Elana Scherr Staff Editor
January 13, 2015

We posted earlier about the reveal of the 2016 Ford GT and the raciest 2015 Mustang yet, the GT350R.. The press conference left us with tons of questions, so we sat down with Jamal Hameedi, Ford’s Global Performance Vehicle Chief Engineer and Paul Seredynski, Global Powertrain Technology Communications Manager. Basically, that means we had a smart engineer and a smart PR guy at our service. The problem with early reveals like the GT and even the 350R is that a lot of the little details aren’t set in stone yet. Big car companies don’t like to let a single number, weight, or power promise slip out without going through numerous internal checks, so a lot of our questions were met with practiced blank looks from Jamal and cheerful non-committed smiles from Paul. Still, if you read between the lines, you’ll get enough info about the new performance line-up from Ford to feel pretty confident that the next two years are going to be good ones for the blue oval.

On Flat Plane Cranks:

HRM: How did you guys balance this engine? Does it have internal balance shafts?

PS: No, it’s balanced just like any V8.

HRM: So, externally? Internally? It’s just counterweights?

JH: Internally. Lamborghini doesn’t use balance shafts, McLaren doesn’t. The whole car is a system, so it all works together. It’s not just putting a crank in old architecture.

HRM: Why did you go with the flat plane crank in the first place? What’s the benefit?

JR: Flat plane is about engine breathing. It’s easier to package, to get a broad torque plateau.

PS: Having usable power so high up the rpm range might mean one less downshift on track, that’s one less chance of messing up, so that’s a benefit. The design allows for a tuned exhaust, a clean separation of intake and exhaust. We’re also able to package the catalytic converter right up to the end of the manifold, which makes a cleaner burning car. This isn’t just about emissions, but emissions aren’t getting any easier…

HRM: You gotta plan for emissions now or you’ll really have nowhere to go later…

PS: Yes, exactly.

On the GT350R

HRM: What visual cues separate the 350R from the regular GT350?

JH: Well, our show car is Liquid Blue, so it’s not exactly like the production cars. On the production car it’s all about red highlights—brake calipers, the snake badge, red stitching in the interior, a red pinstripe if the owner gets the stripe package. Then of course it has the bigger spoiler and front splitter.

HRM: But the rest of the body is the same as the GT350?

JH: Yes, same sheet metal. A-pillar forward is aluminum and door and body sides are steel.

HRM: Could you put the 350R spoiler and splitter on a 350?

JH: Not all the mounting holes are the same.

HRM: But with a drill and some bondo….

PS: With a drill and bondo you can do anything!

HRM: What about those carbon fiber wheels? Do you make those? Does someone make them for you? Will they be painted like on the show car?

JH: They will be black in production. The wheels are a joint development with a company in Australia. They pass all our criteria for aluminum wheels.

HRM: How do you test wheels?

PS: All kinds of ways, hitting objects at different speeds, at different angles…

HRM: Is the carbon in the wheels a unidirectional or a woven material?

PS: Both. We’re being a little cagey about it, it’s a new process. These are the first carbon wheels to be made in any volume for a production vehicle.

HRM: What percentage of GT350s are going to be the R model?

JH: We think it’s going to be a low volume.

PS: When we introduced the GT350, we said it wasn’t going to be a limited edition, but we do expect this to be a niche car.

HRM: What’s it going to cost?

JH: It will be more than the GT350.

HRM: Like, another tax bracket more?

JH: (laughing) When people find out the price we think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

HRM: What does it weigh?

JH: 130 pounds less than the track pack GT350.

PS: More than 130 pounds!

HRM: Who do you want to beat with that car?

JH: The GT350 and GT350R were developed side-by-side. We spent a lot of time looking at Porsche 911 numbers, Z/28. This is a track car.

On the Ford GT

HRM: So that thing is amazing. Are you really doing it? That’s not a prototype?

PS: It’s production intent

HRM: So the production car is going to look just like that?

PS: Maybe small changes, but pretty much just like that.

HRM: The GT40 was 40 inches tall. How tall is this version?

JH: Final ride height isn’t decided, but it will be taller than the GT40, not as high as the previous GT, which was, I think 43 inches…

HRM: So, 41 or 42. Not much else to choose from.

HRM: When did you start working on it, and how did you keep it a secret?

JH: We started work about 12 months ago, maybe 14. December of 2013.

HRM: Who designed it?

JH: It was a team of designers. No lead designer. Everyone worked together.

HRM: Why did you choose to go with the Ecoboost V6 instead of a V8? Don’t you think people are going to joke that it’s just a truck engine?

JH: The 3.5 is the engine we’ve been running in the Daytona Prototype class with Ganassi. It won Sebring, Long Beach. A lot of what we did in DP last year is in this engine. It’s very efficient power, plus the packaging size allows for the body design. If you see the GT from above, you’ll see the fuselage tapers in. You need a compact engine. I’m pretty confident that when you sit in it, you won’t be thinking about trucks.

HRM: Are you going to race this car?

JH: We’re just going to talk about the production car.

HRM: How about the interior? The seats look like they are part of the floor.

JH: The seats are fixed, they are integrated into the carbon tub.

PS: The wheel and pedals are adjustable, but the seats don’t move.

HRM: Will they adjust enough for me to drive it? I’m really short.

PS: I promise they will.

HRM: So is the entire car carbon fiber?

PS: Everything you see inside is the carbon tub. There is no carbon trim at all. In the front are some aluminum crash structures, where suspension pickups are, then the body panels are all carbon.

HRM: What kind of suspension did you use?

JH: Torsion bar suspension. It has adjustable ride height, inboard active dampers.

HRM: How about transmission details?

JH: 7-speed dual clutch transaxle. Paddle shifters.

PS: All the controls are on the wheel. There is nothing on the column. Shifter, turn signals, everything.

HRM: Speaking of wheels, are the actual wheels carbon fiber too?

JH: On that car are 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, but we’re looking at carbon. The brakes are carbon ceramic.

HRM: How big are the brakes?

PS: Big.

HRM: Who do you consider the competition for this car? Corvette? LaFerrari?

JH: This is a track machine. We consider it a supercar, but not a hypercar. It’s performance capability will be astounding.

HRM: What’s it going to cost?

PS: It’s going to be more exclusive than the previous generation…

HRM: The design of the car reminds me a lot of the original GT40 Mark III, which was the street version with the trunk that people called the “warming drawer.” Does this have a trunk?

PS: (pauses) The rules for Le Mans require a trunk…

HRM: So are you going to race Le Mans?

He smiles, but pretends not to have heard me.

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