The GT-R's 5.0-liter Cammer motor makes 440 bhp, fed by twin throttle bodies. Inside, rollcage is ample, and information is presented formula car-style on reconfigurable steering-wheel display.
Pow! This Mustang lands like a pool cue between the eyes in a bar-room brawl, assaulting you with its outrageousness — and orangeness. Actually, the orange-and-black livery is an ode to Bud Moore's Boss 302 Mustang that was driven to glory in Trans-Am racing by Parnelli Jones. It's a show car first — said to be the ultimate expression of the new Mustang platform — and a track-tested trial balloon for Ford Racing's first turn-key competition car for the Grand-Am Cup's Grand Sport class. More on this later.
The GT-R, built under contract by Saleen Special Vehicles in Troy, Michigan, took about six months to complete, first taking form as a full-size clay from which molds were pulled to make its fiberglass body panels. At its heart is Ford's 5.0-liter Cammer engine, which is available separately from the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog as a $14,995 crate motor, complete with wiring harness and engine-management computer. The 440-bhp engine's architecture is based on the 4.6-liter 4-valve V-8, but special flanged cylinder liners increase bore size to 94.0 mm (up from 90.2) to arrive at the magic 5.0 number. Power is fed through a Ford Racing-supplied TTC T-56 6-speed transmission to a live axle with a 4.56:1 final drive.
Suspension is similar in concept to the stock Mustang, but far different in execution. The rear axle's links eschew rubber bushings for solid Heim joints, and the front chrome-moly tubular subframe serves as an attachment point for welded-up control arms. Shocks are fancy remote-reservoir units, and there are serious Brembo brakes at each corner, the 6-pot front calipers clamping 14.3-in. rotors, the 4-pot rears acting on 13.0-in. discs.
Both the GT-R Concept and Grand-Am-spec projects "were joined at the hip," says Primo Goffi, program manager of the Ford Racing Mustang GT. "There are a lot of similarities in the structure, and the fact that the 5.0-liter Cammer V-8 powers both cars, although the one that will be in the production car is an evolution of the one currently offered in the catalog." By the time you read this, two factory-backed cars and three privately owned cars should have made their competition debut, racing in the Grand-Am Cup at Daytona.
But back to the GT-R...it's time to drive. Cinch the 5-point belts, settle into the carbon-fiber Sparco seats and fire the raucous Cammer motor. Ease onto the track and take a few exploratory turns to get some heat into the 285/35ZR-19 Pirelli P Zeros (the 20-in. "show" wheels shod with racing slicks are safely tucked away on the transporter). And let 'er rip.
As the engine quickly drowns out the rattle of the solid-jointed suspension, you find there's ample grip tempered by strong understeer tendencies. Although there's a provision for a rear anti-roll bar, none was fitted at this date, perhaps a safety measure from an earlier event held at Irwindale Speedway in California (steadfast push is a great insurance policy to prevent overzealous journalists from backing a one-off prototype into the wall). Brakes are hugely effective (best when hot) with the adjustable bias set to enjoyably pitch the tail out under trail braking, but power doesn't quite correlate to the great sounds exploding from the sidepipes. "It seems to make more noise than it does speed," observed Mike, whose view was vindicated later as we performed our instrumented testing. Seems that...gasp...the stock GT was slightly quicker to both 60 mph and through the quarter, as the GT-R posted quick yet not blazing figures of 5.0 and 13.6 sec., respectively. It felt as though camshafts optimized for high-rpm power, and a high-rpm stumble (or overzealous rev limiter?) that didn't allow the engine to run cleanly conspired to hold this steed back.
The GT-R did make quick work of our slalom, posting a rapid 69.0-mph speed and respectable stops for a non-ABS equipped car. Not bad for a mechanical objet d'art that can simmer under the display-stand lights and make showgoers all slack-jawed one moment, and launch into full racetrack fury the next.
It's great to take in all the GT-R's beautifully crafted details; it'd be even better to be behind the wheel of a fully sorted Grand-Am Mustang, diving off the Daytona banking to the infield. Yet ultimately, the real winner may be the guy (or gal) wanting to increase the performance of his/her 2005 GT. Said Goffi: "We will be offering any and all key components making up the race car, for not only people who want to build their own version, but for those who want to use these parts on their street-driven Mustangs." Ford faithful, say amen to that.
SVT: Alive and Kicking
Photo's from Autoindex
The relaunch of the Mustang Cobra at the New York Auto Show is a coming-out party of sorts for Ford's Special Vehicle Team, which has had no product on the market since the end of the '04 model year.
That Ford no longer marketed the Mustang Cobra, SVT Focus or Lightning pickup, combined with the early retirement of SVT director and veteran O. John Coletti, led to rampant speculation outside the company that the plug would be pulled on the operation. Further fueling such rumors is the renewed relationship between Ford and Carroll Shelby. Could the Shelby name supplant the SVT moniker?
Not so, according to Coletti's successor, Hau Thai-Tang, the chief engineer of Team Mustang, who not only takes over SVT, but also the Advanced Product Creation group previously headed by Chris Theodore. APC is responsible for pre-program engineering on future models as well as putting together Ford's show cars.
"SVT is still alive and kicking," Thai-Tang said. "We need to do a better job of getting the message out." Which is hard to do when there are no cars on the street. But it's not as if SVT has been idle. It was charged with the monumental task of taking the Ford GT from concept to reality in two years so finished cars would be on hand for Ford's centennial celebration in June 2003.
The work on the GT, plus a gap in the cycle plan, left SVT without resources and cars geared toward the unit's traditional market. "Ford was going through a difficult period," Thai-Tang explained. "We needed to convince ourselves and the rest of the world that we know how to do great cars. That was the mission of the GT. Our challenge from our CEO [Bill Ford] was to do it and get it out on time for the centennial. We did that. I think we established credibility internally and externally. Now you will see our focus shift back to more affordable cars."
The re-emergence of SVT under Thai-Tang will be a performance division with more continuity in its offerings. This will be done by incorporating SVT cars and trucks into the product development cycle, a departure from past practice.
"The original business model was a small opportunistic team that took an existing car and added parts out of the Ford Racing parts catalog to make niche products that sell at a higher margin," Thai-Tang says. Last year, SVT looked at doing only rear-drive upscale vehicles. Thai-Tang said SVT will continue to look across the entire spectrum of Ford vehicles. There will be SVT versions if it is "consistent with the brand. We want to build on the performance, substance, an element of exclusivity and value."
And for the first time, SVT will also look at doing performance versions of Lincoln and Mercury models, although they won't be branded SVT in the marketplace. Also left to be settled will be Shelby's role in performance versions of existing models as well as niche cars like the GR-1 coupe.
"We're trying to consolidate all the performance engineering in SVT. In the past, vehicles like the Mercury Marauder or the Mustang Mach I were executed by the platform team, but they will now be tuned by SVT."
Thai-Tang notes: "The Mustang will be the first example where we thought about the potential performance derivatives as we were laying out the base car. This not only works from an engineering resources standpoint, but also in manufacturing.
"Over the past 11 years, we have built this brand up from scratch and have demonstrated that we can build great cars," Thai-Tang said. "We can make affordable cars that are aspirational and that's what we will continue to do." — Matt DeLorenzo