Ford recently dropped some news that was sort of expected but is incredibly sad nonetheless. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is bowing out this fall and won’t return as a 2021 model. While covering this in today’s news, I mentioned how influential the GT350 was to the Mustang lineup as a whole. As I began to recall its individual contributions over its six model year run, I had the kind of realization that normally occurs when the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet. The GT350 is like The Giving Tree but for cars. Parts sharing is nothing new in this industry, but just the way it all went down with this car feels different to me. Let me explain.
In Shel Silverstein’s 1964 classic, a sentient apple tree gives its body parts to a kid. It starts out innocently enough with an apple but then escalates with each page. Eventually the tree gives more and more parts of herself to this little shit for his personal benefit until there’s nothing left for her to give. Then she dies. Kind of like the GT350.
Flashback to 2015. It was a simpler time when we could stand close to one another without fearing for our lives. Ford was in the process of rolling out the S550 Mustangs and they were being received well. The Mustang had finally gotten the independent rear suspension it desperately needed, but some handling issues remained. It was still heavy, it still rolled more than it should, and it just wasn’t as sharp as the Camaro. Then came the Shelby GT350.
After pumping out high-powered straight line cars for years, here was a Shelby that could take corners with the best of what Europe and Japan had to offer. It had a lot of things going for it: a howling flat-plane-crank V8, a nice Tremec manual gearbox, super aggressive wheel/tire packages, and magnetic dampers – a first for Ford. And it was good. Really, really good. It had some teething issues like any ambitious new car would, but it matured into a world class sports car that will be sought after for years to come.
Then one day, other Mustangs began approaching the GT350.
First they asked for its MagneRide. The GT350 being a generous soul kindly offered it up. After all, it wouldn’t be fair for it to be the only one with nice suspension. MagneRide then became an option on Performance Package-equipped Mustang GTs starting with the 2018 model year.
Then another Mustang walked up to the GT350’s trunk with a request of its own. While the MagneRide improved body control and compliance, it was still not able to live up to its full potential. It wanted its wheel/tire setup so it could have raw grip to go along with it. The GT350 offered up its 19×10.5″ F and 19×11″ R wheel specs and gave it 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s from the GT350R to keep it warm. It then became standard equipment on the Mustang GT Performance Package Level 2.
Then along came another Mustang. It wanted to be the most powerful Mustang in company history, so the GT350 gave it its 5.2-liter V8. It also gave it MagneRide and the wing from its GT4 race car so it wouldn’t die. The young Mustang went and changed some things around and built a 760-horspower monster out of the GT350’s gift. It then took its wing and bundled it into a special package so that dealerships could charge $50,000 markups for it. It then became the GT500 which now overshadows the GT350 in the Ford Performance food chain.
Even though the GT350 was running out of things to give, it couldn’t turn away a request from another new Mustang. All it could offer was its Tremec 3160 six-speed manual transmission, the best manual transmission Ford has. It also included some of its oil coolers. But it was more than enough and that then became the Mach 1, which will effectively become its replacement from the 2021 model year.
With all of its once exclusive party tricks given out to the other Mustangs, the GT350 is dying. The giving Mustang gave all it could give and will soon be axed from the lineup. But its legacy will live on in all of the Mustangs it touched. And they’re all much better off because of it.