Performance Cars

Ford's Shelby GT500 leverages supercomputers to go fast and stay cool

Ford's engineers used wildly powerful computers to help the GT500 stay cool and planted on the road.

The GT500 is the most powerful Mustang ever and keeping it cool at wide open throttle requires some seriously smart design.

Ford

Ford's forthcoming GT500 Mustang promises to be the fastest and most technologically advanced Mustang ever. To help with the "fastest" part of that equation, the GT500 has a supercharged V8 that produces more than 700 horsepower on 93-octane pump fuel. The technological part requires a bit more explaining.

See, one of the unfortunate byproducts of producing all that sweet, sweet horsepower is the production of massive amounts of heat. How massive? Try more than 230 kilowatts -- that's more than 784,000 BTUs per hour, in old money.

Getting rid of that heat efficiently and in a way that doesn't compromise the GT500's aerodynamics is a fairly complicated problem to solve. So complicated that Ford opted to involve a few supercomputers to help.

All cars are cooled by air, and managing how that air moves through the various cooling devices determines how efficiently they can do their job. Of course, on a car like the GT500, you have a radiator to keep the engine itself cool. Then you have an intercooler which helps drop the temperature of the air that the engine breathes.

Ford's supercomputers use their vast amounts of processing power to help determine the optimum shape for cooling and aero on Ford's fastest Mustangs.

Ford

On their own, packaging these inside the aggressively-styled nose of the Mustang takes a little finesse. Each needs to be large enough to do its job, but small enough to leave room for the other cooling pack components. The GT500 has air conditioning, so that means a condenser is mounted in front of the radiator, then there is a transmission cooler, an engine oil cooler and so on.

Each of these matrices is a different thickness and causes an obstruction to incoming air that affects the component behind it. This is where the supercomputer comes in. First, the computer helps find the optimum size and shape of the grille area for the Mustang, and then it will help determine the ideal placement and size of the various cooling components.

Now, with the engine's need for air satiated, the supercomputer calculates the flow through the grille, the cooling components, and out of the hood vent, the cowl and other ducts in the car. These all affect the car's wind resistance and the amount of aerodynamic downforce the vehicle produces.

This is the GT500's aero buck. It's a test mule that Ford's designers can use to quickly check any potential aerodynamic changes. It's not pretty, but it's helpful.

Ford

The temperature of the air coming out of these ducts affects this as well. As you'd imagine, air coming out of the hood vent is good and hot after having gone through a half-dozen radiators and around a massive roaring engine. The supercomputer accounts for this.

Of course, not even a supercomputer can nail things on the first go so the ability to rapidly design, model, and then build and test parts in a wind tunnel and then on-track is critical. To that end, Ford employed the use of in-house 3D printers that allowed its engineers to design, for example, new winglets that mount on the bumper to increase front downforce. Ford ended up going through more than 10 different designs for these "splitter wickers" before finding the right one.

Long gone are the days of the Ford Thunderbolt, when making a faster car meant taking a standard car, stripping weight out of it, tossing in the biggest engine you had and telling the customer good luck if they had problems. Ford understands that not only does its GT500 have to go like hell on a race track or a drag strip, but it also has to start every time you push the button.

Based on the engineering that Ford's showing us here, it looks like we have plenty to be excited about come summertime.