Ford gears up for building GT
Wixom assembly set for $100,000-plus car
November 21, 2002
BY LAWRENCE ULRICH
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
The Ford GT, the homegrown Ferrari-fighter that will commemorate the automaker's 100th anniversary in June, will see final assembly at the Wixom Assembly Plant.
The GT's supercharged, 5.4-liter V8 engine, with at least 500 horsepower, will be built at the Romeo Engine Plant when the $100,000-plus supercar begins full production in spring 2004, the company announced Wednesday.
The original Ford GT40 was Henry Ford II's answer to his failed bid to buy Ferrari in 1963. The striking endurance machine shocked the racing world by sweeping the top three places at the 24 Hours of LeMans race in 1966.
Ford raised eyebrows with a modernized concept GT40 at Detroit's January auto show and green-lighted production the next month. Ford recently changed the car's name to Ford GT, after failing to secure the rights to the GT40 name from owner Safir GT 40 Spares, which sells aftermarket parts for the vintage race cars.
Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr., who received the first redesigned 1994 Mustang off the assembly line, is expected to take home the first of three production GTs being prepared for the automaker's 100th anniversary celebration June 13.
Ford will rely on specialty-car experts to assemble portions of the GT before models are completed at Wixom Assembly, which will install suspensions, powertrains, instrument panels and other components. The GT will be completed on an existing prototype production line, separate from Wixom's Ford Thunderbird, Lincoln LS and Town Car. The company expects to build about 1,000 models each year, but has the capacity to boost that to 1,500, said Neil Hannemann, the GT chief program engineer and former race driver who helped develop the Dodge Viper at the former Chrysler Corp.
Mayflower Vehicle Systems will likely use its Shadyside, Ohio, facility to assemble the GT's lightweight aluminum space frame and body panels. The British-based Mayflower previously built the aluminum-bodied Plymouth Prowler and supplied body panels for Land Rover.
Before heading to Wixom, the car bodies will be painted and finished by Saleen Inc. Its owner is Steve Saleen, the high-performance builder long associated with Ford through the Saleen Mustang, and who now produces the S7 supercar in southern California. Ford officials said Saleen is considering Troy or another Detroit-area location to help produce the GT.
Hannemann acknowledged that assuring quality is a challenge when so many suppliers have a hand in production.
"It would certainly be easier all in one big factory," he said.
Ford emphasized the speed, efficiency and ingenuity of the GT program, including expertise from SVT, Ford research labs and its Jaguar and Aston Martin divisions. Heading from drawing board to production in 22 months on a tight budget, the GT shaved at least 9 months from development through extensive computer-based design and testing, said John Coletti, chief engineer of Ford's Special Vehicle Team.
Ford benchmarked the GT against the Ferrari 360 Modena, buying one of the roughly $140,000 Italian sports cars, tearing it apart and reassembling it to uncover its secrets. Coletti acknowledged the irony of Ford's renewed battle with Ferrari.
"We raced them on the track in the '60s, and now we're going to race them on the street," he said.
Details including the car's weight and performance are being kept under wraps, but officials privately confirmed they expect the GT's top speed to exceed 190 m.p.h.
Ford hasn't decided how it will divvy up the rare GT among its 4,000 U.S. dealers.
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.....