After pushing the button on the dash, the 2024 Mustang RTR Spec 2 rumbles to life. Your scribe slips the shifter into first gear and pulls away with a swift snap of the throttle. One of the first modified S650s sprints away from the throngs of Orlando tourists as we seek a spot to snap some photos.
I’m not going to say it’s the best at anything but it’s really good at everything, which is the mantra of Ready to Rock —Vaughn Gittin Jr., RTR Vehicles
The time is short, as the car is on a tour visiting dealers, influencers, and vendors. While the moments are brief, it is clear that the suspension is taut without being abrupt, the shifter seems more mechanical and reassuring, and the car retains the balance of manners and performance we have quickly come to expect from the Mustang’s seventh generation, of which the Funhaver himself is a big fan.
A Favorite Mustang
“It’s like hands down my favorite Mustang ever,” Gittin says of the S650. “From looks like you know, it’s so modern. It’s so mean, sharp, and clean.”
The fusion of Gittin’s Ready To Rock aesthetic and the S650’s aerodynamically evolutionary styling is a long time coming. Having fallen for the Mustang after competing with one in Formula Drift competition, Gittin quickly forged a relationship with the Blue Oval, and eventually, he set out to add a different modern take on the Mustang’s styling and performance, which resulted in the formation of RTR Vehicles some 13 years ago.
Building that relationship with Ford certainly gave the RTR team a bit of insight into what was to come, as he and teammate Chelsea Denofa helped develop the optional of the factory Electronic Drift Brake, which allows every 2024 Mustang owner who opts for the Performance Pack options to get slideways and slay tires just like the man himself.
“It’s crazy,” Gittin tells us. “One thing is Ford’s trust in us, but the other is Ford’s ear to the ground on what’s going on in the culture, knowing what people want to be doing with their vehicles, and Ford giving that to them. It had to be hard to get that approved to happen, but the Mustang team just wanted to deliver the best product. You can’t say enough good things about them.”
The Design Phase
Despite getting an early look at the car during that development, Gittin and his team had to wait for the Ford CAD data like the rest of the aftermarket, but once they had the information, they hit the ground running.
“It started in CAD and then we received the very early build vehicle from Ford,” Gittin explains in a video walkaround. “(It was) an old engineering unit that we were then able to go from CAD to 3D printing to test-fitting everything to actual production tooling, prototyping, and then production.”
To tweak the latest Mustang with that RTR design language, Vaughn turned to his longtime designer, who doesn’t have a long history with the original pony car. He uses that to his advantage to keep the RTR look fresh.
“I love designing Mustangs because I don’t have preconceived thoughts like, Oh, my dad’s Mustang looked like this” Lindsay Ross, RTR Vehicles lead designer and creative director, explains. “Vaughn and I found ourselves in 2010 with his unique perspective of Mustang. I think it was a pivotal moment in both of our lives, but he was like, ‘You can decide to intentionally do something different than what you’ve seen, different than what’s expected,’ so it was easy to get behind that because I was like, ‘Hey, man, ‘I’m doing an explicitly different type of design,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the point.’”
Pushing The Style Envelope
Though the S650 styling was a surprise to some, the car’s visage dovetailed nicely with the RTR aesthetic, which tends to sharpen the factory lines.
“The design language, I would say, has been set for a little while. One of those elements, you might describe it as knife edging, meaning there’s not a lot of rounded sections, and the lines looks like blades or sharp sharpness,” Ross says. “We also never look back, we always look forward, so we don’t do retro. It’s sort of a bad word in the building.”
There is little retro about the S650, which still embraces some signature Mustang styling tenets but eschews some long-held habits like a double-brow dash. The latest Mustang RTR carries that familiar flavor but works to retain the aerodynamics that Ford engineers focused on.
“I immediately felt like it was a perfect opportunity to do something a little unexpected and just push the boundaries.” Ross tells us.
The RTR Touch
The grille lights, in particular, serve as the perfect frames for the new dual grille inlets feeding the dual-inlet intake on the Gen 4, which remains untouched at 480 horsepower in the Spec 2. Rather than simply a styling accent, the RTR grille lights drew on a familiar member of the Funhaver family but were crafted to retain the air speed feeding those dual airboxes.
“In the past, our signature grille lights have been mainly just aesthetic,” Gittin says. “This year we actually changed the aesthetic significantly, and we made them functional. These inlets go directly into the dual intakes of the new Mustang.”
“It was taken from the RTR-X,” Ross adds. “So, there’s a bit of our heritage because it’s not retro on the RTRs. It certainly isn’t because we started to do some funky stuff with the grille. We kept the grille pattern but we’ve played around with the scale and added a sort of a sheer extrusion to it. So it kind of accelerates and moves through the space of the grille, which is kind of fun when you see that from different angles. It’s a stylistic decision that was engineered for function. If you’re gonna’ play around with movement, you can go one of two ways – one way makes it more difficult to continue to maintain a velocity of airspeed, and one way can help that. So we obviously chose the way that improves the functionality. We applied that mentality to every part.”
While styling is a huge part of the Ready To Rock mission, that mission to improve functionality translated into the development of the RTR Tactical Performance Suspension, which endured 20,000 miles of testing on the street as well as ample testing on the racetrack at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research. There, a pro driver with significant car development experience assisted with sharpening the suspension’s performance.
“It was a lot of fun working with the RTR team to help them develop their Tactical Performance Suspension components and RTR Spec 2 package,” Billy Johnson, who piloted the Ford GT at Le Mans and assisted in the development of a wide range of Ford Performance vehicles, says. “It is so great to see how much time, engineering, development, and testing RTR puts into their products to provide the best performance for their customers. Their setup makes the S650 a blast on the street and track!”
The resulting suspension balances street manners with the adaptability to suit a wide range of fun-having activities. While yours truly only had the opportunity to briefly sample its street manners, it was sharper than the base Mustang GT, and the man himself says it is up for anything.
“It is an absolute weapon of a system. You have a complete adjustable balance in the car for street driving, twisties, drifting, drag racing, or whatever it is that you want to do, this car will do it. I’m not going to say it’s the best at anything but it’s really good at everything, which is the mantra of Ready to Rock,” Gittin says. “Basically, whatever you’re doing, with a couple of turns of the knobs on the dampers or a sway bar change you can get the balance of the car just the way you want it. When you buy this car from the dealer it leaves with a very nice neutral balance. It’s very easy for you to add oversteer, or if you’re going to put some super sticky tires on it you can also make the changes to get the car to rotate and drive the way that you want it to with this adjustable suspension.”
The 2024 Mustang RTR revs up the performance of the seventh-generation stallion and makes you want to engage that Drift Brake and get slideways when you get behind the wheel and have some fun — and it looks great doing it.
2024 Mustang RTR Spec 2 Upgrades
• RTR Upper Grille w/ Signature LED Accent Lighting
• RTR Lower Grille
• RTR Corner Grilles
• RTR Chin Splitter
• RTR Under-tray Extension
• RTR Hood Vent
• RTR Rocker Splitters
• RTR Rear Quarter Splitters
• RTR Decklid Spoiler
• RTR Wheels – Aero 5 – 20×9.5 33
• Nitto NT555 G2 Tires – 275/35/20
• TMPS & Lug Nut Kit
• RTR Rear Shock Mount Kit
• RTR Tactical Performance Lowering Springs
• RTR Tactical Performance Adjustable Front & Rear Sway Bars
• RTR Tactical Performance Adjustable Shocks & Struts
• RTR Performance Shift Knob
• RTR Floor Mats
• RTR Badging: Grille, Fender, Decklid
• Serialized Dash Plaque Engraved w/ Vaughn Gittin Jr. Signature
• Certificate of Authenticity
• RTR Graphics Package
• 3-Year/36,000-Mile Warranty