While the first model year of the next generation Ford Mustang doesn’t feature the GT500, GT350 or Mach 1 models, Ford wasn’t going to launch the S650 without one special version to serve as the 2024 model year flagship. The Ford Mustang Dark Horse is the premium performance 2024 Mustang, with two distinct versions. The regular Dark Horse is the closest thing you can get to a street-legal race car, with 500 horsepower from its uniquely tuned and equipped 5.0L V8. And it comes with a TREMEC TR-3160 6-speed. Then there’s the Dark Horse R, the race-ready Mustang. Ford worked with IMSA to create an exclusive racing series just for these special models. The Mustang Challenge Series will feature five events in 2024, with plans for more in 2025.
The street Dark Horse isn’t all that different from the Dark Horse R. The biggest variation is the lack of certain race-oriented equipment and safety hardware. Oh, and that the Dark Horse R isn’t street legal. But still the street Dark Horse has brake cooling ducts, heavy duty coolers for oil and transmission and even a differential cooler. It’s a Mustang built for the enthusiast who enjoys autocrossing, track days and even hitting the quarter-mile for some straight-line fun. A full breakdown of the Dark Horse from its original debut can be read HERE.
The specific Dark Horse Mustang we show in this article is actually VIN 002, the second Dark Horse off the production line. For now, it resides inside the expansive corral of the Dream Giveaway Group. Dream Giveaway creates special vehicle giveaways that focus on helping fund vetted charities through funds raised by selling entries to win said vehicles. For a fraction of the Dark Horse’s $71,000 sticker price, you can buy an unlimited number of entries for a chance to bring the Mustang home as well as a new Ford F-150 Lightning along with the money to cover the tax bill for becoming the new owner of these awesome vehicles.
Dream Giveaway’s Christopher Philip was extended an invite to us for a visit to the Dream Giveaway showroom in Florida to check out the Dark Horse in person.
The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse package comes standard with specially tuned performance handling package. Not only does this mean different physical components than the standard Mustang GT, but also special tuning for the computer controlled Magneride damping system. The Ford engineers were especially proud of this, achieving the unheard of goal of increasing handling ability without seeing a corresponding loss in ride quality. This specific car also has the Dark Horse Handling Package that further increases the car’s handling prowess to make it the best handling Mustang to ever leave the production line.
Instead of the regular TREMEC manual transmission that the base and GTs receive, the Dark Horses (both the street and R versions) are equipped with a TREMEC TR-3160 6-speed. This transmission was engineered to reliably take a beating on and off the race track, and it comes with a factory transmission cooler, not usually seen with manual transmissions which is particularly helpful in road racing conditions.
Here is a subtle but cool feature of the S650 Mustang that shows what kind of enthusiasts work on the Mustang’s design inside Ford. This simple add-on to the rear window is easy to miss at first glance. A tribute to all generations of Ford Mustang, the silhouette shows every generation built including the S650.
The S650 Mustang features a radical new headlight design. Thanks to LED and HID technology, you don’t necessarily need large size headlights. The new headlight design gives the S650 a kind of squinty look.
The street Dark Horse features 19-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero 255 wide front and 275 wide rear tires. For customers who check the box for the Dark Horse Handling Package, you get 305 width front and 315 width rear Pirelli P Zero Trofeo RS that were designed specifically for the Dark Horse. The brakes are also specially designed for the Dark Horse through collaboration between Ford and Brembo. The calipers are six-piston units front and rear, with massive 19-inch diameter rotors up front and 13.9-inch rotors in back.
Available on the Dark Horse is the special Blue Ember Metallic paint color. At first it looks like a typical blue-gray shade of blue, but at certain angles under different light you can see the ember part of the paint’s name with the red metallic embedded in the paint. We only got to see it under regular shop lighting, but it left us anxious to see what it looks like in person out in the sun!
The Dark Horse 5.0L Coyote V8 isn’t the same as the regular GT 5.0L V8. To start, there’s a the dual-inlet intake manifold. For extra durability and strength it has forged connecting rods like the GT500 5.2L Predator V8. Then it gets performance camshafts with different exhaust lobe patterns. On top of that there is a Dark Horse specific ECU tune that gives the engine a 500 horsepower rating and 418 lb-ft torque. Another part of the dual-inlet intake manifold is both inlets are fed via ducts that come in from grille inlets that create a true ram air feed for the 5.0L V8.
From the rear you can see the massive rear spoiler and spoiler/ground effects that are functional designs to further assist handling at speed on the track.
Inside, the Dark Horse gets some special treatments to set it apart from the regular Mustang. The steering wheel is leather wrapped with a flat bottom. Special suede inserts on the optional RECARO seats and door panels with color-keyed leather and aluminum foot pedals further set it apart.
While parking/e-brake handles are pretty much gone now, replaced with push-button electronic activation, the Dark Horse features a traditional hand brake lever. While it still electronically controls the brakes, it’s not just a simple on-off setup but has capability to be a hand/drift brake. It’s activated through the interface screen. To make sure the function was just right, Ford worked with driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. on the calibrations for the feature.
The Dark Horse optional handling package features a specially designed rear spoiler with a “Gurney Flap” designed to boost spoiler performance.
Part of the Dark Horse package are subtle interior and exterior accents meant to compliment the car’s design.
Another small but very cool part of the Dark Horse package is the specially machined titanium shift knob on the TREMEC transmission. It may look smooth in photos, but when you take hold of the shifter you can feel that it has just the right amount of surface machine to provide grip while shifting gears.
In case you’re curious, here is the window sticker for Dark Horse 002 so you can see everything it comes with!