Update: 2003 Ford GT "40"
Making its way from concept to production
By Todd Lassa
Photography by the manufacturer
Motor Trend, March 2003
You wouldn't know it from the oddly proportioned fiberglass-bodied mules, with their goofy multispoke wheels and mock racing decals, but Ford appears to be doing it right, as GT product development and engineering proceeds at full speed. Production versions--just three for model year '03, to celebrate Ford's centennial, and several hundred per year beginning in model year '05--will have aluminum bodies attached to aluminum space frames.
Be assured that the many castings and stampings necessary to hold the GT together will look handsome and high-tech. Aluminum-fabricator Mayflower will build the body panels using a super plastic-forming process and ship them to Ford Motor Company's Wixom, Michigan, assembly plant (Thunderbird, Lincoln LS). The GT's floor will be made with an aluminum-bonding technique common in aircraft; Ford believes it's the first-ever auto application.
Engineers worked hard in the wind tunnel to smooth out the GT's shape, allowing for decent aerodynamics without deviating from the original design. The earliest race versions of the GT40 had terrible front-end lift at speed, but the new GT road car will have a fully enclosed underbody for aero, a small splitter in the front, side splitters, and a rear diffuser. The GT's door frames cut into the top, like the race car's (and unlike these development cars), but its windows will roll completely into the doors. It also has a nicely integrated rear bumper to meet federal impact standards.
The GT's carbon-fiber hood's deep scoops exhaust air out of the front-mounted radiator. The composite rear clamshell tilts back as in the original. Ford used what it could from the parts bin (hood latches are sourced from Volvo, for example), though many components are new. Under that hood lies a new supercharged 32-valve DOHC 5.4-liter V-8 with aluminum block and heads from the mod motor family; the blower is an Eaton screw-type. Ford's goal is 500-plus horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, with power fed via a twin-plate dry disc clutch to a Ricardo six-speed manual transaxle with a limited-slip differential. As with the Dodge Viper and Corvette Z06, there'll be no automatic transmission.
Why is Ford Motor Company--having suffered a severe financial downturn and quality problems in the past few years--building a car worthy of a Premier Automotive Group badge, which might not break even at a price nearing $150,000? The reasons are many, and valid. There's that 100th anniversary, first of all, and through thick or thin, the Ford family and the preponderance of its employees are justifiably proud of the company's long and worthy heritage.
"This polishes the Oval," says Chris Theodore, North America Product Development vice president. And it's a halo that excites engineers and designers about the brand as much as the customers. "Everything we're doing on this program is unprecedented," says SVT Director John Coletti. "I think it's going to have a lot of benefit on the mainstream." The latest in a flurry of crash-course programs out of Detroit (this one began just last May), the GT is the type of car that encourages engineers and designers to take work home over weekends and holidays.
Ford bought a Ferrari 360 Modena to benchmark and, to the dismay of some executives, disassembled it for reverse engineering (it has since been reassembled for what's sure to be more-than-aggressive evaluation driving). The GT's structural stiffness "exceeds the Ferrari's by a very large margin," Chassis System Supervisor Huibert Mees claims. He further notes it's 40-percent stiffer than the Modena. "This car [the GT] is going to feel as if it's carved from a block of granite."
The GT's double-wishbone suspension is all aluminum, including cast-aluminum knuckles. Coil-over shocks are attached to the lower control arms, and it has front and rear anti-roll bars. The ZF steering gear mounts forward of the front axle for better steering response. Brakes are four-piston fixed-caliper Brembos with 14-inch rotors front, 13-inch rear, vacuum-boost assist, and four-channel Bosch ABS. The front tires are 235/45ZR18 Goodyears on 8.0-inch-wide rims; rears are 315/40ZR19s on 11.5-inch-wide rims.
The new GT will be the real deal--the roadgoing, mid-engine exotic that Ford was supposed to homologate for its successful Le Mans effort of the mid-'60s. The company sees the GT not so much as a retro car, but as a continuation of the series. It's being designed, engineered, and assembled by a team with the passion to make it work. But will the '03 Ford GT conquer the Ferrari 360 Modena, just as the GT40 so handily beat the Ferrari 250LM nearly 40 years ago? We'll have that answer in a few short months.
Drivetrain layout Mid-engine, rwd
Engine type 90° supercharged V-8, alum block and heads
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Bore x stroke, in/mm 4.00x3.62/101.6x92
Displacement, ci/cc 330.0/5400
Horsepower @ rpm 500 @ 6000
Torque @ rpm 500 @ 4000-4500
Transmission 6-speed manual
Suspension, front; rear Upper & lower control arms, coil-over springs, anti-roll bar; upper & lower control arms, coil-over springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes, front; rear 14-in vented disc; 13-in vented disc, ABS
Wheels, front; rear 18.0x8.0-in; 19.0x11.5-in aluminum alloy
Tires, front; rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 235/45ZR18; 315/40ZR19
Wheelbase, in 106.8
Length, in 183.0
Width, in 76.9
Height, in 44.3
Curb weight, lb 3200 (target)
Seating capacity 2
FERRARI 360 MODENA PERFORMANCE TO BEAT
0-60 mph, sec 3.92
Quarter mile, sec @ mph 12.25 @ 113.53
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.....