As ever clearer images of Pluto are beamed back to Earth, NASA’s New Horizons space probe is making headlines left and right. We fully support stargazing, but you should know about the space-worthy technology that is seeing use a bit closer to home.
Ford released details this week about the Shelby GT350R’s carbon fiber wheels, the first of their kind available for mass-production.
Why are carbon fiber wheels a big deal?
Carbon fiber has long been used in the construction of performance vehicles as a material that reduces weight while maintaining rigidity. As technology has advanced, carbon fiber has been implemented into more vehicle parts – usually the frame and other support structures. While true enthusiasts have wanted carbon fiber wheels for a while, they’ve only been available to the owners of the most exotic supercars.
Now, Ford and their Australian manufacturing partner Carbon Revolution are changing that. The wheels available on the Shelby GT350R will set a new standard for all road-worthy production vehicles.
Compared to normal aluminum wheels that weight 33 pounds, the Shelby’s carbon fiber wheels weigh a mere 18. They reduce the vehicle’s unsprung weight by 60 pounds and decrease rotational inertia (the power needed to turn the wheels) by a claimed 40 percent.
How are the Shelby GT350R’s wheels space tech?
Ford set stringent standards for these wheels. They had to create and pass new benchmarks for curb striking, UV and chemical exposure, and extreme heat durability. It was the last of these tests that proved most challenging to overcome.
During track testing, it was determined that the Shelby’s brakes were generating rotor temperatures in excess of 900 degrees Celsius. Ford’s solution was to employ a ceramic coating normally used on turbine blades in the aerospace industry. The coating is applied by liquefying ceramic material with a plasma arc gun, and the result is a thin, “diamond hard” heat shield that protects the wheels from the very speeds they make possible.
For the real drivers out there, these wheels will ensure you don’t have to slow down during long days at the track. Read more about the stringent testing and development on Ford’s media portal.
Ford Performance will be offering the new Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R in limited numbers, so give us a call at Leith Ford if you’re interested. If you’re looking for a more affordable sports car, we highly recommend test driving a 2015 Ford Mustang. Let us know when you want to schedule your next visit to our store.