The 2015 Detroit motor show was a huge event for Ford. Not only had it managed to keep the incredible GT a secret – perhaps even more of an achievement than creating one – it also announced to the world that the Raptor would ditch a supercharged V8 for a turbo V6. Indeed both it and GT had embraced downsizing, leaving V8 honour to be upheld by the third big Detroit debut – the GT350R.
And what a way to demonstrate Ford’s commitment to the V8. Using the same 530hp ‘Voodoo’ flat-plane-cranked 5.2 as the GT350, the R sharpened the package further with completely overhauled suspension, less weight, more aggressive aero and, somewhat unbelievably, carbon fibre wheels. Even four years later it’s a surprise to find carbon rims on the options list, and here they were as standard.
The GT350R represented – and continues to do so – many of the things enthusiasts feared would soon be going from their cars: high-revving atmospheric engines, manual gearboxes, rear-wheel drive and an unashamed emphasis on the driving experience. It delivered, too, albeit with PH experience limited to a track drive at Thruxton. “A load of fun to drive on circuit”, was the verdict, qualified by the lack of road experience and a fear that something so large and so stiff – make your own jokes – might prove a little overwhelming on the public highway. Certainly that’s the impression given by the first drive in the States, where Mike Duff actually preferred the 350 to the R on the road. Still, if you want focus, it’s very seldom that you get cossetting as well…
Now there’s a chance for a UK buyer to discover the full GT350R experience, with this 2019 example for sale. While the owner will have to battle with left-hand drive, this one is factory fresh, with 350 miles on it. The red-accented grey paintwork is a suitably menacing accompaniment to the pumped-up bodywork, a theme continued inside. Note too in the advert pics that the Mustang is parked about as close to a kerb as you’d like to be in a car with carbon fibre wheels – at least sitting on the wrong side means you’ll see it coming…
A price tag of £100,000 will inevitably draw some sharp intakes of breath, particularly with the 350R retailing for $67k in its homeland. But as well as the various costs associated with getting a car from the US to the UK, and a need to turn a profit, there’s a suspicion that this Mustang might be a little underpriced to begin with. 8,250rpm V8s and carbon wheels can’t come cheap, after all.
As a product of the USA and one never officially sold here, the Shelby is short of conventional rivals in the UK. The 911 GT3 will inevitably be discussed, but will surely represent a very different experience given its weight and layout, and that’s before mentioning that £100k will only buy a five-year-old one. The old C63 Black Series actually looks the closest alternative, rude bodywork and monstrous powertrain harnessed to a chassis of rare ability. The Mercedes will probably make the nicer road car, the Ford more rewarding on track, though again you’ll pay more money for an older car. And anyone intrigued by the Mustang engine – surely a key tenet of its appeal – will surely feel short changed by any Corvette equivalent.
Granted, nobody is expecting the GT350R to fly out of the showroom, given this represents another tiny cul-de-sac of charm in the Mustang’s already niche appeal. But surely even those usually turned off by Ford’s iconic pony car can see the attraction here; that the GT350R is so unlike a Mustang is what makes it great. The track days won’t be cheap in a Shelby Mustang, but what amazing fun they promise to be…
SPECIFICATION – FORD SHELBY MUSTANG GT350R
Engine: 5,163cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 533@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 429@4,750rpm
MPG: 16. If you’re lucky
First registered: 2019
Recorded mileage: 350
Price new: $67,135 (MY2019)
Price now: £99,950