It's a pretty big deal that Ford is mass producing carbon fiber wheels for its Shelby GT350R Mustang. How so? For one, never before has a major automobile manufacturer offered carbon fiber wheels as standard equipment -- you'd have to enter the supercar scene, where only Koenigsegg has offered optional carbon fiber wheels. And secondly, there's actual rocket science involved.
We're not making that up. Ford provided some details on its carbon fiber wheels, which involves using a plasma arc gun to liquefy a ceramic material. This is then sprayed on the front wheels. Critical points around the inner wheel barrel and on the back spokes are coated to provide thermal protection from brake heat. It's the same process NASA used on the original Space Shuttle's main engine turbine blades.
Ford also had to account for extreme exposure to harsh UV environments, corrosive salts, and road chemicals that drivers are likely to subject their Shelby GT350R Mustangs to. The solution is a special coating to protect the resin from the environment, topped off with several proprietary new processes to give the carbon fiber wheels a high-gloss black finish that both looks good and lasts a long time.
Each wheel weights just 18 pounds, which is barely more than half the weight of equivalent aluminum wheels at 33 pounds. By shaving so much weight off, Ford claims a 40 percent reduction in rotational inertia, leading to faster acceleration and superior braking performance -- the best of both worlds.
"The GT350R wheels and tires were developed to be the most track-capable parts we’ve ever produced," said Adam Wirth, chassis supervisor, Ford Performance. "The carbon fiber wheels reduce vehicle weight by 60 pounds compared to aluminum, yet are stiffer for better steering response. We believe this is a game changer for the industry, a great example of improved performance through innovation."
Start saving up now. While Ford hasn't announced an MSRP for the 2016 Shelby GT350R Mustang, leaked pricing information has it starting at $63,495.