Earlier this week, the Ford Motor Company made it official that they will be killing off the Shelby GT350 iterations of the Mustang at the end of the year. The flat-plane crankshaft-having muscle car is unlike anything that came before it in the segment, and may never be repeated. Following the news of this decision, MC&T sat down with Head of Mustang Marketing Jim Owens to discuss why Ford has decided to “sunset” the much adored S550 Mustang GT350 and GT350R.
When Ford made the official announcement earlier this week that the Shelby GT350 would be leaving the lineup, the company pointed towards the fact that the GT500 model is now here to fill the range-topping role. Furthermore, the company noted that the Mustang Mach 1 will be joining the lineup for the 2021 model year. However, both of the new models take a drastically different approach to performance than the outgoing GT350. This isn’t a gaffe by Ford, but rather a deliberate decision to follow the same path that brought us the VooDoo-powered pony car in the first place.
“We bring in names that are surrounded by product attributes over a period of time… the GT350 learned a lot of things over that sixth-gen (S550) platform to continue to improve it,” said Owens. “Think Boss 302 – it was in and out for two years – that had a base program team and a Ford Performance team that got on (the program). So now as the GT350 sunsets, the Mach 1 comes in, that is the pinnacle of 5.0L performance.”
While Owens didn’t openly say so, the performance abilities of the Mach 1 would also appear to squeeze the the Mustang GT350 and 350R too tightly against itself and the 760 horsepower GT500.
“On the road course, with the handling package, it’s absolutely amazing, and it’s learned from the GT350. So as those product attributes evolve, we come up with product attributes that come up with the nomenclature,” he said.
According to this answer, the Mach 1 should arrive as a genuine step on from the GT350 in terms of performance. That said, it will definitely lack the sense of theatre that comes along with revving that 5.2L flat-plane V8 past 8,000 rpm. When asked whether or not the team ever considered stuffing the VooDoo V8 into Mach 1, Owens stated that the team was focused on building the pinnacle of 5.0L performance. The marketing executive refused to comment as to whether or not the engine will die alongside the Shelby. Currently, the Ford Performance cate engine portfolio is absent of engines such as the VooDoo V8, as well as the supercharged Predator V8 engine in the GT500.
The VooDoo V8 very well could be the reason that the GT350 is leaving the lineup however. The naturally-aspirated Shelby is not available for sale in Europe, after EU regulators banned the car from being officially sold by Ford due to its emissions output. The same fate happened to the GT500. However, S550 Ford Mustang GT coupes and convertibles that carry a 5.0L V8 engine are permissible for sale across the pond.
“Mach 1 is going to be global where GT350 was not,” said Owens. “Global demand for the Mustang is huge.” Pricing for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 has not been officially announced at the time of this writing.
And while that is all fine and good, the Mach 1 isn’t a direct replacement in the marketplace for the car they are taking away. In fact, Ford plans to limit the production figures for the Mach 1 in order to preserve the car’s value, and won’t disclose how much will be built. Between the Shelby GT350 and the Mach 1, it does beg the question if which car will truly become a more valuable asset, considering that a 5.0L V8 has been under the hood of literally millions upon millions of Mustangs over the years.
Where the Mach 1 is no doubt going to be a collector’s item, the S550 Mustang GT350 carries the same merit. For example, just 100 GT350s were built for the 2015 model year, and the 2015 GT350R is even more uncommon. Just 37 of them were built for the 2015 model year, making it the absolute unicorn of the S550 Mustang family. And for its sendoff, both the Mustang GT350 and GT350R are available with a throwback Heritage Edition package (pictured). This $1,965 bundle brings no mechanical changes, and comes exclusively in a throwback Wimbledon White/Guardsman Blue livery, blue badges, and a dash plaque. Both the price and look pay homage to the first victory of the original GT350, with Ken Miles behind the wheel, in 1965.