Mustang Shelby GT350R CF wheel

More on the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R, this time on the wheels that sit on the 526 hp and 582 Nm variant of the sixth-gen S550. The Blue Oval is shouting about the car’s carbon-fibre wheel, which it built together with Australian supplier Carbon Revolution, and it’s especially proud of the fact that the wheel is the first mass-produced, standard equipment unit – CF wheels exist, but in the realms of the automotive aftermarket and in the low-volume supercar segment, in this case Koenigsegg.

The CF wheel weighs in at nearly half the weight of an aluminium equivalent, tipping the scales at 8.16 kg per unit as opposed to an alloy wheel’s 15 kg, thus shaving off around 27 kg from the car. More importantly, the CF wheel reduces unsprung weight, thereby improving suspension response times as well as handling and chassis dynamics.

With a reduction in rotational inertia of more than 40%, acceleration and braking performance have also improved. And because the wheels are so light, the springs and MagneRide dampers on the Mustang had to be recalibrated because the suspension could now respond considerably faster to road inputs.

In terms of assembly, carbon-fibre elements are placed into a mold using state of the art manufacturing techniques and an RFID chip (with a unique tracking number to identify the wheel) is embedded – once the structure is assembled, it’s infused with resin and cured at high temperatures. The result is a one-piece wheel without the need to bond/glue the wheel’s spokes and barrel components together.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R-06

As the wheel cures, 61 individual checks and more than 246,000 data points are logged before it is released to the next process. The cured wheel is then analysed using a 3D computerized tomography (CT) imaging process in which more than 18,000 X-ray images are taken. Upon passing this inspection, it undergoes machining for the valve stem and mounting hardware holes before it gets painted, coated and checked before being shipped out.

The automaker says that the CF wheels are plenty durable too – a common misconception of carbon fibre is that while it’s strong, it’s also a brittle material, but Ford claims the resin formulation and design intent here ensures durability, be it in taking curb strikes or resistance to UV and chemical exposure.

The wheel is protected by a ceramic coating system developed by Carbon Revolution, which also provides a thermal barrier to shield the CF wheel’s resin from the heat and allowing the unit to cope with high temperatures – the heat generated from the GT350R’s rotors have been measured in excess of 900° C.

Using a plasma arc gun to liquefy a ceramic material, the wheels are coated at critical points around the inner wheel “barrel” and on the back of the spokes. The result is an incredibly thin, nearly diamond-hard coating that reliably shields the resin from heat – Ford says it’s all good enough to allow continuous track use by even the most aggressive drivers.