A few months back, Ford Motor Company trademarked the name Mustang Dark Horse. To many, this was thought to be related to the contest of picking the newest name for the Black Accent package. Our assumption could not have been further from the truth. In fact, there’s a likelihood the contest provided the perfect guise for Ford to trademark Mustang Dark Horse under our noses.
The truth is that Ford had a major trick up their sleeve with an all-new, powerful seventh generation Mustang that could arguably be meant to replace the Mach 1, or possibly even the discontinued Shelby GT350. Now that the Trojan horse has entered the arena, we know that Ford had been working on this killer S650 Mustang that can hold its own on the street and in track form for three years.
While the Mustang has remained the best selling sports coupe seven years in a row, it has also had to compete on a level that is far behind what most sports cars see. The GT350 and GT500 were a milestone in continuing the legacy of Ford on-track superiority against its rivals. However, after the GT350 was discontinued, there has not been a “middle ground” car that bridges the gap between Mustang GT and the halo Shelby GT500. That was up until September 14th, 2022 when Ford announced a new, sinister Mustang that came equipped with 500 horsepower and a TREMEC manual transmission.
“For decades, Mustang has competed against the most premium brands on the greatest world stages and won,” says Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company. “We surprised everyone, and we’re going to surprise them again with a track-capable Mustang that puts a new level of performance, styling and American engineering in the hands of everyday customers who still want the thrill and excitement of a V8 sports car.”
Creating The Dark Horse
Ford engineers, designers, and experts worked to create the Mustang Dark Horse to meet the needs of what enthusiasts desired in an ultimate street and track car. The Dark Horse is more than just bold new graphics for 2024, the car is the textbook definition for a high performance car with intelligent aerodynamics and performance all packed into one chassis. Taking cues from its Shelby counterparts, the Dark Horse is even available with carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution.
We’ve taken the all-new Mustang, the best of our new 5.0-liter V8 performance, and added power, improved the aero, tires, steering and provided an interactive cockpit to create a Mustang that goes beyond any 5.0-liter Mustang before it. Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang chief nameplate engineer.
Although the Dark Horse lacks the exotic sounds of a 5.2-liter Voodoo flat-plane crank engine, it still provides a powerful punch of close to 500 horsepower. The new Gen-4 Coyote engine found in the Dark Horse has been revised to squeeze a few more horsepower than the stock seventh generation Mustang. Ford was quick to point out that the Dark Horse’s Coyote engine would utilize connecting rods found in the 760-horsepower Ford Performance Mustang Shelby GT500, which makes us wonder with twin 80mm throttle bodies and GT500 rods, could this engine be built for boost?
Staying in tune with what Ford fans have been asking for, the good folks at the Blue Oval decided to have a manual transmission option. Unlike the 2024 Mustang GT, which will receive a MT82, the Mustang Dark Horse will get a major dose of precise shifts through the use of a TREMEC TR-3160 transmission. Drivers will clutch a 3D-printed titanium shift knob in their hand, as they bang gears on track. Transmission fluid is cooled through an exclusive Dark Horse transmission cooler. For those looking for less foot action and more hands on wheel action, a 10-speed automatic option will utilize sport paddle shifters for on-track performance and feel.
NACA ducts feeding into the front brake calipers provide a throwback to when the 2000 Cobra R was introduced. Continuing this cooling trend, Ford added an auxiliary engine oil cooler, rear differential cooler, and a unique lighter-weight radiator that provides maximum cooling capabilities when paired to its high performance fans.
More Than Just A Power Horse
The Mustang Dark Horse was intended to be an on-track weapon, so naturally it would receive a revised suspension setup and unique chassis tuning compared to its seventh generation siblings. To make sure late braking is a capable track function, massive Brembo 6-pistons calipers provide plenty of stopping power up front. Aside from larger rear sway bars and heavy duty front shocks, the Dark Horse sports a strut tower brace and K-brace for enhanced handling and feel.
Putting down the power without losing traction, is a Torsen rear differential. That same power is then transmitted towards the 19×9.5-inch front wheels and 19×10-inch rear wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires. The Mustang Dark Horse offers standard MagneRide shocks that are capable of monitoring wheel and tire movement 1,000 times per second.
For those looking for yet another edge on the competition, there is an available Handling Package that improves aerodynamics with a rear wing that incorporates a Ford GT inspired Gurney Flap. The Handling Package also adds stiffer springs, larger front and rear sway bars, and wider Pirelli Trofeo tires. Wheel selection on the Handling Package adds an extra inch of width on all four wheels.
Beast On The Outside, Beauty On The Inside
While the exterior brings a sinister appearance to the table, the interior provides a touch of class. Drivers will grip a thick track-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel that is wrapped in suede and finished with Bright Indigo Blue accents. A drive mode button is within a short reach, that allows drivers access to quickly choose their desired driving mode.
A combination of 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster paired with a 13.2-inch SYNC 4 center stack combines to give the driver a digital experience. Blue stitching continues throughout the interior striking the door panels and seats, gear shift gaiter, and center console.
“It’s more than a new name. Dark Horse brings a new design language to Mustang that is refined yet perfectly suited to its dual purpose of street and track performance,” says Joel Piaskowski, global director, Ford Design. “The visual changes, both inside and out, convey that Dark Horse has a directed performance focus. The mechanical changes reinforce the purpose of Dark Horse, providing the driver with increased confidence and competence.”
To finalize the Mustang Dark Horse package, a series of exclusive bits round off the iteration. A gloss black grille with trapezoidal nostrils and lower front bumper with high gloss fangs insinuate the front end. Lower side skirts, fixed rear wing, race-inspired diffuser and darkened quad exhaust tips showcase Ford’s desire for the Dark Horse to replicate the coming Dark Horse race models. Finally a new set of Dark Horse badges separate the car from any other Mustangs on the market.
This is the first time for Mustang that we’ve ever had a forward-facing horse. It’s aggressive, a bit sinister and it’s coming from the shadows head-on to win. Joel Piaskowski, global director, Ford Design.
The Lynchpin To Ford’s Next-Generation Of Racing
The Mustang Dark Horse is more than just a replacement for the Mach1 or legendary Shelby GT350. It is the lynchpin to the seventh generation Mustang being involved in global motorsports. It’s the chassis that is able to bridge the gap between street and track. A touch of class, a chassis of brilliance, and the power that enthusiasts crave. We look forward to seeing the 2024 Mustang Dark Horse prowl the streets and rail through the road courses.