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Back in March, while engineers were still testing the then-unannounced Mustang GT3, Ford CEO Jim Farley posted a tweet asking the Blue Oval faithful if the automaker should build a road-going version of that race car. Unsurprisingly, fans responded to the idea with resounding enthusiasm, but the prospect of a true road-going version of the Mustang GT3 seemed unlikely for several reasons.
First, and perhaps most importantly, Ford didn’t need to build it. The Mustang GT3 is homologated by the Mustang Dark Horse, which is essentially a track-tuned version of the Mustang GT, so there was no obligation to build a hardcore Mustang street car in order to make the GT3 eligible to compete in the various series that Ford plans to race in. And with both the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro set to go out of production in the coming months, there’s not much pressure coming from the Mustang’s closest rivals, either.
Secondly, although the Dark Horse is effectively the homologation car for the Mustang GT3, the GT3 is a profoundly different machine with a bespoke carbon-fiber body, race-spec aero, a rear-mounted transaxle gearbox, and a unique, unequal-length double-wishbone suspension setup. It’s such a dramatic departure from the Dark Horse that the GT3 is actually put together by engineering partner Mutlimatic rather than within the Ford’s own factories. Also, given the hardware that the GT3 is outfitted with, one could assume that a road-going version would either eschew most of the race car’s costly components and largely serve as an aesthetic homage, or it would send the price of this theoretical track monster into the realm of exotics. To an outside observer, neither option seemed particularly ideal.
But as we recently discovered when they took the wraps off of the Mustang GTD during Monterey Car Week, Ford decided that the latter was worth a shot, and the result is a factory-produced Mustang that’s expected to retail in the $300,000 range.
While that might seem unfathomable for a vehicle that starts at one-tenth of that price, the crazier part is that it actually might end up being a bargain. This car is way, way beyond anything that Ford has done in the street car realm ever before – including the mid-engine GT supercars from 2004 and 2016 – and it has the potential to completely upend the supercar pecking order.
“We think it’s the right time to build Mustang at the higher end, the $300,000 range,” Farley said during GTD’s introduction at Quail, a Car Week event that’s normally host to debuts from the likes of Lamborghini and Bugatti. And his quote in the official press materials for the Mustang GTD makes Ford’s intent clear: "This is our company, we're throwing down the gauntlet and saying, 'Come and get it.' We're comfortable putting everybody else on notice. I'll take track time in a Mustang GTD against any other auto boss in their best road car."
The notion that a Mustang could go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, and Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series might seem absurd at first glance, but once you dig into the particulars of the Mustang GTD – which is put together alongside the Mustang GT3 race car at Mutlimatic’s facility in Markham, Canada after starting life at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant – it starts to make a lot of sense.
There are headline stats, like a dry-sump version of the supercharged 5.2-liter Predator V8 that motivated the last GT500 and is expected to produce roughly 800hp and 730lb-ft of torque, as well as the carbon fiber, GTD-specific fenders, hood, roof, trunk cover, front splitter, and rear diffuser that result in a car which is a full four inches wider than a Mustang GT. That massive active rear wing caught our attention, too.
But as impressive as these features are, there are other design elements that more clearly illustrate what a massive departure from the norm this car is. For example, while the Mustang GTD has a trunk lid, there’s no usable trunk. Instead, that space is allocated to a new rear-mounted 8-speed dual-clutch transaxle that helps the GTD achieve a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution front to rear. The transaxle’s cooling system takes up some additional room, and GTD’s new rear suspension likely encroaches on the cargo space as well.
Far from a re-tuned version of the Dark Horse’s setup, it boasts an integral link pushrod and rocker arm architecture in which the inboard shocks and coil over springs are arranged in a horizontal cross pattern and integrated with a motorsport-style tubular subframe. At the other end of the car, the GTD’s new double-wishbone front suspension is said to provide enhanced lateral stiffness and improved kinematics, particularly in high-G cornering.
The semi-active suspension setup offers two separate, hydraulically actuated spring rates as well as two different ride heights (Track mode drops the car’s stance by 1.6 inches), and these adjustments can be called up on the fly. And according to Ford, the adaptive Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers that are equipped at all four corners can go from their stiffest setting to their softest less than 10 milliseconds.
Brembo carbon ceramic brakes are on-hand to provide serious stopping power, and they’re supported by the copious amounts of mechanical grip offered by the GTD’s Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, which measure 325mm up front and 345mm at the rear. 20-inch forged aluminum wheels are standard, while ultra-lightweight magnesium wheels that are similar to the rollers on the GT3 race car are optional.
“The hardware has been carefully selected and developed to enable blistering lap time performance,” said Greg Goodall, Ford chief program engineer, “The target for this project was clear – go much, much faster than we’ve ever gone before with a targeted sub-7-minute Nürburgring time. This makes it the fastest roadgoing Mustang ever from Ford.”
The term “race car for the street” gets thrown around a lot these days, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a car that exemplifies this adage more earnestly than the Mustang GTD does. It’s a road car that’s so extreme, so squarely focused on track performance, that only cars like the 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the out-of-production Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series are really appropriate for comparison.
Although the 911 GT3 RS starts at $241,000, which is well under the targeted MSRP for the Mustang GTD, optional equipment like carbon ceramic brakes and the Weissach Package bring the 911’s price within spitting distance of the Mustang’s – and that’s before any potential “market adjustments” by your friendly neighborhood Porsche dealer.
But even with Ford’s extensive weight reduction measures, we expect the Mustang GTD to tip the scales at a few hundred pounds heavier than the sub-3300lbs GT3 RS, and every ounce matters when it comes to road course lap times. That said, horsepower tends to fix a lot of problems, and the GTD’s as-yet-unofficial advantage of 282hp and an eye-watering 384 pound-feet of torque could hurt some feelings at faster tracks like Laguna Seca, Virginia International Raceway, and Germany’s Nürburgring.
It might be difficult to imagine someone cross-shopping a McLaren or a Ferrari with a Mustang, but if Ford can pull off the upset of the century by setting a Green Hell production car lap record with the GTD, it would go a long way toward changing the perception of the ubiquitous pony car in the eyes of the general public as well as well-heeled track day fanatics.
Bench racers will have plenty of time to mull all of this over, as Ford has said that the limited-production Mustang GTD won’t be available until late 2024 or early 2025. In the meantime, we can only keep our fingers crossed that an executive at another automaker decides to take Farley up on his track day challenge.