Dark Horse’s Hot Upgrade Puts Ford GT-Inspired Metal In Your Hand

Dark Horse’s Hot Upgrade Puts Ford GT-Inspired Metal In Your Hand

Ford brought a bit of shock and awe to its 2024 Mustang reveal presentation, known as The Stampede, when it revealed an all-new performance model called Mustang Dark Horse. Sporting a track-tuned suspension, a six-speed manual transmission, and a 500-plus-horsepower Coyote under the hood. Made evident by its name, this package is dark, sinister, and loaded with extras.

I had an affinity for the titanium exhaust on the Ford GT, specifically the oxidized look after it was operated at high temperatures. Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer

The company made a big deal about saving the manual transmissions with the seventh-generation stallion, and to make Dark Horse special, engineers were looking for a way to take advantage of the company’s impressive 3D-printing capabilities, which include more than 90 3D printers globally producing parts and tools. That turned out to be a shift knob that was a passion project for the man leading the development of the S650 program.

Dark Horse

Ford engineers sought to incorporate 3D printing into the 2024 Mustang program to flex the capability of the company’s more than 90 3D printers. They did so by creating a trick titanium shift knob inspired by the exotic exhaust on the Ford GT supercar. (Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company)

“One thing on the car that I’m proud of and would only exist because of my involvement from start to finish is the 3D-printed, pure titanium, blue-anodized shift knob on the Dark Horse,” Ed Krenz, Ford Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer, told us. “When we started the discussion with wanting to do something with additive manufacturing. We wanted the shift knob on the Dark Horse to celebrate the approaching end of manuals. We wanted to reward that notion.”

The manual in question is the vaunted TREMEC TR3160 six-speed previously deployed in the Shelby GT350 and Mach 1 during the S550 era. Like that transmission, the Dark Horse shift knob draws on some heritage from a previous Ford product, but well outside the Mustang lineup.

“I was the chief engineer on Ford GT, so I had an affinity for the titanium exhaust on the Ford GT, specifically the oxidized look after it was operated at high temperatures,” Krenz explains. “It got that bluish orange sort of tinge to it. That became the inspiration for the color that we tried to achieve with anodizing the titanium knob.”

During his time leading the Ford GT program, current Ford Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer Ed Krenz always loved the blue-orange color supercar’s titanium exhaust took on after heat cycling. That color inspired the Notorious Blue shift knob, interior accents, and brake caliper options on Dark Horse.

Before jumping into a metal shift knob on the new Mustang performance option, the engineering team knew there were some challenges. Anyone who has driven a 2001 Bullitt in a warm climate knows that grabbing a fistful of shift knob on a sunny day can offer a painful surprise if you don’t consider the ambient temperature.

“Obviously, we’ve tested a metal shift knob in Arizona. It gets hot, and we were fully aware of that,” Krenz said. “We asked every enthusiast and Cars & Coffee people and anybody we could find, ‘Would you still want a cool feature like a titanium shift knob even if it meant on some hot days you maybe had to put a rag over the shift knob for a minute?’ Universally the answer was, ‘Absolutely, that is totally worth it.’”

Dark Horse

The prototype Dark Horse shown at the reveal seemed to still have a standard shift knob on its TREMEC 3160 handle, but this rendering shows what the Notorious Blue shift knob and accents will look like in the car.

While it could be hot in the summer, the titanium knob is undeniably cool no matter the temperature, especially when you consider its inspirations. However, its appearance is only part of the shift knob story. It was built using the advantages of 3D printing to potentially mitigate some of that heat and make the most of Ford’s prodigious manufacturing capabilities.

“Because the part is 3D-printed, we were able to sculpt the interior of the knob in a way that minimizes the thermal mass. We actually created inside the shift knob itself some cooling fins,” Krenz said. “Now, you could argue how effective they really are, but at least it’s an indication of something you could only do with 3D printing. It’s a nod to the fact that you need you do want some cooling — convection, radiated cooling — but it was well worth the trouble. The TREMEC transmission is special, and with the Dark Horse, we want to reward the manual customer.”

Anyone who still loves three-pedal driving deserves a bit of a reward, and drawing on the color of the searing Ford GT exhaust helps bring a splash of extra panache to the already sexy Dark Horse theme.

Dark Horse

The Notorious Blue titanium shift knob on the Dark Horse package celebrates those who chose to row gears with the car’s optional TREMEC 3160 six-speed manual.

“The inspiration came from the GT and once we set that color on the shift knob itself, that set the entire inspiration for the accent color on the car, inside and out. We call it Notorious Blue and it runs throughout the car. The interior of the Dark Horse is pretty much blacked out,” Krenz added. “Anything bright has gone black — to the extent that we could — and we carry that Notorious Blue thread stitching materials throughout the interior, and then even on the Brembo calipers coming in that color as well on the Appearance Package. So the whole inspiration behind the accent colors all ties back to that shift knob inspired by the Ford GT exhaust system.”

And, even if it gets hot in the sun, what could be cooler than that?

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About the author

Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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