October 01, 2006 By Kevin C. Limjoco

2006 Ford GT

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Words and Photos: Kevin C. Limjoco

The long kiss goodnight!

Three times the charm: I missed the opportunities to test drive the Ford GT in the US before because of scheduling conflicts, the third was the only Local Motul Ford GT but it still needs to be properly run-in, that red card will be featured by our mother company magazine (C!). So, here it is folks, our exclusive EVO Philippines review of the fantastic Ford GT in the uncommon Tungsten Grey Clearcoat Metallic with the optional lightweight forged aluminum BBS wheels (18” up front and 19” in the rear shot with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar front 235/45ZR18 and rear 315/40ZR19 tires. I was hoping our test unit had the Limited Production 1960’s-era racing color scheme that includes roundels with owner selected numerals called the Heritage Livery package (epic orange on heritage blue) to complete the modern classic in its final run but such is life.

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The design team headed by J. Mays’s emphasis on the so-called ‘Living Legend’ philosophy is much appreciated, the GT is absolutely gorgeous, I love that it IS retro. In truth, the GT is very much an international exotic effort except that a huge branded conglomerate backs it. When I was handed the keys, I thought the guys were messing around and handed me the site to the new Ford Sport Trac, which I was going to eventually test. Shocking but true, the key itself may be special but the remote fob is exactly the same unit used in the Ford trucks, a cost-cutting measure that is completely absurd. It was an unfortunate first impression that lingered as I sat in the GT and silently graced my hand over all the textures and appointments, most of them consistent with the cheapness of the remote. My adrenaline began to subside, so I had to kick the engine over immediately to make all my bad thoughts dissipate as quickly as it had educated me. There it was behind me, the transformed truck engine bursting to life with the sounds that only a supercar should ever make. If the Dodge Viper can use a V10 engine derived from their truck division successfully, so can Ford. As it idled with a very gentle sashay, I recalled its historic Journey.

It was legendary British built Ford GT40 that wrote motor racing history in 1966 by becoming the first American manufacturer to win the grueling 24 hours of LeMans race. The Ford GT scored the epic victory, which went on to win another three times at LeMans. Today, the performance of the GT is still considered a highlight in Ford’s rich racing history and it holds a special place in many racing enthusiasts’ hearts. To celebrate their centennial anniversary, Ford decided to give its most legendary designer leave work, almost forty years after it roared down the Mulsanne straight of LeMans.

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The GT no longer holds the ’40’ in its name. The vehicle is no longer 40.5” tall; it now stands at 44.3”. This was one reason why the car no longer holds the GT-40 name; the other reason is because Ford lost their rights to the ‘GT-40’ name. Only 1,500 of these legendary vehicles are said to be made in its totality until the end of the month as Ford shuts down the Wixom, Michigan assembly plant. All is not in vain, my friends; most of the great bits of the GT will find their way to the more accessible GT500 Mustang. In fact, according to Ford, ‘the new Shelby GT500’ is a different descendant of the GT. There was a deliberate transfer of technology, design elements, and talent from the Ford GT to the Shelby GT500. Moreover, ‘Many of the engineers in the GT program moved on to work on the GT500. In addition, the two vehicles have a common displacement engine with the same valvetrain in similar levels of performance. Other shared hardware includes the brake system along with the tire construction and compound.’

Humorously, there was a TV commercial set to air last September 10th in the US about the GT500. The commercial, called “Germany”, shows a GT500 being unloaded and on to a dock in a German port that looks like Hamburg. A guy on a dock asks the GT500 owner if he couldn’t find the car he liked in Germany. To which the only reply was, ‘No, I couldn’t find a speed limit I liked in America.’ Brilliant!

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Back to the car, like its illustrious predecessor, the Ford GT is powered by a rumbling hand-built V8 engine. The unit used is the largest version of the ‘MODular engine, which is used all through the Ford Range, Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) and Roush extensively modified the 5.4 liter 32 valve all-aluminum quad-cam engine to bring it up to par with the race – prepared, blue – printed 427ci big-block 7 liter engines used in the 1960s racer. Ross gave it the new 4-valve head, a new dry-sump, aluminum block, forged aluminum pistons, high-strength con-rads, and forged steel crankshaft. Equipped with an Eaton 2.3L Lysholm, screw-type intercooled supercharger boosted to 14.5 psi (1Bar), the engine produces a mighty 550bhp and 500 ft/lb of torque. With an aluminum space frame combined with Super Plastic Formed (SPF) aluminum body panels made by Mayflower and extensive use of carbon fiber for strength and lighter-weight houses, this fire-breathing powerplant requires only 91 octane unleaded premium fuel.

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This rigid exotic Metro Technologies built chassis wouldn’t be complete without the proper suspension and brakes to catalyze the magic. The fully independent suspension system uses unequal length (SLE) aluminum control arms (double wishbone); steel coil spring; front and rear non-adjustable forged aluminum shock absorbers suite for aluminum housings. The brakes are Brembo vented and cross-drilled discs, generous 14” units up front and 13.2” at the rear with rigid aluminum 4 piston calipers painted red, managing forward motion thankfully with ABS. The GT uses the classic supercar mid-engine rear drive layout with a 43:57 weight distribution for truly exciting oversteering fun. It is responsible for modulating all the power is a manual 6-speed Ricardo transaxle using a magnesium transmission tunnel with an AP Racing twin-disc-clutch and limited slip differential.

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The 7-gauge instrument panel and big toggle switches are very cool however the materials used surrounding them are sadly very flimsy, poor quality plastics. The cabin is not trimmed in leather, but instead with hard non-insulated plastic and as mentioned earlier some switchgear are from the Ford’s general parts bin. This can be easily remedied by covering the dashboard in aftermarket alcantara or double-stitched leather. The most attractive components in the cabin are the carbon fiber superstructure Sparco leather sport bucket seats with their retro-styled hard surfaces, the red start/ignition button, the aluminum pedals and aluminum gear knob. Even with its fitment shortcomings in supposed rampant key immobilizer problems, the Ford GT is an incredible supercar nontheless. It’s worth every cent in the spare change from opting NOT to buy an Italian or German exotic that can be used to address its manageable issues.

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Driving around town, I was shocked that the ride was actually very simple, more comfortable than a Viper but more taunt than the Corvette C6. The engine note from the dual center exhaust was very throaty but never obnoxious. The boy racers that surrounded me on the highway were considerably larger investments and vastly annoying. Steering feel is very precise and evenly weighted. I have to say that the GED feels like a Mazda Miata compared to a BMW M6, it was so easy to get around the frenzy while the power delivery was sheer locomotive. The clutch wasn’t unnecessarily difficult to use like some Italians in the older Porsches, gear selection was very intuitive but could have benefited a shorter throw linkage. The supercharger whine isn’t that noticeable from the cabin. Being lighter and better sorted, the GT always felt more athletic and more powerful than the mighty but clumsy Dodge Viper SRT – 10. I’m shocked that after all my playtime that I haven’t attracted the attention of California’s finest.

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Still the GT is a very accommodating and forgiving high-performance supercar. It delivers the sense of occasion that is reserved for cars twice its sticker price while providing genuine thrills at exhilarating speeds with superior handling. Bouncing against the 6500 rev-limiter, the only American car I think that can unseat the GTS, the greatest American sports car ever built, is the 505 BHP Corvette ZO6, which is lighter and even more focused at less than half the price. Given the choice, I would still choose the GT because of its looks and the way it makes me feel. It’s a car that you don’t have to make excuses for, will stretch most drivers’ skill limits on winding mountain roads while remaining confident and still have the ability to be driven on the daily commute, however, without any baggage. Yes, the GT is in no way a weekend getaway car, as there’s really no trunk to speak of, which is a real pity.

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Our test unit was heavily loaded, the only other option not installed was the $4,000 McIntosh audio system which adds an 8 “ subwoofer in 1” A-pillar tweeters, but still accommodating only a single CD and minus the MP3 capability. Standard safety equipment includes frontal air bags, anti-lock brakes, a child seat tether bracket and latch assembly on the passenger seat, and a tire inflation kit in lieu of a spare tire. There is no traction or stability control.

The Ford GT has won several boats against the current fray of Ferraris and has proven itself to be a very respectable and accomplished supercar. It is a real shame that Ford has to kill it when it was precisely what it advertised the GT to be: Ford’s corporate pacecar!

Specification:

Engine: V8, 5409cc, dohc 32v, Supercharged, 6-speed MT
Max power: 550 bhp @6500rpm
Max Torque: 500 lb ft @ 3750rpm
Top Speed: 328 km/h (205mph)
0-100 km/h: 4.0 sec.
Fuel Mileage: 13 City / 21 Highway
Price as tested: US$ 162,195

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