickly. This system warns you to get on the brakes to avoid a crash, but Ford engineers adapted the technology to offer the new halo Mustang a Performance Shift Indicator light.
â€œGiven the conditions of a drag race, we found drivers wanted maximum simplicity in a performance shift light,â€ Mike Makled, electrical engineer for Shelby programs, said.
If you arenâ€™t familiar with the Collision Avoidance display it uses LEDs to bounce light off the reflective surface of the windshield to deliver that heads-up display. The wheels started spinning when Mike saw it in action on the Taurus SHO. When the idea struck him to create a shift light with this technology, he turned the project over to then-Ford Corporate Graduate Zac Nelson, who used OpenXC to facilitate the project.
â€œI like taking things apart, modifying how they work and creating new things,â€ Mike added. â€œItâ€™s a hobby.â€
As a result of that hobby, Mike and Zac worked to create a prototype. Then they partnered with suppliers to generate a production version for the Shelby GT350 and GT350R. Thanks to Mikeâ€™s clever idea all GT350 drivers now benefit from a system that offers three different modesâ€”Tach, Track, and Drag.
You can watch the system in action right hereâ€¦
In Tach mode the displayâ€™s LEDs light up sequentially from left to right as rpm builds, providing and easily seen tach. If you are hitting the road course, youâ€™ll want to engage Track mode, which lights the LEDs from both sides toward the middle. When they meet, the whole bar flashes so you know itâ€™s time to shift. In what will likely be itâ€™s most popular settingâ€”Drag modeâ€”the Performance Shift Indicator simply flashes when you hit the preset shift point.
â€œAll of our drivers love this feature,â€ Mike said. â€œThey canâ€™t believe how much it reduces the distraction of having to look away to a tach or a shift light in the cluster.â€