Supercomputers, 3D Printing Used for Mustang Shelby GT500 on Shelby GT 500 Simulation

Real-world testing also is still needed, so the GT500 team ran extended high-speed tests on racetracks.

The 2020 Shelby GT500 like most performance cars used some virtual testing with supercomputers and 3D printing while in development. Ford Performance is hardly on the cutting edge here – Porsche directly builds production parts with such techniques –  as Shelby powertrain and aerodynamics engineers tested hundreds of designs both digitally and physically. They used so-called digital and additive manufacturing prototyping tools to make the fastest high-performance street-legal Mustang ever. The 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 goes on sale this summer.

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

Every millimeter counts on race and performance vehicles such as the GT500 to deliver maximum downforce, braking and cooling. Ford advanced design simulation tools at the Ford Performance technical center in Concord, North Carolina, and rapid 3D prototyping systems at its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan. But Ford’s simulations only go so far. To physically validate the improving designs, Ford’s wind tunnels in Michigan and Windshear rolling wind tunnel in Concord were also used on real prototypes.

Real-world testing also is needed, so the GT500 team ran extended high-speed tests on racetracks in the United States – including Virginia International Raceway, NOLA Motorsports Park and GingerMan Raceway – to refine the aerodynamic designs. Claimed are the fastest track times ever in a production Mustang along with improved driver control for greater confidence behind the wheel.

Rated at more than 700 horsepower using 93-octane fuel with maximizing cooling at the front is critical to the GT500’s track performance. At wide-open throttle, the cooling system needs to extract up to 230 kilowatts of heat energy, enough Ford claims to heat a dozen homes. The front brakes reject another 100 kilowatts of heat at maximum braking, so the team used 3D airflow modeling to maximize overall cooling while working to minimize impact on front-end lift and drag.

More than, well, 500 cooling and aerodynamic designs were analyzed to maximize aero performance and cooling, with more advanced design models driven on full chassis simulators at the Ford technical center with professional racing drivers. Key modeling simulations included cooling systems, front fascia and splitter designs, along with brake ducting, rear spoiler designs and a large 6.03 square-foot louvered hood vent.

The most promising designs were printed in a matter of days, not months, allowing the team to increase the fidelity of performance and aerodynamic refinement. For example, more than 10 front splitter wickers were printed and tested, some with minute modifications, with multiple versions of parts simultaneously sent out for old-fashioned track evaluation.

The team achieved maximum rear downforce of 550 pounds at 180 mph, using a Mustang GT4 race-proven rear track wing to deliver the most downforce ever on a street-legal Mustang with the optional Carbon Fiber Track Package. An innovative new rear spoiler design, standard on the base 2020 GT500 is known by the aero team as “the swing” – a hybrid between a spoiler and a wing . It’s the result of the advanced simulations and prototyping process. With the optional Handling Package and Gurney flap installed, the swing works to deliver 379 pounds of rear downforce at 180 mph.

Cooling tweaks include a new performance fascia design that doubles the front opening volume and increases cooling pack airflow through six heat exchangers at top speed by 50% compared to the existing Mustang GT350 design. A removable rain tray also aids cooling and works to reduce underhood air pressure at high speeds, while a Shelby-specific rear diffuser helps channel under-car airflow.

A new dual-side thermostat routes coolant to a new auxiliary radiator, and a 600-watt brushless electric fan motor and performance aero fan-shroud with 16 speed flaps improves cooling pack airflow while mitigating drag and front-end lift. Two new race-style oil and transmission coolers further improve powertrain cooling.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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