For the very first time in the auto industry, a major automaker will offer carbon fibre wheels as standard equipment on one of its cars. We’re talking about Ford and the new, track-oriented Mustang Shelby GT350R, which will sport unique wheels developed by Ford Performance and Australian supplier Carbon Revolution.
Up to this day, only Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg has offered carbon fibre wheels – as an option.
Lighter wheels for superior performance
Rigid, lightweight, and weighing just 8.2kg instead of the usual 15kg, the carbon fibre wheels on the Mustang Shelby GT350R help deliver faster acceleration and better handling. They also provide a reduction in rotational inertia of more than 40%.
Manufacturing carbon fibre wheels is a very rigorous process with a number of crucial steps including:
- Creating the preformed internal carbon structure, composed of precisely manufactured carbon strands arrayed into woven fabrics;
- Placing these elements into a mould using state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques;
- Embedding an RFID chip with a unique tracking number in this structure, and individually entering each wheel into a quality assurance system;
- Infusing the assembled structure with resin and curing it at high temperatures.
Ford explains that 61 individual checks and more than 246,000 data points are logged before the cured wheels are released from the machine. They are also analyzed using a 3D computerized tomography imaging process in which more than 18,000 X-ray images are taken. The result is a one-piece wheel that ensures maximum strength, eliminating the need to bond or glue the wheel’s spokes and barrel components together.
“The GT350R wheels and tires were developed to be the most track-capable parts we’ve ever produced,” said Adam Wirth, chassis supervisor, Ford Performance. “The carbon fibre wheels reduce vehicle weight by 60 lbs compared to aluminum, yet are stiffer for better steering response.”
Carbon Revolution and aerospace technology
The carbon fibre wheels on the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R use technical processes that aerospace companies have relied on for decades. The thermal barrier coating system developed by Carbon Revolution is a ceramic plasma arc spray on the front wheels that emulates the process used on the original Space Shuttle main engine turbine blades. The goal is to withstand extreme heat.