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New Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 strikes the right chord

Ford sound engineers fine-tuned engine note to create emotional response

Published: August 11, 2019, 10:30 PM
Updated: August 17, 2019, 1:18 AM

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

One of the things that Ford attempts to do with its Mustang to revive nostalgia is to create not just a car that looks similar to the original, but also one that sounds like it.

2019 Ford Shelby GT350

But the science behind the head-turning sound dates back far before the first Mustang of 1965, to the early days of man when the reaction to loud noises got hardwired into our brains. It’s based on autonomic response (a reaction from the autonomic nervous system, which largely acts unconsciously on our heart rate, respiratory rate and even sexual arousal, to name but a few) and 18th century music critic Friedrich Marpung was among the first to document the connection between different sounds and people’s emotional responses. Today, marketing execs use sound engineers to enhance sounds that make consumers have a pleasant response to everything from movie scores to a steak sizzle.

2019 Ford Shelby GT350

“Our connection to sound begins in our mother’s womb long before other senses,” said Steve Venezia, a veteran Los Angeles-based television production engineer. “And later in life, sound is one of the most powerful senses that creates lasting memories, like a song that takes you back to a happy time in your life.”

Venezia adds that the trick to creating an emotionally compelling sound lies in starting with an authentic base sound (on which to build with other layers of sound until the right “note” is reached), which is what Ford engineers did in trying to create an exhaust note for the new Mustang Shelby GT350 that would elicit memories of the original 1965 model.

“We’re probably the few engineers here who do not have to design to a number or a specification,” said Hani Ayesh, Ford exhaust development engineer. “Instead, we work to identify that signature sound DNA that connects drivers to the emotional expectation they have for a specific car.”

Of course, the 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 has the added advantage of being fitted with a 5.2-litre V-8, which is close in displacement to the 1965 Shelby GT350’s Windsor-built 4.7-litre V-8, so it has some of the inherent sound qualities in it.