LOS ANGELES -- Carroll Shelby unlocked the performance potential of Ford's first-generation pony car with the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350. With the unveiling of the new Shelby GT350 Mustang at Shelby's Gardena, Calif., garage last week, Ford is harkening back to the Mustang's performance roots.
"We wanted to pay homage to Carroll Shelby," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas.
At the heart of the GT350 is a new, high-revving, naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V-8 engine with a flat-plane crankshaft that generates more than 500 hp and peak torque of 400 pounds-feet. The engine also makes a distinctive, throaty growl. Ford claims it is "the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford production engine ever."
While the power figures won't match the 662 hp of the 2013-14 Shelby GT500, the GT350 is mated to a much more sophisticated chassis including magnetic ride dampers and massive brakes.
Jamal Hameedi, chief engineer of Ford's Global Performance Vehicles, says the best way to think of the GT350 is as a "canyon carver," meant for twisty roads and racetracks.
"This is an American interpretation of a flat-plane crankshaft V-8, and the 5.2-liter produces a distinctive, throaty howl from its four exhaust tips," said Hameedi.
In its release, Ford said: "Unlike a traditional V8, where the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, this design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degree intervals."
Ford said the layout "permits better cylinder breathing, further extending the performance envelope of the V8."
The flat-plane crank technology, normally found in cars such as the Ferrari 458, Porsche 918 and McLaren 650 that cost many times more, will bring a new kind of performance customer to Ford, said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service.
Farley is a Mustang fan and competes in vintage car races with his own 1965 GT350.
Ford has not set a price yet on the GT350. The last Shelby Mustang, the GT500 sold in 2013-14, started at about $55,000 with shipping.
Ford did not designate a model year for the GT350, but it's likely to arrive in dealerships next summer as a 2016 model. While Ford is going global with the stock 2015 Mustang, it will not sell the GT350 outside North America and the Middle East. Engineering issues made it impractical to build a right-hand-drive version of the GT350, said Hinrichs. c