U.S.A.:2004 Charting the Changes
Car & Driver
The first three retro-rocket GT supercars surfaced in June, and regular production will begin next spring. The GT has a high-tech aluminum space frame (see Technical Highlight) and a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 good for 500 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. The slightly more pedestrian Focus gets new steering knuckles and struts for improved handling and an optional 145-hp, 2.3-liter Mazda four-cylinder; the SVT Focus gets new wheels and an optional European Appearance kit. Taurus interiors feature a redesigned steering wheel and gauges and a passenger weight sensor for the airbag system. Minor powertrain retuning improves efficiency and smoothness. Laminated safety side windows and front-seat side airbags are available on the Crown Victoria.
A bigger, fancier F-150 pickup arrives boasting a new 24-valve 5.4-liter V-8 and fully boxed chassis frame rails, standard rear-hinged half-doors on extended- and regular-cab models, plus a version with four standard-size doors. Five trim levels will be offered. F-series Super Duty pickups get an electric sliding rear window and a new Harley-Davidson version. Ranger pickups feature a more aggressive grille and hood design and minor interior upgrades. The Explorer Sport Trac interior is also restyled. The Freestar is a rebadged and heavily revised Windstar minivan. Front, rear, and interior styling are new, and the third-row seat now folds to make a flat floor. Curtain airbags for outboard passengers, a power liftgate, and a choice of 3.9- or 4.2-liter V-6 engines are offered. E-series van buyers can now choose a 6.0-liter diesel V-8 and second-row captain’s chairs. Escapes make do with new luxury- and trim-package revisions until the four-cylinder gas-electric hybrid version arrives mid-2004. Explorers can be had with bucket seats and a console in the middle row. The lowest-priced Excursion model is rebadged the XLS.
Unchanged: Thunderbird, Mustang, SVT Mustang Cobra, Expedition, SVT F-150 Lightning.
Dead: ZX2, Th!nk City, Windstar, Explorer Sport.
TECHNICAL HIGHLIGHT Developing the GT supercar in 15 months involved copious innovation, especially in the design of the aluminum chassis. The roll-bonded floor panels start with two sheets of aluminum with a mesh of graphite sandwiched between them. Hot, high-pressure rollers forge the sheets together wherever the graphite isn’t, and then compressed air expands the sheets where the graphite was, leaving a rigid, quasi-quilted panel. These panels are then friction-stir-welded to the center tunnel. A tool rotating at 10,000 rpm is pressed to a seam, causing the metal to meld into a smooth, continuous seam. This protects passengers from the tunnel-mounted ship-in-a-bottle fuel tank. All the tank’s vapor recovery, filtering, pickup tubes, and related plumbing are assembled, and then the long 17.5-gallon tank is blow-molded around them. The tank is fed by a capless fuel-filler tube (a spring-loaded internal flap seals the filler and is opened by inserting the nozzle). And finally, the large super-plastic formed aluminum body panels are attached using “plus nut” fasteners, extra-long mounting nuts that are computer milled to provide an ideal mating surface.
TECHNICAL HIGHLIGHT (TRUCK) Ford has set apart the new 300-hp, 5.4-liter V-8 in the F-150 pickup by adding a three-valve head and variable valve timing. So what’s new about that? The 5.4 is the first mass-produced engine to pair cam phasing with single overhead camshafts, meaning the two intake and one exhaust valve per cylinder shift jointly. The system precludes altering valve overlap, but Ford claims shifting intake and exhaust valves at once produces most of the power and emissions benefit of separate cam phasers. Other 5.4 tricks: magnesium cam covers, elongated spark plugs that allow tighter spacing of the valves, and secondary throttle flaps in the composite intake manifold that close at low engine speeds to hasten airflow and induce turbulence for better fuel atomization.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....