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Ford Spills Details on Shelby GT350R Mustang’s Carbon Fiber Wheels

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/11/2015 Jason Udy

Although carbon fiber wheels have been available on low-volume supercars from Koenigsegg and through the aftermarket, the Ford Shelby GT350R is the first mass-produced car to feature the exotic wheels. Ford has now revealed more details of the track-ready Shelby GT350R Mustang’s carbon fiber wheels.

“The GT350R wheels and tires were developed to be the most track-capable parts we’ve ever produced,” said Adam Wirth, chassis supervisor, Ford Performance, in a release. “The carbon fiber wheels reduce vehicle weight by 60 pounds compared to aluminum, yet are stiffer for better steering response.

“We believe this is a game changer for the industry,” he added, “a great example of improved performance through innovation.”

Sourced from Australian supplier Carbon Revolution, the benefits of the lightweight carbon fiber wheels include a significant reduction in unsprung weight and rotating mass for improved chassis performance and driving dynamics, according to Ford. In testing, the wheels were said to also improve suspension response times, steering feel, and ride quality.

While reduced weight is important to performance, the wheels also needed to meet Ford’s durability standards, including curb strikes, exposure to UV and chemicals, and extreme heat particularly during track events. Ford says the carbon fiber wheels are designed to be stiff, light, and resilient. Ford says that response time from the lightweight wheels and the MagneRide dampers was so quick that the test driver wasn’t sure if the curb strike test had been performed correctly, so the test was repeated.

In order to combat excess brake heat on the track (with temperatures exceeding 900 degrees Celsius), Carbon Revolution developed a new thermal barrier coating system using a ceramic coating similar to that used in aerospace applications. The carbon fiber wheels use a multistage, multimaterial coating formulation. A plasma arc gun is used to liquefy a ceramic material that is applied to the “barrel” of the wheel and the backside of the spokes. The coating is said to protect the carbon fiber’s resin from heat.

Ford Spills Details on Shelby GT350R Mustang’s Carbon Fiber Wheels

Another coating was developed to protect the wheels from UV, corrosive salts, and road chemicals. Finally, several new processes were developed to give the wheels a smooth, high-gloss black finish.

Construction of the carbon fiber wheels consists of a preformed internal carbon structure made from carbon strands woven into a fabric. After the pieces are placed into a mold, it’s infused with a resin and cured at high temperatures, making a one-piece wheel. An RFID chip is embedded in the structure to monitor quality control, running 61 individual checks and logging 246,000 data points.

Once the wheels are cured, they are analyzed by a 3D computerized tomography (CT) imaging process, where 18,000 X-ray images are taken. After passing inspection, the wheels are machined for the valve stem and mounting holes before being painted, coated, and assembled.

All told, the wheels weigh 18 pounds each versus 33 pounds for alloy wheels, reducing rotational mass by 40 percent.

Source: Ford

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