It is time to get excited. The 2020 Shelby GT500 is hitting dealer lots this summer. Burning 93-octane fuel, the supercar-slaying Shelby delivers over 700 horsepower through an innovative dual-clutch TREMEC transmission. To maximize that performance, Ford engineers and designers used supercomputer simulations and 3D printing to deliver what the company describes as the “most aerodynamically advanced street-legal Mustang ever.”

This all-new aero design merges state-of-the-art design and materials technology with the craftsmanship of Ford racing expertise to create the most aero-capable Mustang ever. — Steve Thompson, Ford Performance

“We created and studied designs among the engineering teams and proved out different strategies long before we built our first prototype cars,” Matt Titus, Ford Performance vehicle engineer, said. “Not only did this improve the effectiveness of the designs, it dramatically reduced the time it took to develop the GT500 – and the costs associated with that.”

By using a blend of computer simulations, 3D printing, and real-word testing, Ford Performance engineers were able to meet robust cooling and performance standards. That included using the company’s racing simulators, and a direct transfer from racing to road as the Mustang GT4 wing is available in the Carbon Fiber Track Package, which delivers 550 pounds of downforce at 180 mph. Meanwhile, the base car wears a hybrid wing/spoiler, called the ‘Swing’ by engineers, which deliver 379 pounds of downforce at 180 mph. (Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company)

In an effort to make the Shelby GT500’s body lines as slippery and road-hugging as possible, engineers used every tool that Ford Motor Company has at its disposal, including driving simulators at the Ford Performance technical center in Concord, North Carolina, and rapid 3D prototyping systems at its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan.

In the computers, engineers tested more than 500 3D cooling and aerodynamic designs with a focus on the brake ducting, cooling systems, front fascia, hood vent, rear spoiler, and rear splitter designs.

Once engineers and designers worked on the shape of the body in the digital realm, they used 3D printing to accelerate the birth of prototype pieces into the real world, including multiple versions of various parts, like the 10 front splitter wickers that ran the gauntlet.

Under the hood a removable rain tray improves cooling and reduces underhood pressure at speed. Cooling a 700-plus-horsepower, supercharged engine mandates a lot of cooling capacity. The new GT500 gets a 600-watt brushless electric fan and six heat exchangers — engine, supercharger, engine oil, transmission oil, auxiliary high-temp radiator and AC condenser — to get the job done.


From there these parts were tested in Ford’s traditional wind tunnels, as well as the Windshear rolling wind tunnel used to validate race car aerodynamics. Further testing in the real world extended to Virginia International Raceway, NOLA Motorsports Park and GingerMan Raceway, where test drivers helped refine the aero and driving dynamics.

While the aerodynamics are obviously crucial to making this powerful machine stable at track speeds, handing the heat created by a supercharged 700-plus-horsepower, 5.2-liter engine proved an immense challenge as well. According to engineers, the cooling system — made up of six heat exchangers, including an auxiliary radiator — must be able to evacuate up to 230 kilowatts of heat energy, which is said to be enough to heat 12 homes. Moreover, when running the car at full tilt on the track, the brakes require shedding another 100 kilowatts of heat energy.

Once the computer simulations shaped the 2020 Shelby GT500’s design, Ford Performance engineers used 3D printing to create multiple iterations of the body parts to test in wind tunnels and on racetracks to arrive at the final design, which handily outperforms the Shelby GT350 from an aero and cooling perspective.

Doing all this, while minimizing drag is an impressive feat, and it shows just how committed Ford Performance engineers are to making the latest Shelby GT500 perform.

“This all-new aero design merges state-of-the-art design and materials technology with the craftsmanship of Ford racing expertise to create the most aero-capable Mustang ever,” Steve Thompson, Ford Performance vehicle dynamics engineer, said. “It’s powerful, balanced and consistent – even over extended track runs – which works to deliver more fun and greater confidence for drivers.”

2020 Shelby GT500 Cooling & Aerodynamic Features

Powertrain Cooling

  • Front-end openings are twice as large for increased cooling capacity
  • Six heat exchangers (engine, supercharger, engine oil, transmission oil, auxiliary high-temp radiator and AC condenser) provide cooling
  • Front cooling pack increases airflow by 50 percent versus Shelby GT350
  • Auxiliary engine radiator and dual thermostat system provide additional thermal capacity in high-demand driving situations
  • Rear heat exchanger helps maintain rear differential temperatures

Aerodynamic Features

  • Front splitter, belly pan with reverse wing and available side splitters channel airflow to reduce front-end lift and minimize drag
  • Six-square-foot louvered hood vent and removable rain tray help reduce front-end lift and aid cooling efficiency
  • Larger ducting on Shelby GT500’s front brakes helps extract up to 100 kilowatts of heat from its massive 16.5-inch two-piece rotors
  • Side splitters and Shelby-specific rear diffuser help channel high-pressure wind around and below the Shelby GT500
  • Carbon Fiber Track Package GT4-style rear track wing adds up to 550 pounds of rear downforce at 180 mph

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