2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse: A Product of Cutting-Edge Wind Tunnel Technology

In the midst of the automotive industry’s intense focus on electric and autonomous vehicles, Ford’s Mustang development team has embarked on an impressive endeavor that showcases their commitment to pushing boundaries and achieving exceptional performance. Through the utilization of a state-of-the-art rolling-road wind tunnel capable of reaching speeds up to 200 mph, Ford has introduced the world to the awe-inspiring 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

Ford Mustang Dark Horse

This groundbreaking vehicle stands as the first and only one of its kind, representing a remarkable feat in automotive engineering and design. Let’s delve into the comprehensive details of Ford’s remarkable performance wind tunnel and its invaluable contribution to the development of both the Mustang Dark Horse and the new Mustang GT3.

Harnessing the Power of Wind Tunnel Testing

The development process of the 2024 Mustang involved an impressive investment of 250 hours in the wind tunnel, which provided essential data. Coupled with an additional 1200 hours of computer simulation, Ford’s engineers achieved unprecedented results in the creation of this exceptional vehicle. Their efforts were primarily focused on the design and optimization of the Mustang Dark Horse’s distinctive rear spoiler with a removable Gurney flap, exclusively featured in the Dark Horse Handling Pack. This innovative design grants the Mustang Dark Horse an extraordinary amount of downforce, surpassing any other Mustang equipped with a 5.0-liter engine. In fact, it offers approximately 3 percent more downforce than the Mach 1 Performance Pack, establishing it as a true powerhouse on the road.

Unveiling the Hidden Features

Among the hidden features of the Mustang Dark Horse lies a set of three discreet strakes positioned near each front wheel. These meticulously engineered vertical plates play a crucial role in disrupting the airflow beneath the vehicle, enabling other aerodynamic components, such as the spoiler, to generate enhanced downforce. The wind tunnel played a pivotal role in optimizing the Mustang Dark Horse’s distinctive front elements, including the bumper, valance, hood vents, brake ducts, and splitter. This meticulous refinement resulted in improved engine and brake cooling while simultaneously reducing front lift, enhancing both performance and safety.

Ford’s Pursuit of Aerodynamic Excellence

The wind tunnel responsible for facilitating the development of the Mustang Dark Horse is an integral component of Ford’s Vehicle Performance and Electrification Center (VPEC), which was established in recent years. The design phase for this cutting-edge facility began in 2014, with groundbreaking taking place in December 2017. Aligned with Ford’s “Aero First” design and engineering strategy, the wind tunnel’s first development test occurred in February 2021, marking a significant milestone in the ongoing pursuit of aerodynamic excellence.

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Unparalleled Wind Tunnel Capabilities

What sets this wind tunnel apart from others is its unique features and capabilities. It stands as the sole 200 mph rolling-road wind tunnel in the world, joining the ranks of only four such tunnels globally that boast an adaptable treadmill surface. This innovative design incorporates five separate belts, with one positioned at each wheel and a larger central belt, allowing for speeds of up to 155 mph and expedited vehicle installations. By replacing the existing 70,000-pound assembly with a specialized 90,000-pound single belt unit, the wind tunnel can accommodate speeds of 200 mph, opening up new possibilities for high-speed testing and analysis.

The Power Behind the Wind

To generate the necessary airflow resembling road speeds, a colossal 85,000-pound motor equipped with 12 carbon blades is employed within the wind tunnel. This impressive machinery consumes a staggering 5.3 mega-watts of power while generating a remarkable 5 million cubic feet of air per minute. To put this into perspective, the amount of airflow produced would be sufficient to fill the Goodyear blimp in just six seconds. Such immense power and air volume play a vital role in simulating realistic wind conditions for testing and analysis within the wind tunnel.

Precision Engineering for Accurate Testing

Every aspect of the wind tunnel is engineered with precision to ensure accurate testing and reliable data. The road surface within the wind tunnel is positioned on a turntable composed of nickel-plated steel panels, maintaining a slender 1.5 mm gap from the stationary platform. Operating at a consistent temperature of 72 degrees, even a slight 5-degree temperature variation is enough to close the minute gap. By adhering to such tight tolerances, the airflow remains undisturbed, creating an environment conducive to precise testing. Meticulous instruments are placed throughout the facility, ensuring repeatability and consistency in the obtained results. This meticulous approach leads to faster development times and facilitates the production of high-quality data.

Unleashing the Power of Crosswinds

A remarkable feature of the wind tunnel is its turntable’s capability to rotate both positively and negatively by 30 degrees. This functionality allows for the simulation of crosswinds, which played an instrumental role in the development of the Gurney flap incorporated into the Mustang Dark Horse’s spoiler. Ford reports that the inclusion of the Gurney flap exhibits its impact even at relatively low speeds of 30 mph. As a result, drivers are encouraged to explore the performance variations by experimenting with and without the Gurney flap during track sessions. Depending on the track layout or specific weather conditions, the absence of the Gurney flap may yield more favorable results, demonstrating the versatility and adaptability of this unique aerodynamic feature.

Unveiling the Future Possibilities

While our initial curiosity revolved around the vehicles subjected to the wind tunnel’s 200 mph speeds, Ford’s focus during the investigation primarily centered around the Bronco rather than the Mustang GT3 race car. Although it is disappointing not to have obtained additional details about the GT3, we can speculate that Ford’s newly developed wind tunnel treadmill could serve as their covert advantage in both the creation of the GT3 and their planned return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2024. With a highly skilled engineering team boasting a cumulative experience of nearly 100 years in operating a wind tunnel of its caliber, Ford is poised to leave a lasting impression on both the streets and the racetrack with the Mustang Dark Horse and Mustang GT3.


The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse stands as a testament to Ford’s unwavering commitment to innovation and performance. The utilization of a cutting-edge rolling-road wind tunnel has allowed Ford’s engineers to push the boundaries of aerodynamic design, resulting in a truly exceptional vehicle. From the distinctive rear spoiler to the hidden features optimizing downforce, every aspect of the Mustang Dark Horse showcases the meticulous attention to detail and relentless pursuit of excellence. With its unparalleled capabilities and the expertise of Ford’s engineering team, the wind tunnel continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of automotive engineering. As Ford embarks on new endeavors and looks toward the racetrack, the Mustang Dark Horse and the upcoming Mustang GT3 are poised to captivate enthusiasts with their remarkable performance and aerodynamic prowess.