Lust at first sight, love at first drive. That’s the only way that I can describe my experience with the new Ford GT. Last year I drove a thousand miles through France in this breathtaking supercar, and if I had died at the end of the journey, I would have died a happy man, sporting a stupid grin. The Ford development team might as well have packed and gone home, perfection had been achieved.
The Ford development team did pack up, they didn’t go home, but instead turned their attention to the Shelby GT500, a high performance Mustang. Fortunately for us, one engineer and designer from Ford SVT (Special Vehicle Team), Kip Ewing, had a vision of creating an open-top version of the GT and after getting approval from the SVT director, Hau Thai Tang, the Ford GTX1 was born.
Mark Gerisch, of the Genaddi Design Group, was approached to carry out the work involved in taking the hacksaw to this iconic car's roof line. To top it off they also developed a few aftermarket modifications to complete the drop-top look. All together they offer an amazing $140,000’s worth of modifications. The most notable include the roof conversion, lowered suspension, and a power upgrade, but more on that later.
Most post-production roof cutting exercises end up in, at best, a hopeless array of panels lying in the garage at home and require all the mental dexterity of a chess genius to fit them. Not to mention the scuttle shake that results from the lack of torsional rigidity from removing the roof. No so here.
A simple three-panel system with rear catches offers either the T-Bar, twin side pop up panel and, for full posing prowess, the full convertible look. All are interchangeable in seconds and the panels store away conveniently behind the front seats in their own padded bags. Look over your shoulder and you can now see two plexi-glass panels on top of the engine cover which afford a satisfying view of the supercharger. And, thanks to some clever chassis work and the car's inherent strength, there’s absolutely no shake rattle 'n' roll. All up this will set you back a mortgage-extending $38,000.
Seven hundred brake horsepower
Now here’s the juicy bit. This version of the GTX1 was running a whopping 700bhp. That’s in a road-going, mid-engine, rear wheel drive, GT car with absolutely no electronic trickery to keep you from joining the (very fast approaching) scenery, backwards. That’s 40 HP more than a Ferrari Enzo. Lowered, front and rear by 32mm and 25mm, sitting on 19- and 20-inch custom rims, sporting a free-flow, cat back Borla exhaust and a short throw shifter, the GTX1 is surely the new must have LA Boulevard cruiser.
The power increase is achieved using a smaller charger pulley, re-mapped ECU taking into account the increased air intake, fuel flow and modified timings. A modified air corrector and electronic diffuser ensure that the otherwise standard 5.4-litre, aluminium block gets sufficient air and fuel into all 8 cylinders. Engineers estimate that this standard block could potentially run 800bhp but, for reliability and longevity, a 125HP upgrade pack is offered to customers -- it's a snip at $8,500. You’ll also be glad to know that none of this work would, theoretically, invalidate any Ford warranty. Phew, you can relax!
On the track the moment you push the start button a surge of adrenalin accompanies the orchestral roar from the pipes behind and you’re reminded that this is no standard GT. The muted, standard exhaust is now more of a burbling gargle with undertones of thunder. It’s hard to suppress the urge to just nail it and gun towards the horizon into oblivion. And it gets to oblivion rather briskly; 60mph is up in 3.3 seconds, usually in a small cloud of expensive smoke while the driver furiously feathers the throttle in search of traction. Triple figures are up in the sevens, soon 150’s up and the acceleration still feels nothing short of time distorting as the cars want to push on to its 210-plus mph top speed. It’s a total sensory overload; every sense being in a constant state of catch-up.
Turn in and the steering feels sharper than standard, but never twitchy. Exit a corner at speed and you feel buckets-loads of mechanical grip as the Pirelli P-Zero rubber earns its keep. Feed the power in gently the handling feels surprisingly fluid for a relatively heavy GT car. Entering a corner too fast and turning in too late will result in the front end pushing wide, but you can correct easily by easing off the gas or by planting the throttle and applying a lot of opposite lock -- quickly. Overcook it though and you’ll be spinning in a grey haze of tyre smoke, much as the standard GT.
The best trick is that this über-GT is just as easy to drive as the factory GT. A light clutch, power steering and good seat support makes it all about as straightforward to drive as a VW Golf, albeit with very restricted forward vision…and considerably more power.
Outdragging an Enzo
So, the perfect everyday supercar just got better. It can out drag an Enzo in a straight line, and let you pose with the top down while still being a daily driver, and all for around £120,000 all-up.
And that, in supercar terms, is the bargain of the century. Where do I sign?
Words and pictures (c) Rod Fountain 2006