"Sure, we can do that": When Ford executives considered giving the Ford GT program the "green light" last winter, they added one caveat - the first production vehicles needed to be ready for the company's Centennial celebration in June 2003. John Coletti, Director of Ford SVT Programs, answered with a simple, "Sure, we can do that", not knowing exactly how it would get done.
After putting together what has been called the "Dream Team" by May 2002, the team went to work. In conjunction with many key suppliers, the team used computer-modeling techniques to prove out chassis and body development. Even initial crash testing models were used to shorten the development timeframe.
Ford GT Engine Animation
Kip Ewing, package, prototype and launch supervisor for the Ford GT program is in charge of the build of the first three production vehicles that will be unveiled on June 14 during Ford's week-long Centennial celebration. He keeps a cool head with this lofty responsibility. "So far, things have progressed much smoother than I expected, and that just goes to show the strength of this team," says Ewing.
The build process of the first three production cars kicked off on March 10, 2003. Internally, these vehicles are referred to as "Jobs 1, 2, and 3", relating to Ford's term for the beginning of vehicle production, "Job #1". Regular production (or "Job #4") of the Ford GT will begin in Spring 2004.
Solid Structure: The Ford GT engineering team is doing most of their work "under the skin" since the exterior design basically follows the Ford GT40 concept car shown at the 2002 North American International Auto Show. Usually a new vehicle is designed from the inside out, meaning that the chassis and suspension points are set before the exterior body is designed around those dimensions. The exact opposite is true of the Ford GT.
"The first step is creating a stiff structure," states Huibert Mees, chassis systems supervisor on the Ford GT program, who set extremely aggressive torsional stiffness targets for world-class body control. At the same time, the chassis needed to be lightweight to help reach performance and handling targets. The team developed an all-aluminum space-frame that is comprised of extrusions, castings, and several stampings. The castings will anchor the four corners and provide the mounting points for the double wishbone suspension. Front and rear "crush rails" are bolted to the frame for ease of removal and replacement in the case of a low-speed impact.
How did the team do? "Let's just say that we reached our goals and then some," says Mees. "In our testing, the Ford GT chassis is stiffer and more rigid than the current competitive set, and we forecast that it will be better than upcoming competition as well."
Solid Power: The Ford GT will feature an all-aluminum 5.4-liter DOHC supercharged and intercooled V-8 engine. This engine will produce 500 horsepower and 500 ft.-lbs. of torque. The engine block is unique in its aluminum architecture, featuring aluminum cylinder heads that are an evolutionary step from the 2000 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra R. It also features components, such as the crankshaft and connecting rods, similar to those developed and proven out on the supercharged SVT Mustang Cobra and F-150 Lightning. The Ford GT powertrain team, led by Curt Hill, takes the next step in supercharger technology by installing a "screw-type" supercharger onto the 5.4-liter engine. A "screw-type", as opposed to a "roots-type", supercharger is more efficient, especially in the higher RPM band, which will help supply the Ford GT with abundant power all the way up to the redline.
"The Ford GT 5.4-liter engine demonstrates the power-producing capability of the MOD motor design," says Hill. "The aluminum block developed for this program is extremely stout and will open up avenues for other applications of this engine, even in the aftermarket for racing engines."
The Ford GT features a 6-speed manual transaxle mounted behind the 5.4-liter engine. The Ricardo developed transaxle is close-ratio and features triple cone synchronization in the first four gears.
Chassis #1 arrives at the Ford GT shop, operated by Roush Industries, for the start of the major components installation. The suspension, powertrain, instrument panel, and seats all will be installed before final assembly takes place, including attachment of the body panels. Regular production of the Ford GT will take place at the Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, MI.
“I only wanted to install the engine once,” said Kip Ewing, and he did with the help of several Ford GT team members. The 5.4-liter V-8 and 6-speed transaxle slipped into the chassis without any hesitation, thanks to hours of simulating the installation on computers before the hardware arrived. There are only a few weeks until that motor comes to life.