Ford has decided to bring back the “Bullitt” Mustang for a third time, and I was fortunate enough to drive it during the recent press trip in (where else?) San Francisco. The car will be offered for two model years, 2019 and 2020, and will offer 480 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque from its 5.0-liter V8 engine.
I owned a 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt, the first modern model to wear that designation. Many Mustang experts consider it one of the best versions to come off the “Fox” platform, which was essentially unchanged from 1979 to 2004. That Bullitt sported the same Highland Green paint and torque-thrust-type wheels as the original 1968 car that starred in the movie. It also had a highly tuned suspension system that made it one of the best handling Mustangs from that 25-year platform. The exhaust system was also tuned to sound better than the Mustangs of that era. And it did.
It’s not an overstatement to describe the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R as the most fun I’ve ever had at a race track. The Ford Performance engineers were targeting a car with not only power and poise but also uncompromised at-the-limit communication and confidence. And they nailed it.
Much ado has been made about the GT350R’s flat-plane V8, and deservedly so. The engine revs past 8,000 rpm, creating a glorious exhaust note while offering one of the broadest torque bands you’ll find in a modern, or vintage, automobile. The engine makes 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a slick-shifting Tremec 6-speed that sends power to a mechanical limited-slip differential.
The Shelby GT350R’s drivetrain is undeniably impressive, but it’s this Mustang’s handling capabilities that made me fall in love during the Ford GT Owners Rally in Utah. Hammering this car around Utah Motorsports Campus quickly illustrated both its ultimate grip and its confidence-inspiring behavior at the limit of traction.
In August of 2017 another gathering of Ford GTs and Ford GT owners came together in Park City, Utah. While this was the 12th Ford GT Owners Rally, it was the first to feature new Ford GTs alongside 2005 and 2006 models. I had every intention of driving my 2005 Ford GT to this rally. After all, it was the same road trip I’d made in my GT just 4 months earlier to attend the new Ford GT press launch.
Sadly, after planning to drive the GT my schedule shifted and I couldn’t afford the 2 extra days to make the trip up and back. I quickly purchased airplane tickets and wondered what kind of rental car I’d be stuck in while following GTs through the mountains of Utah. Then I had an idea. What if I contacted Ford and asked for one of the new Shelby GT350Rs? I hadn’t driven one yet, and I’d be showcasing the Shelby to a highly-targeted demographic of likely customers.