Photo By Global Auto Index
It's not clear what SVT vehicles, if any, will follow the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500. Ford says it is not backing away from performance products.
Is SVT RIP?
Ford says no, but vital signs aren't good
Ford canceled the Adrenalin as part of its Way Forward turnaround plan.
When we last checked on Ford's Special Vehicle Team, the guys running Dearborn's in-house tuner shop were gung-ho on what was to come. Then-Ford product creation veep Phil Martens, backed by then-brand-new SVT chief Hau Thai-Tang, promised a five-vehicle SVT lineup produced by a larger-than-ever SVT team. They also said the next-generation Cobra would be the "best one ever."
Since that interview some 13 months ago, it appears the only constants are that Thai-Tang remains director of SVT (along with advance product creation duties), and SVT still plans to put a 2007 Shelby Cobra GT500 on the street by this summer. Martens is gone, which does nothing to encourage SVT fans already shell-shocked by the late 2004 departure of longtime SVT guru John Coletti. SVT's discrete team is now just another part of Ford's product creation mother ship.
Effective July 1, the SVT Owners Association will fold into Ford Racing Technology and become a club for all Ford performance vehicles; content from the SVTOA bi-monthly magazine, SVT Enthusiast, will now appear in Ford Racing's Inside the Oval monthly publication.
Ford is still promising the GT500 will be "the strongest production Mustang ever"—though we're not sure why it would go to the trouble if the car isn't going to be better than Cobras past.
Besides the Shelby Cobra promise, Ford spokesman Jim Cain says there are no product announcements for SVT at this time, though he assures "we have a number of SVT projects we're working to get off the ground."
One of those won't be the planned 2008 Adrenalin Sport-Trac-based pickup, a casualty of Ford executive vice president Mark Fields' "Way Forward" restructuring announced in January (The Way For'd, AW, Jan. 30). It also remains unclear whether Ford has the stomach to resurrect the stillborn F-150 SVT Lightning after killing a promised next-gen Lightning in late 2004. After all, the competition from up the road in Auburn Hills, Michigan, now offers something with a V10 underhood.
Published reports suggest Ford burned all its SVT resources creating the non-SVT-badged Ford GT supercar in record time so that Bill Ford could have a showpiece for the company's 100th anniversary celebration in 2003. Based on the lukewarm assurances we get from official Ford sources, and the downright dour tones we're hearing from the unofficial ones, we'd say SVT's chances of surviving—at least in the form enthusiasts have come to love since its inception in 1992—are on life support.
But that doesn't mean Ford won't produce some hot performance products.
"Are performance vehicles important to Ford?" asks spokes-man Cain. "Absolutely and without question. Will there be performance vehicles after the Shelby? Absolutely and without question."
But will we see SVT-branded performance products in the future that rival those from the brand's short but storied past? "There's equity in that name and we want to use it," says Cain.
Okay, but don't get upset if we mark the calendar and check back in another 12 months or so.