We Finish 40,000 Miles with the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and Its Magical V-8

 David Beard

a blue car parked on the side of a building: We just turned over 40,000 miles in our GT350. Over the miles, we've collected performance data, cost of ownership, reliability data, and more.
© Greg Pajo – Car and Driver We just turned over 40,000 miles in our GT350. Over the miles, we’ve collected performance data, cost of ownership, reliability data, and more.

Wrap-Up

Say “voodoo” and people tend to think of pins stuck into dolls, animal sacrifice, and other dark rituals. But this ancient religion has a lighter side, a white magic believed to be capable of casting a spell so strong it can bind souls together for eternity.

We were entranced by our first exposure to the Mustang Shelby GT350’s voodoo, both its literal and figurative varieties. The former is Ford’s Voodoo V-8, a hand-built, flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter screamer that sets spines a-tingle with its 8250-rpm redline. The latter relates to the Shelby’s other­worldly chassis balance and fluidity, the ease with which the GT350 tears up a mountain road or a racetrack, and its ability to then cover a few hundred miles home. It’s as though Ford conjured a spell specifically for us.

We did keep our wits about us for one critical decision when ordering our long-termer. Although we were curious about the durability and performance of the extreme GT350R’s carbon-fiber wheels, our acne-riddled roads and the wheels’ replacement costs—$4175 apiece for the fronts and $3517 for each of the rears—shook us out of our reverie.

We ordered the $57,045 GT350, which includes a $1300 penalty from the Man for consuming too much fuel, and selected only a few extras. We opted for the $3000 Electronics pack, which adds Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, turn-signal mirrors, navigation, and dual-zone climate control.

We also chose the no-cost Grabber Blue paint, a head-turning shade of awesomeness, and white over-the-roof racing stripes to pay homage to Shelbys of the past—only $475, but a decision we would later regret. All in, our Ford ran $60,520.

a person walking down a busy city street: We Finish 40,000 Miles with the Shelby GT350
© Greg Pajo – Car and Driver We Finish 40,000 Miles with the Shelby GT350

Obeying the 1000-mile break-in period by not revving the engine sky-high took painful restraint. But once we got past it, the GT350 clicked off a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 12.4 at 118 mph. At 40,000 miles, it posted identical numbers for both tests. When our car was new, the 70-to-zero-mph panic stop took 153 feet, but that stretched to 164 feet in the end, likely because the onset of winter made it difficult to get heat into the rubber for our final test session. On the skidpad, the Mustang’s lateral adhesion measured 1.02 g’s at the start and gained 0.01 g by 40,000 miles.

Not long after our initial test, we indulged in a little animal sacrifice. The farmlands of southeast Michigan breed not only large humans, but also raccoons the size of grizzly bears, one of which became acquainted with the Shelby at high speed late one night. The incident damaged the bumper cover, splitter, various trim pieces, and a fender-mounted oil cooler, requiring a trip to the shop for repairs and fresh paint. Restoring the stripes and clear protective wrap took another four trips to accomplish. In total, the raccoon set us back $3684, $1508 of which was for the vinyl stripes—more than three times the original cost to have the entire car thus equipped.

But that wouldn’t be the only damage we inflicted on the GT350. As it turns out, this car is not suited for off-road duty. An eight-second, tank-slapping ride on loose gravel left the Mustang high-sided on a local road’s shoulder. The failed rally stage required another trip to the body shop, in which the resurfaced passenger door and some more Grabber Blue paint cost us $832. Lesson learned.

the engine of a car: Behold the glory of an uncovered V-8.
© Greg Pajo – Car and Driver Behold the glory of an uncovered V-8.

With direct-fitment winter tires unavailable, we sent the GT350 to California to pass the colder months. It was during the 2400-mile trip out west that we registered the first of many complaints about the 16-gallon fuel tank’s limited range. Only once over the course of our test did we travel farther than 300 miles on a tank, and then it was only 301. Even when we were stretching it, most of us would pull over after some 250 miles. Then again, while the snug Recaro buckets provide exceptional support for enthusiastic driving, after four hours or so, our bodies welcomed relief from their confines.

Once settled into the Golden State, we replaced the rear tires before releasing the Mustang onto roads that are somewhat more thrilling than those in Michigan. An afternoon on Angeles Crest Highway through the San Gabriel Mountains is the best way to experience the Shelby voodoo. The car is agile and stable, with immediate turn-in. The steering is surgically precise, and the helm buzzes with useful feedback. Meanwhile, the Brembo brakes remain tireless, corner after corner. Track-focused cars such as this are often a burden to live with daily, but the GT350’s magnetorheological dampers do an exceptional job soaking up roughness. Take the usual Angeles Crest runner’s break at Newcomb’s Ranch? No way! Continue until snow appears or you hit the town of Big Pines, then turn around and repeat. Just beware of the rock slides that the thunderous exhaust note may have left in its wake, and at the bottom of the run, feel your brain flood with livestock-grade adrenal extract.

a blue car on a city street: We Finish 40,000 Miles with the Shelby GT350
© Greg Pajo – Car and Driver We Finish 40,000 Miles with the Shelby GT350

Much of the GT350’s spectacular handling is attributable to its aggressive wheel alignment, which also contributes to its eagerness to follow every groove in a road’s surface. Not too long after we replaced the rear rubber, the right-front tire chewed itself to the cords. With a new set of Michelins up front and an alignment, the tramlining lessened, but it never went away completely. Then again, that tendency of the GT350 to magnetize itself to a road is a constant reminder of the Mustang’s track ability, and a very effective analog driver-attention assist. You’ll never be tempted to take a hand off the wheel.

As marvelous as the high-revving V-8 is, its thirst for oil and gas proved insatiable. Run it hard and it will drink premium at an alarming rate. During one of our mountain blasts, the GT350 emptied its tank in 151 miles at an average of 10 mpg. Our 17-mpg test average was 1 mpg better than the EPA’s combined rating, but ours includes many miles on the interstates. And then there’s the oil-consumption issue: Over 40,000 miles, we added 21.5 quarts of 5W-50. That’s in addition to scheduled oil changes. It’s the most we’ve ever added during a long-term test by a long shot. Ford released a supplement to the owner’s manual stating that the engine might consume a quart every 500 miles under severe use. “Severe use” pretty accurately sums up our treatment of just about any car, but particularly one with an 8250-rpm redline. And we were lucky; internet forums are rife with horror stories of Shelbys consuming far more.

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