To normal folks, the 2020 Ford Shelby GT350 Heritage Edition is just a paint job. To Mustang people, though, the arrival of Wimbledon White and Guardsman Blue is a moment they've been waiting for since Ford reintroduced the GT350 badge. That’s right, fan service happens in the auto industry, too.
The reality is that the combo of Wimbledon White paint and Guardsman Blue stripes are about as important as liveries get to Ford. Mustang fans venerate this look. First introduced 55 years ago on the original GT350, Ford is officially rolling out the pairing for the first time in decades. But sadness tinges this celebration of heritage, as 2020 also marks the last year of production for the GT350. Obviously, a quick spin was in order. While the GT350 Heritage Edition is pretty much the same car underneath, the little things make this Mustang damn special.
While the GT350 team wanted to do something special to see off the track-focused Mustang, it needed done right. Adding a new color/stripe package to the assembly line isn't as simple as filling a tank with a new shade of paint. Ford actually had to pull a color from the palette for 2020 (the sacrificial lamb was last year's least requested paint, Orange Fury) to allow Wimbledon White, which the company hasn't used since the 10 Millionth Mustang, to make the assembly line.
That bit was easy compared to what it took for the stripes. Despite the shade's importance to Shelby Mustangs, Ford didn't have the color on file. Instead, the Blue Oval had to go to Las Vegas-based Shelby American for the original color swatch, and then task its stripe supplier, Kay Graphics, with translating that aged sample to a modern piece of vinyl in time for the 2020 GT350 to enter production.
With that bit done, the Mustang team also addressed the Shelby snake badges at both ends of the GT350. Standard cars get a silver badge, while the racier GT350R wears a red badge – Heritage Edition models feature the iconic blue on these two badges.
Thank God, It's The Same
Aesthetics aside, this is the same vehicle the media and owners have raved over since its debut. Packing a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V8 with a flat-plane crank, a stratospheric redline, and 526 horsepower, all channeled to the rear wheels via a snickety-snack six-speed manual, the GT350 remains the ultimate expression of a driver's car (sorry GT500 fans).
The critically acclaimed Voodoo engine revs ferociously and makes some of the best V8 noises on the planet, but it also demands attention from the driver. With all 429 pound-feet of torque arriving at just 4,750 rpm, the onus is on the pilot to keep this engine on the boil – below that figure, and despite the 5.2-liter's urgency while revving, there's less oomph than you'd expect. North of 5,000 rpm is where this engine is happiest, and since the redline is a shocking 8,250 rpm, there's still plenty of revs at the driver's disposal past the initial sweet spot.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Ford Mustang
But what was notable, as I piloted the GT350 along the curving roads near Dexter, Michigan, is how different it feels compared to the new big fish in the lineup, the GT500. The cars behave similarly in the corners, but the different engine, the lack of a supercharger providing a broader torque curve, and the manual transmission mean that as quick and capable as the newer model is, the older car is unquestionably more involving. Yes, the GT500 is faster and without doubt more capable on the track – as Senior Editor Jeff Perez noted in his review, the GT500 feels more like a supercar.
But while you'll probably set a faster lap time in the supercharged snake, it's the GT350 that will put the bigger smile on your face. You simply feel more involved in the process, which isn't all that common nowadays, even among performance cars. Everything, from the banshee-like wail of the engine as it climbs past 8,000 rpm to the way the gearbox feels as you execute a perfect rev-matched downshift, happens with the driver not just front and center, but as an essential part of the performance.
But while I'll miss 99 percent of the GT350, there are definitely some things I'm happy to see in the rearview mirror. Okay, so really, just one: tramlining. While Ford introduced some improvements to the suspension geometry for the 2020 GT350R (using lessons learned developing the GT500), this is still a car that wants to follow the shape of the road. I tackled the same roads in this car's supercharged sibling a few weeks prior – the GT350 was definitely more fun, but I constantly had to fight the car over even slightly deformed roads, which kept me from feeling confident enough to go faster.
Beyond that, it's hard to fault the GT350 line. And there's no way to fault the Heritage Edition package. It looks spectacular, and I totally get why this $1,965 (priced to match the first year for the nameplate) treatment has become the most popular way to order a 2020 GT350 or GT350R. That sum, of course, is in addition to the car's $60,440 starting price.
While Ford stopped accepting GT350 orders from dealers on September 30, it will continue building the car until the end of November. So if you were hoping to snag the last of the GT350s, I suggest you get moving.
Gallery: 2020 Ford Shelby GT350R Heritage Edition: First Drive Review
2020 Ford Shelby GT350R Heritage Edition