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In the fast lane with the Ford you can't Afford!
The iconic shape of the GT40 recreated in the GT
Itís difficult to know where to begin when describing the Ford GT - itís a car that puts you into sensory overload. After racking up over 400 miles in one last week, we met up with a friend in a local pub who was, until recently, a member of an exclusive car syndicate. This gave him passport to the latest supercars - from Lamborghini to Ferrari. We asked him which was his favourite. It took him a split second to reply Ė ďwithout question, the Ford GT.Ē That statement put the Ford into perspective for us, as even up against such tough opposition from the Italian manufacturers, the lowly Ford came out on top Ė a bit like a 1966 Le Mans rerun, when Ford trounced Ferrari!
The GT was also nicely summed up by one eager passenger, a certain hot rodder who has created and driven countless cars of varying power. ďGo on, frighten me,Ē he said. Moments later, having just experienced the acceleration in first and second gear, he shouted, ďOk, youíve frightened me enough!Ē
Here at DRCReview, we were not big supercar fans until having sampled the GT. Most strike us as cumbersome and impractical for everyday use, and the GT is no exception. After youíve parked up in the garage youíll find you canít open the doors Ė you need another garage of about the same width to perform this operation. The slippery shape of the Ford GT was not penned for practical reasons either, like reversing or in providing good visibility when entering a motorway, which is done more by luck than judgement. And you worry about speed humps, avoiding local width restrictions and negotiating high kerbs in fear of ripping off the front air splitter. With a falling bonnet line, door mirrors full of bulging wheel arches and a rear view mirror blocked by 5.4 litres of Henryís finest, itís all a bit hap-hazard as you peer out and manoeuvre at parking speeds.
Here's why you need a very wide garage. Those doors open at 90 degrees, plus you have to negociate the roof section in the door as you enter/exit
All of this is incidental when you consider what the original Ford GT40 was all about though Ė winning at Le Mans. Back then, in 1966 it was a raw, no compromise sportscar built for speed, looks and ultimate performance. For the new GT, Ford has somehow managed to extract the DNA from the GT40 and inject it into a brand new sportscar which shares more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor, both in looks and performance. It's longer, wider, taller and endowed with modern levels of driver comfort too, all in and a state-of-the-art spaceframe chassis. Amazingly, the GT can now be purchased on the road for around £70,000 in the US, making it somewhat of a supercar bargain.
Rear bumper is a modern addition and doesn't look too bad from this angle
There's no denying the GT looks absolutely gorgeous, (in spite of the horrible rear bumper add-on) it sounds wonderful, will go from 0-60mph in under four seconds and top out at over 200 mph. Any misgivings you might have about the GT instantly disappear as soon as you get behind the wheel on an open road. We sampled the Shelby GT500 last November with basically the same motor limited to 500 horsepower, and that car was brutally quick, well, with just another 50 more ponies to play with and a lot less weight, the GT is in an altogether different league. The mid-engined combination with the motor and transaxle directly on top of the rear wheels ensures that power is delivered to the road with maximum grip. Thereís a brief, squirmy loss of traction in first gear as you pour on the power, but after that itís all very much under control.
The GT in its natural habitiat - it's not obvious in this shot but it looks so good on the road
What can be a problem though, is realising just how fast you are travelling Ė it does 60mph in first gear!. This sensation becomes more apparent on familiar roads where on a country lane you might remember approaching at say, 50mph, before braking for a bend. Itís no exaggeration to say you could easily double that figure and still have more than ample room to brake before that same bend. Similarly, when you enter a motorway and find a truck blocking your path, having checked the mirrors - and asked the passenger to check too - all you then need to do is squeeze the throttle to get the engine spinning and leave the rest of the traffic as a background blurr, as 500 lb ft of torque takes over. Itís no exaggeration to describe the performance of the GT as truly phenomenal - and it gets better the faster you go. The pleasure is heightened by the wonderful deep yowl of that supercharged V8, as it get into its power band just over your shoulder. Itís a little unnerving at first to see the blower belt spinning away almost directly behind your head through the rear screen, but it all adds to the fact that you are driving something very special.
Where the GT really comes into ints own is on fast open roads, of which, sadly, there are now very few in the UK. The reality is being stuck in traffic on the M25 poodling along at 10 to 15 mph in first gear. The beauty of the GT is that itís equally happy to do so without any lack of refinement. Itís a great testament to Fordís development team that they can create something so devastating, yet so docile. Crucially, the raw power is there whenever you need it, but the GT has been developed very much as a road car rather than a race car modified for the road. This is evident when you sit at 70mph on the motorway and find it has a great ride, thereís no wind noise and you can still hear the radio.
Interior is functional rather than luxurious and intentionally so
As you might expect, the GT is very much a driverís car. It steers and handles supremely well, though you find yourself hankering for a test track where you could find out more safely out of harms way. The multi-holed seats (replicating the feel of those in the GT40) may look uncomfortable, but arenít. The driving position is spot on, the rough cast finish pedals are positioned just right and the gearchange from the slick six speed box is a gem. The added bonus was finding that the GT will accommodate a 6ft 4 in driver with relative ease Ė something you couldnít do in the original - even with the bubble roof section. Adding to the driving pleasure is a braking system that feels like itís been developed for the race track, so that you can stop as well as you go. Itís an eerie sensation Ė especially for a passenger Ė as you find you can leave your braking later and later, much to their disbelief.
As for the construction of the GT, the body, chassis and engine/transmission are all alloy, suggesting the GT is extremely light, but at 1.5 tonnes kerb weight, itís actually no featherweight. As we all know, the original GT40 got its name from its low height Ė standing just 40 inches from the deck, whereas the new GT is a little taller. Ford say thereís 4 extra inches, but we measured the car to the roofline at forty two and three quarter inches, so weíre not quite sure where the extra one and a half inches has gone.
The GT sits higher than the GT40 and is 18 inches longer
The GT has real presence. Itís 6ft 5 inches wide (one inch less than a new Vauxhall Vectra) though youíd swear it was more - being so squat it looks so much wider. At 15ft long itís short compared to the average sized family car, so thereís no problem getting it into the garage - apart from, as previously mentioned, opening the doors to get out. All of the bulges and scoops on the body are functional, the ducts atop the rear wheel arches feed cool air into the massive airbox at the very rear, and the big grille at the front sucks air through the radiator before dumping it through two shaped outlets cut into the front of the hood Ė just like on the original. The supercharger cooler is located up here too along with the oil cooler. When you lift the hood, a somewhat limited stowage space is revealed Ė just about enough to carry a camera bag and tripod Ė or a very small overnight bag. This is hidden behind a fairly naff looking piece of leathercloth which is press-stud fixed in place, just like you might have found in the 60s.
Hood section with moulded air ducts (above) and limited stowage space below, hidden by that leathercloth panel
At the rear of the GT, once youíve pulled the roof mounted release and freed the two safety catches, the one piece rear section tilts back on gas struts to reveal the heart of the matter. Thereís a dirty great big supercharger atop the 5.4 litre block which boosts to 15psi and is partly responsible for pumping out the claimed 550 horsepower. Also visible is the six-speed transaxle, the massive airbox at the rear of the car and the spaceframe components necessary for locating the transaxle and suspension. These have a girder quality about them, not like in the original GT40. Instead, itís purposeful and with the added advantage of computer technology, is no doubt a far more effective solution to harnessing all of that power than in the past. What is surprising however, is how crude it all seems to look.
Spaceframe is functional. Supercharger sits atop blue cam-covered motor
In fact this is one aspect where you feel the GT may be lacking in comparison to some of its rivals. Thereís no doubt the GT has been thoroughly engineered and is immensely rewarding to drive, but when you look up close , it doesnít have that hand-built quality and attention to detail you might be expecting. Examples are the rough cast aluminium pedals, the massive cast door hinges, the garish aluminium transmission tunnel, some of the switchgear, which seems pirated from other Ford models, and the basic appearance of the spaceframe chassis. This disappointment is best summed by the key fob Ė a standard Mustang item that has all of the quality of a free gift from McDonalds - itís the ultimate of naffness. Imagine handing over £100,000 to receive that!
Air conditioning controls close to hand and much needed with so much glass
A great way to give young passengers a thrill is to get them to hit that start button
The dash layout resembles that of an original GT40 - complete with paddle switches
Of course, a lot of this is because the GT has been built to a budget using much of what is already available in the Ford corporate parts bin, and no doubt the car would have cost considerably more if the company had chosen to go for a more hand-finished, detailed approach. But you have to consider what a brave move this was in the first place for Ford, to even contemplate, let alone build such a car in the current eco-warrior climate. Itís not that bad of fuel consumption either considering what you might have read elsewhere. We averaged 18mpg from our test session, while weíve been reliably informed that it will return over 20mpg on long motorway runs. We can well believe this bearing in mind the great aerodynamic and how little throttle is needed to keep the GT moving at speed.
This is the oldest GT in the UK, was imported in 2004 and has since done over 30,000 miles
At the end of the day, we have to take our hats off to Ford. You couldnít live with this car on a day-to-day basis, but it was never built for that purpose. Instead, with as much power as a 7.0 litre, Le Mans winning GT40 to play with, it gives you a real pioneering sense of what it must have been like piloting such a beast down the Mulsanne Straight. The most poignant factors are that the Ford GT remains one of the most emotive styling icons on the planet and in GT guise delivers everything the original GT40 offered and so much more besides.
Story & Photos: Andy Kirk