As readers know, the Mustang’s history is rife with special editions. In the 1960s, there was the Hertz GT350H rent-a-racer, the 1970s had the ultra-exclusive Mach 1 Twister Specials, and the 1980s saw the Vanilla Ice Ragtop 5.0. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the SVT Cobra was the one to get, and that’s just naming a few. So if only a “special” Pony will do, there’s a ton to choose from — even if we totally made up the Vanilla Ice one.
While there are already enough flavors of Mustang to make Basken-Robbins blush, it’s no secret Dearborn remains keen on them. Take the Bullitt edition, for example. Inspired by the Steve McQueen flick about a police detective who’s great at driving and less great at protecting witnesses, the Bullitt is undoubtedly cool. Now, one of the reasons the Bullitt makes a little more power than the standard GT is that it features an intake from the Shelby GT350.
Which brings us to the Shelby GT350R. Like the Bullitt, you can buy a new one today. But in the veritable sea of special edition Mustangs, this beautiful beast remains a true prize Pony. To refresh your memory, the GT350R is the weapons-grade version of the already-hardcore GT350, and it’s as wicked a creation as anything that’s ever sported a Blue Oval.
Under the bulging hood is the 5.2-liter V8 Voodoo Coyote engine, which is good for 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. It’s a monster of a mill, and the flat-plane crank gives it a symphonic, spine-tingling wail that’s more Modena than Michigan. The GT350 and the GT350R are the only Mustangs to ever feature an engine with a flat-plane crank, and since industry insiders expect them to be retired after this model year, they could very well be the last of their kind.
In a nod to purists, the sole transmission available is a brilliant Tremec six-speed manual, which features short throws and — given all the power on tap — a surprisingly light clutch. To help put all the power to the ground, an adaptive Magneride suspension, beefy Brembo brakes, and fly-paper sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires come as standard equipment.
As you’d expect, the specs are fantastic. In the GT350R, the sprint to 60 mph takes a scant 3.9 seconds, and if you keep your foot buried, Ford says it’ll hit 173 mph. At 12.1 seconds, it’s worth noting that the quarter-mile time isn’t too shabby either. That said, GT350R is far from a straight-line bruiser. It’s a machine designed to dominate the road course, and send high-priced European track toys scurrying for the paddock.
Since the goal was low lap times above all else, weight reduction was a huge focus during development. As a result, there’s an almost Lotus-like lack of creature comforts, so common features like air conditioning and a stereo system are optional extras. Further pounds were shed by equipping the GT350R with standard carbon fiber wheels, which is a first not just for Mustangs, but mass-produced cars in general. The rear wing is also carbon fiber, as is the front grille. Buyers should also carefully consider who they’ll want to bring to the track, as the folks at Shelby also ditched the back seat.
The GT350R’s athletic attributes and evocative exhaust note already make it an attractive proposition for Mustang fans. But the niche appeal of such a track-focused machine, along with relatively low production numbers, also mean it’s likely a good buy for collectors. Ford did some fine-tuning in 2019, but since not much has changed from when the nameplate was revived in 2015, we’d opt for the earliest model we could find, though with so much going for it, any GT350R is certain to appreciate in the coming years.