Up: Beautiful inside and out, increasing in value, goes like hell.
Down: I guess the trunk is a little small… but who cares?
Neutral: The Ford GT is an American icon that took everything we loved about the original and made it better.
As I leaned against my car sipping my lukewarm gas station coffee, I noticed how empty the streets are before the sun comes up. It was late in September and the weather was just switching over from unbearably hot and humid to pleasantly crisp. I thought it was nice that the world was so slow for a moment because it gave me time to think about what I was headed to do. Thoughts swam around my head when I started to feel the caffeine kick in, or was it excitement? I couldn’t tell. All I knew was 6:45 am couldn’t come soon enough. My thoughts were interrupted by the loud click of the gas pump finishing. I reholstered the gun-like nozzle, climbed back into my car, and headed en route to turn the key on a 2006 Ford GT.
While I was driving, I was mulling over how I was going to write one of the most unique reviews of my career thus far. Almost all of the vehicles I’ve reviewed have been either brand new, mass produced, or pretty much available to anyone who wants one. The one I was about to drive was almost exactly the opposite. It was from 2006, produced in very limited numbers, and has an ever increasing price tag that is justified by its pedigree. As I thought about it, those were the exact statistics that brought out my inner 12 year old.
The sun was just barely coming over the horizon when I pulled up to a garage that was definitely fit for a car of this stature. I greeted my friend as he raised door and we stepped inside. There the GT was; subtle but begging for attention. It doesn’t look as flamboyant as a Lamborghini but it still looks like nothing else on the road. My first thought was how huge a Ford GT looks on a poster and how small they look in person. That’s almost always true when seeing any supercar for the first time, though. My second thought was of this doofus picture I took next to it at a local car show a couple of years ago… sigh.
Since we didn’t want to waste any of the morning light, we popped the hood-trunk so I could load my camera gear. And that’s about all that could fit. It was definitely clear that if you travel in this car, pack light (insert joke about women here). I told myself to make note that the door takes some of the roof with it to avoid embarrassment later. We climbed in and he fired the GT up with thunderous growl. The sound filled up the entire block and you could almost feel the disapproval from the neighbors.
As we were cruising into town, I reflected on why the Ford GT was such an important car. It actually has one of the best, and my favorite, rivalry stories of all time. You see, Henry Ford II had always wanted a Ford to compete in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Ford had caught word in 1963 that Enzo Ferrari was looking for buyers and he jumped on the opportunity. Lots of time and millions of dollars later, Ferrari decided to back out of the deal last minute. He wanted to keep control of his department and compete in races that Ford might have otherwised banned Ferrari from. The relationship was severed and so started the war.
In 1963, Ford had rallied some of his friends to help him build a Ferrari eater. What was produced was a V8 powered slice of American beauty; the MKI Ford GT40. Although some of the car was of European influence… alright all of the car was European… I like to think it still had an American heart. Racing-wise it hit a rough patch in its early days, but the GT40 would go on to not only beat Ferrari, but take first place in the 1966, 67, 68, and 69 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Ford GT40 was basically a big American “f you” to Ferrari, and that I can get behind.
Which brings me back to why this 2006 Ford GT is so important, at least to me. THIS wasn’t some kit car sold on Ebay, it was a genuine tribute manufactured by Ford to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Everything about it was kept as close to the original as possible. Naturally, safety regulations required that the GT meet actual standards which, in return, made it bus sized compared to the original, but it has the same presence. From the unmistakable shape to the linear console of gauges to holes in the seats, everything great about the GT40 made its way to the successor.
Not a penny was spared either. All of the body is made up of large, one-piece aluminum panels, the entire engine is aluminum, and it has forged alloy wheels that are stopped by big, slotted Brembo brakes. When I tapped on the center console I muttered, “what is this, plastic?” and was quickly corrected with “actually, it’s magnesium”. Magnesium. That’s a lightweight metal with a high strength-to-weight ratio that’s found primarily in race cars!
And speaking of pennies, the Ford GT is just as much of a solid investment as it is a weekend toy. When it came out, Ford’s MSRP was $139,999. But once all of them had sold, premiums began to rise. Currently you could find one in the $250,000 range… if you’re lucky. And, if you have your eye on one of the 343 Heritage editions made in 2006, start looking at selling your house and one or two kids because those can reach $600,000. In fact, buying a GT in 2006 would have made you over 10%, or $14,000, per year. Good luck getting that rate at a bank.
After we had spent the early morning taking photographs and getting acquainted with the GT, it became my turn to drive. I was tossed the keys so nonchalantly and I had to remind myself that this was still just a car. If Ford hadn’t meant for it to be driven, they wouldn’t have strapped 4 wheels and a big ass engine to it, would they? [tweet_quote hashtags=”FordGT” ]I turned the key, let the engine roar, and tried to keep my giggles professional.[/tweet_quote]
The first two things you will immediately notice about driving a GT is that the steering wheel has the same circumference as a drink coaster, and how hard it was to get into gear. See, the GT didn’t mess around with linkage cables for butter like shifting; you need to push the clutch in and deliberately select a gear. But, that was also a solid reassurance that the transmission can handle the 550 horsepower nuclear bomb sitting directly behind me.
Speaking of engines, this one has a doozy. This was a limited production vehicle (4038 total from 2005 – 2006) and Ford knew they didn’t want to mess around with repairs. So what’d they do? They built the 5.4 liter supercharged V8 with a one-and-done mentality. They designed the V8 with an all-aluminum block and reinforced pretty much everything. It also includes a dry-sump oiling system so it could be mounted lower, a screw-type supercharger so there was more boost at lower RPMs, and super strong cylinder heads for those who wished to add even more power. The result? An engine that is only getting started at 550 hp and 550 ft-lbs of torque!
As a side note, the GT I was driving had a smaller pulley, an aftermarket exhaust, and a Heffner Motorsports custom tune. I was sitting on 661 horsepower to the wheels and 607 torques. It was also slightly lighter because replacing the stock muffler on a GT can redact up to 50 lbs alone. The engine can still handle over 1000 horses, but let’s just say it was much quicker than some boring, old, stock GT.
Driving the GT around town was surprisingly livable. It wasn’t too loud when cruising, turning wasn’t much of a chore, all of the buttons worked, and it didn’t try to kill me every time I started off from a red light. However, when I did get on the gas, it went from nice little sports car to screaming banshee! The acceleration was immense and I’m sure I hit 60 mph in something like 3 seconds. It’s such an overwhelming feeling that can’t be reproduced by any other method. Every time I drive the fastest car I’ve ever driven, it still takes me by surprise that there is always something that can be faster.
Since I was already in the car, I had to take advantage of the tunnel that was placed strategically on our route. Just before I entered, I downshifted into second gear and slammed my foot into the accelerator. The GT launched without a second thought and produced the loudest, most glorious sound a car lover could ever hear. If I were to describe it to you I would say imagine dropping a bowling ball on a sleeping tiger’s tail in an empty coliseum; and that’s science. Don’t worry, I went through the tunnel twice to collect accurate data for the readers.
Last up on my list of dreams to come true was to see how fast I could (comfortably) drive it. I found an empty stretch of highway and I decided to let it rip. 0-60 mph took me into second gear and third really brought in the speed. I was easily into 100 when I threw it in fourth and I just needed to hold on. I think I hit around 130 when the stop sign started approaching; the car didn’t even break a sweat but I did. The Ford GT is equally as stable at 130 mph that it is at 60 mph. As a contrast, my old 1992 Cavalier started to wobble at 75 mph… if it even reached that speed.
Ok, I had to do it one more time. I looked both ways and floored it again. The black SUV that was a half-mile away approached a lot sooner than I expected so I went for the overtake. I zipped into the other lane, blasted by the SUV without so much as a hiccup, and re-merged into my lane. I hit the 130 mph mark again and I was satisfied. When I turned around at the intersection and started driving back, I got the impeccable old-lady-shaking-her-fist treatment from the truck. Day. Made.
The sun was fully up now as I pulled back into the driveway, dreading the moment I’d have to say goodbye. I opened the door and… dammit, I knew I would hit my head! No wonder that design didn’t make it past the 60s.
As I was saying, my time with the Ford GT was nothing short of incredible. I would say all good things have to come to an end but I don’t think I should believe that. Ford revived the GT40 after 40 years of retirement for another round off kicking-ass, and although I won’t have the first-time-I-drove-a-Ford-GT experience ever again, I still have the story to tell all of my friends. I took one last look at the GT as the garage door closed and chuckled to myself. Leaving that 661 hp racing legend at its place while driving home in my Volkswagen GTI would feel nothing short of the car equivalent to a “walk of shame.” Sigh… the time of day was spot on too.