2005 Ford GT
Face distortion spoken here: First drive in the reborn Ferrari slayer.
Car & Driver
BY TONY SWAN
Power? Check. Face distortion spoken here. The engineers say 60 mph in less than four seconds. We believe them.
Agility? If Marshall Faulk had moves like this, the NFL would have to put him in leg irons.
Grip? Oh, yeah. Hangs on like a bat in a wind tunnel. Ford expects adhesion north of 1.00 g. The only way it won’t make that is if someone butters the skidpad.
Brakes? Raceworthy. The kind of potent, fade-free resource that’s as essential to high-speed back-road entertainment as big horsepower. More essential, in fact.
All the foregoing applies to the 2005 GT, Ford’s revivalist supercar that conjures up memories of the company’s GT40 glory years at Le Mans in 1966, ’67, ’68, and ’69.
Regular readers will recall two previous reports on this project: our February 2002 cover story, “Return of the Ferrari Slayer,” and an update in July ’03. In its debut at the 2002 Detroit show, the GT was just another dream car, production feasible but unlikely. What could it do for Ford’s bleeding bottom line? Who could make a business case for it? Chairman Bill Ford himself posed that last question, and it was anything but rhetorical—more like an imperial mandate. Make a business case, do it in 30 days, and make sure the bottom line is black. We want to build this thing.
A hands-on session with a development mule earlier this year made it clear the GT would be more than show biz. The trestlesque aluminum tube chassis and coil-over control-arm suspension were essentially ready. What that prototype lacked was the real-deal production engine—the mule used a 390-hp, 4.6-liter supercharged V-8 from the SVT Mustang Cobra—plus the aero work needed for high-speed stability and the interior refinements to help the car measure up to its fancy price.
How fancy will that price be? Those in the GT program will only say “between $100,000 and $150,000.” That’s a big between. Our bet: When the GT goes on sale next spring, there won’t be much air between the base price and that 150-grand ceiling.
Let’s talk aero. The body development team began its work by putting a 1968 GT40 in a California rolling-road wind tunnel borrowed from race-car builder Swift Engineering of San Clemente. The results, per performance development supervisor Kent Harrison, were sobering. In addition to an indifferent coefficient of drag—about 0.43—front-end lift at high speeds was in the aircraft realm: The car wanted to fly.
“The tunnel data gave me new respect for Gurney and Foyt and all those guys going flat-out on the Mulsanne straight,” he said. “Wow.”
With no constraints, Harrison’s job would have been simple: reduce Cd, reduce drag, and reduce lift. But of course there were constraints. For one, the team was stuck with the basic shape. For another, the GT is a bigger car than its ancestor—6.9 inches wider, 3.8 inches taller, and 18.3 inches longer.
Aero is a subtle business, and in fact the fine-tuning of the GT’s aluminum skin is still in progress. Harrison was not prepared to give us a final Cd number, although he acknowledged the goal was “less than 0.39.” However, the project had advanced to the point of acceptability at the time of this writing, thanks to a variety of adjustments to the GT concept’s body shell. Included were a modest chin spoiler, rocker-panel extensions, a small ducktail curling up at the stern, wheel-well sculpting, and a system of rear diffusers channeling air from beneath the car’s flat underbody. The team also routed warm air from the front-mounted radiators (for the engine and intercooler) past the side mirrors, rather than over the windshield, since the intake for the air conditioning resides below the windshield base.
Harrison says the shape’s high-speed traits have gone from treacherous lift to modest downforce. We never saw speeds above 120 mph—team members talk about top speeds “in excess of 190 mph”—so we’ll take Harrison’s word for it until we can get a GT and do our own testing. We can say the door seals of these preproduction GTs allowed too much wind noise. But the body guys expect to improve this on the production car.
In our July preview, we reported that the GT would be propelled by an all-aluminum 5.4-liter dry-sump DOHC 32-valve V-8 that’s essentially a bigger version of the supercharged 4.6-liter engine used in the current SVT Mustang Cobra. Allow us to elaborate. The undersquare engine (with a 90.2-millimeter bore and a 105.8mm stroke) is indeed based on a Ford design, but the block castings are supplied by Eck Industries, a Wisconsin-based racing shop, and the 32-valve heads are from Process Prototype in Romulus, Michigan.
The supercharger is a Lysholm screw-type unit (as distinct from the Cobra’s Roots type) supplied by Eaton, delivering 12.0 psi of maximum boost through an air-to-liquid intercooler. A pair of 70mm throttle bodies feed the sequential port-fuel-injection system, and the mixture is fired by coil-on-plug ignition. The exhaust system is free-flowing, and the team is still tuning to achieve just the right note, although it sounded pretty good to us. Ford has also done a good job of quelling the supercharger whine we reported in July.
As promised, the GT’s engine is rated five by five—500 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 500 pound-feet of torque at 4500, with almost 350 pound-feet available just off idle. That’s enough grunt to overcome the vast grip of the 315/40ZR-19 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rear tires with an injudicious stab at the throttle—traction control is not part of the deal here—and to hurl the GT forward with a will. Neil Hannemann, borrowed from tuner company Saleen to serve as chief engineer on the GT program, forecasts 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds, which would be 0.1 second quicker than the Dodge Viper SRT-10 we tested in November 2002. The Viper makes a good comparison, since the output of its 8.3-liter V-10 is similar, as is its 3408-pound curb weight. Ford expects the GT to weigh in at about 3400 pounds.
However, as with the original GT40, Ford’s development target wears the prancing-horse logo. This time it’s Ferrari’s 360 Modena, a car with a similar price, less grip, and considerably less power: 395 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.
Ford had a pair of Modena coupes on hand for comparison, and we looked forward to a program that would include some exercise on public roads, plus a day of lapping at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, California. As it turned out, seat time was hard to come by at Laguna. But this was mitigated by an earlier run down the coastal mountains from Half Moon Bay, a route that entailed sinuous serpentines and demonic decreasing radii, none of it particularly fast, all of it an excellent test of ride and handling.
The first-impressions verdict: The GT turns in like a Pitts stunt plane, changes directions like a polo pony, makes short work of tricky passing situations, and stops right now. The steering is quick (2.7 turns lock-to-lock) and communicative, the pedal layout encourages heel-and-toeing, and the location of the shifter for the six-speed Ricardo gearbox is, not to put too fine a point on it, perfect.
On paper, it seemed the Modena, sweet though it is, might not be a match for Ford’s new supercar. On the road, there was no doubt whatsoever. This extends to ride quality, as well as athleticism. There’s little to pick between these thoroughbreds on rough surfaces. It may even be that the GT is a tad more supple and a tad less prone to unintended course changes on really sharp bumps.
On the other hand, there are still some rough edges. The GT’s bucket seats, for example, need work. Made by racing supplier Sparco, the shells are carbon fiber and the cushions, inspired by the original GT40 seats, look way cool with their oversize vent holes. But they could use reshaping in the lumbar area and seem to be designed for occupants of supersized dimensions.
Other soft points: The right-side mirror is essentially invisible from the driver’s seat, a mistake Ford says it will correct. A piece of aluminum door trim tends to bite into the driver’s knee. This, too, Ford plans to fix. The same can be said for the occasionally reluctant shift engagements: Improvements are in the works.
But there are other negatives that owners may have to learn to live with. Sightlines, for example. They’re not bad up front, but the view through the little rear window is limited, and the line of the A-pillar plus the placement of the left-side mirror make it tough to see the apexes of tight turns on that side of the car. That’s not a problem on public roads, but it could be on a racetrack—Laguna Seca’s Turn 11, for example.
Did we discuss storage? No, because there isn’t any. Although the cabin affords surprisingly good leg and head room, forget about stowing anything. There is a tiny, odd-shaped cubby under the hood, but it’s only big enough for a couple changes of underwear. Odder still, there’s an emergency inside release, in case a miniature child finds him- or herself trapped within. Weird.
Still, the irritations are mostly minor, detracting little from the formidable car that has emerged, almost miraculously, from absolute scratch in less than two years.
Chris Theodore, Ford’s V-P of advance product creation, summed it up nicely: “This is the stars and the moon aligning, guys. It just doesn’t happen very often.”
2005 FORD GT
Vehicle type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
Estimated base price: $150,000
Engine type: supercharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 330 cu in, 5409cc
Power (SAE net): 500 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 500 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 106.7 in
Length/width/height: 182.8/76.9/44.3 in
Curb weight: 3400 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 3.8 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 8.6 sec
Standing 1/4-mile: 11.8 sec @ 123 mph
Estimated fuel economy:
EPA city driving 12 mpg
EPA highway driving 21 mpg
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.....