The unsuspecting rolling up on the one-of-a-kind 2017 Shelby GT350X might think they are simply viewing one of Ford Performance’s top-dog Mustangs. Built to wow on the racetrack and snarl on the street, the Shelby GT350 features sharp handling and an elastic powerband designed to carve up the road course. How could it get better?
That’s just the question Steeda Autosports answered when constructing the unique Shelby GT350X for a high-profile raffle. With the production Shelby GT350 already turned up to 10. The proper answer to how to make it even better was to turn it all the way up to 11 like Nigel Tufnel.
Only subtle physical changes differentiate the one-of-a-kind GT350X from the other Shelby machines on the road, but it’s the engine and suspension modifications that really set this raffle prize apart from the crowd.
The overall concept of the car was to build the absolute ultimate GT350. — Bob Adams, Steeda
“The overall concept of the car was to build the absolute ultimate GT350 — using the best components available. By the ultimate GT350, theDream Giveawayteam wanted to have not just the most horsepower, but the best-handling and best-performing GT350 on the planet,” Steeda’s Business Development Manager, Bob Adams, said. “The reason that the Dream Giveaway Team partnered with Steeda Autosports is because Steeda has developed more integrated performance parts for the GT350 than everyone else combined — parts that are specifically engineered to maximize handling and performance.”
Regular readers know that we covered the centerpiece of the performance upgrades, which elevated the horsepower and torque output to over 800 ponies at the flywheel. That upgrade is Whipple Superchargers’ 2.9-liter, twin-screw blower, which mounts atop the Voodoo 5.2-liter engine.
A Performance Boost
The Whipple 2.9-liter supercharger just really wakes up the engine and delivered tremendous power. — Bob Adams, Steeda
“The Whipple supercharger was selected so that the full power range of the 5.2-liter engine could be maximized —from launch to WOT. The Whipple 2.9-liter supercharger just really wakes up the engine and delivered tremendous power,” Bob said. “Most importantly, in the middle powerband, where you do most of your driving, the throttle response is instantaneous.”
While there is little to complain about regarding the production GT350, if we had to pick nits, we’d say its off-idle performance is a bit soft. While its engineers clearly skewed the powerband to favor the midrange and top end for track use, on the street it can feel a little lazy at lower speeds. Not so with the 2.9-liter supercharger and a supporting PCM calibration in place.
Headlining the GT350X’s performance modifications is a 2.9-liter Whipple twin-screw supercharger. It helps deliver well over 700 horsepower at the rear-wheels and over 800 at the flywheel, which gives the flat-plane-crank Voodoo 5.2-liter a far more aggressive personality.
The GT350X is a halo vehicle for us. — Bob Adams, Steeda
“With the added displacement and the increased maximum-RPM capability, the engine just pulls much harder and never lets up,” Bob enthused. “Overall, it is an amazing combination!”
Though we are happy to take Mr. Adams at his word, it was a lot more fun to visit the Dream Giveaway garage in Clearwater, Florida, to put our camera on the Shelby GT350X in the flesh — and sneak in a little seat time. It was rare opportunity in a one-of-a-kind machine.
“The GT350X is a halo vehicle for us,” Bob said. “When you initially look at the car, you know that something is special about it — that there is something different about it. Once you study it longer and then ultimately drive it, you see that indeed, it is the ultimate GT350 available anywhere.”
Pullied for 9 pounds of boost, the intercooled Whipple 2.9 blower enhances the linear powerband of the rev-happy 5.2 with warp-speed acceleration that is still tractable thanks to the full Steeda G-Trac suspension upgrades underneath.
As we walked toward the glistening GT350X parked in the Dream Giveaways garage, we were taken by just how well the car had turned out. The additional badging differentiates this machine without being overt. The subtle touches like the stripes forming an X over the trunklid really worked as well. In all, this machine definitely looks special and its lucky winner won’t another driving toward them.
Having considerable seat time in the modern Shelby GT350 under our belts, we felt right at home sliding into the standard seats, depressing the clutch and jiggling the shifter into neutral. Engaging the red start button the flat-plane-crank Voodoo engine snarls to life. The gentle throb of the idle through the quad-tip active exhaust belies the performance lurking underhood.
Inside, the GT350X is largely as produced by Ford, but it does feature logo’d floor mats, headrests, and door sill plates.
Steeda GT350X Mods
• Brushed-aluminum GT350X grille emblem
• Color-coded Lightning Blue “supercharged” side rocker stripes
• Color-coded “supercharged” hood callouts
Steeda G-TRAC Suspension fender badges
• Color-matched GT350X emblem on the rear fascia
• Body-colored rear fascia
• Body-colored rear spoiler with Lightning Blue over-the-top striping
Pulling out of the Dream Car garage like the Bat Cave, the GT350X is well-mannered as we rolled toward the streets of Clearwater en route to a photo location. In traffic we could tell the Steeda upgrades had tightened the suspension, yet it was perfectly livable.
“At Steeda, we strategically engineer our suspension and performance upgrades to work in harmony together — it is a purposely thought-out suspension package wherein the parts work in harmony together. Many people make the mistake of buying Part A from one supplier, and then Part B from another and then put them together on their car expecting great results,” Bob explained. “Unfortunately, that is not always the case as sometimes the parts may ‘fight’ each other because they were not engineered together. Our performance parts are engineered to work in complete harmony with each other with the ultimate goal of achieving optimum handling and a balanced ride. For example, our sway bars, springs, and shocks all are specifically tuned to work together, rather than fighting with one another.”
Dream Giveaway’s Chief Gearhead Mark Breiner tested out the factory line-lock feature during our photo shoot and the Whipplecharged Voodoo machine disappeared in a cloud of smoke in about four seconds.
Pedal to the Floor
Those parts certainly worked in harmony as we found an open stretch of road and unleashed the Whipplecharged Voodoo powerplant. We ripped through the two gears and it felt glorious, but we quickly lifted before arriving at felony velocity, which was fortunate. Not much farther down the road some 30 police vehicles were parked along the road performing some sort of radar detection training. Whew.
A few unique badges and graphics inform observers that this not your average Shelby GT350.
Having spent time around supercharged GT350s, we had never driven one. After being put under that blown Voodoo spell for the first time, we had to have more. Once we found some twisty pavement, we laid into the throttle. The power swells with RPM, but it doesn’t hit with the gut punch we would expect from a positive-displacement blower on a modern V8. It swells rapidly in a more linear fashion and just keeps zinging toward the limiter. It’s different, but it feel so good.
The Steeda G-Trac suspension gracefully applied the power to the pavement with those sticky Nitto 555-G2 tires and carved up the corners with ease. Eventually we had to go for the brakes, but we didn’t want to stop mainlining that sharpened speed. It was sad to lift our right foot, but the grin sustained long after we begrudgingly returned the keys.
The touches are subtle, like the stripes crossing as an X on the trunk lid and the powdercoating on the wheels, which more closely resembles the finish on classic Shelby wheels.
“While the GT350 and GT350R are amazing vehicles in their stock configuration, with the Steeda G-Trac suspension components that we have added the overall handling is dramatically improved and the speeds going into and out of a curve are increased dramatically,” Bob added. “Overall handling is just like you would want it, the car goes where you aim it with precision. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the performance upgrades that we have for the rear (IRS) provide substantial grip improvements without any axle hop.”
With more grip and more power, the Shelby GT350X offers the performance to back up its one-of-a-kind pedigree. The lucky winner of this raffle prize will drive away with an amazing ride (and a companion 1965 Shelby GT350X built by Classic Recreations), and if they want to toss us the keys, we’d love the chance to drive it again.
Driving the Steeda-prepped Shelby GT350X was an absolute blast. The winner of this unique machine will quickly become addicted to the rapid acceleration provided by the boosted Voodoo engine. Better yet it handles as well as it accelerates thanks to a full complement of Steeda suspension upgrades.