Ford GT — Track Time In a True American Super Car
Ever since Ford introduced its stunning GT40 race car in the mid 1960s, it’s been one of the world’s most coveted performance cars. For decades, people have been attempting replicas of wildly varying credibility. And today, real GT40s sell for anywhere from about $300,000 for a typical example, to the $2.5-million recently paid for a GT40 prototype.
Given that, it’s not surprising that Ford jumped back into the mid-engine super car game, offering its GT40 successor, the GT, for 2005. This new version is by far the wildest, fastest mass-production car ever offered by Ford.
So what’s it like to drive? Let’s find out.
Avoiding the door’s skull-creasing curved top, dropping into the GT’s waist-high cabin is straightforward and easy enough. The seats have a pleasing form-fitting rounded shape, with a comfortably appropriate rake to the back. Head- and leg-room is surprisingly good for such a lowslung machine — even six footers or maybe taller will find it quite livable. In front of the driver sprawls a visual feast of purposeful black upholstery, chrome, and brushed aluminum, punctuated by switches designed to look like the starkly functional toggle switches of the original GT40.
It’s all gorgeous. The car is entertaining before you even fire it up.
And that visual feast isn’t limited to the cockpit. The GT’s gloriously polished 550-hp supercharged V8 is plainly visible through the rear window, sitting what seems like two inches from the driver’s head. Pushing the big red Start button just above the center console prompts the engine into life, playing a symphony that sounds like a mix of basic Ford high-performance V8 and Italian super car, embellished with the prominent whine of the supercharger.
Surprisingly for such an exotic machine, the GT’s clutch-pedal weighting feels like that of a Mustang, maybe even a bit lighter. With no special technique required, the car gets rolling from a stop without so much as a shudder. At this point it begins to set in that this all-out super car is remarkably user friendly — a sweetheart.
That said, day-to-day driving in the GT wouldn’t be like commuting in a Honda Civic. Negotiating a parking lot requires drivers to constantly stretch and crane their neck to see past the thick window pillars and swooping fenders. And directly behind the car? Forget it. If it doesn’t show up in the sideview mirrors, it doesn’t exist to the Ford GT driver.
But would anyone driving this thrill machine really care about such mundane quibbles? Doubtful.
Getting ready to launch onto the front straight of famed race track Road America, I ease the clutch out at a modest 2500 rpm or so, then gently roll into the throttle. Since I’d never driven this car, I took it easy. Or at least I thought I was taking it easy.
Nope. Despite those good intentions, I practically boil the rear tires into sticky goo. Faced with 500 lb-ft of torque at just 3750 rpm, the GT’s rubber succumbs with frightening ease — the burnout happened with such an uncanny effortlessness that it seemed like a video game. As we regain traction, we quickly blur to a brisk pace and reach the first turn at a pleasing clip. From there we head downhill to turn three/four, then get on the gas for what the GT has been begging for — the long, open Moraine Sweep. The acceleration is intoxicating. With a feverish whine and a deep roar, the car is handily propelled to 130 mph. It’s easily good for plenty more too.
At the end of the straight, the big brakes haul us down with reassuring authority, aided by easy pedal modulation. A quick flick of my right foot proves heel-and-toe downshifts to be delightfully simple in the GT. Then we’re back on the gas. The GT flies through the turn with terrific grip and practically no body lean.
After that comes a short uphill straight, another tight turn, then another. The GT’s steering is weighted a bit lighter than one might expect for a serious performance car, but it’s nice. Most importantly, it communicates well. That’s not surprising — pretty much everything about the GT inspires confidence. Just minutes after getting into the car, you feel ready to go fast. It’s easy to drive by any standards, much less by super car expectations.
But lapsing my attention to ponder that notion, the car’s back end steps way out at about 70 mph. Yikes! Fortunately, we weren’t at the point of no return and I recovered quickly with a flick of the steering wheel. Nonetheless, the suddenness of the tail swing serves as an important reminder that this is a serious, hardcore machine, no matter how friendly its overall demeanor.
As we haul through another long open stretch and round the tight Canada Corner, we’re near the end of our designated lap. Another few turns follow and we slow to bring the GT back into the pits. After I shut the car down, my big giddy grin remains. As a journalist, I’m as jaded as anybody. But it’s hard not to gush about the GT. My day is made.
I’ve just encountered true greatness, and I know it.