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April 10, 2007 > 2006 Ford GT

2006 Ford GT

This road test report is not about a "new" car because the Ford GT was only made for the 2005 and 2006 model years. But they are still available at some Ford dealers as new or used with very few miles and full factory warranties.

Ford has a long tradition of racing its products. It started in 1901 when Henry Ford raced a car that he had just built from scratch. He beat Alexander Winton (driving a Winton automobile) in a race at Grosse Pointe Michigan.

Fast forward to the early 1960s and Ferrari was winning many sports car races. Henry Ford II decided that America needed to stop the Italian domination. He decided to start his own racing team and assembled a fantastic team of engineers, mechanics and racers. They created one of the most memorable series of racecars ever made-the Ford GT 40. In 1966, Ford GT 40s finished first, second and third in the most prestigious road race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. GT 40s also won the race in 1967, 1968, and 1969. It was a tremendous period at Ford and the many racing victories boosted their sales.

Fast forward to the early 2000s and Ford decided to "recreate" their most successful racecar as a production car for Ford's 100th anniversary. It took about 16 months to design and engineer the Ford GT that would eventually be sold as both a 2005 and 2006 model.

I had the chance to ride in and get behind the wheel of a 2006 Ford GT at the Thunderhill race track in Willows CA a few weeks ago. It was one of the fastest racetrack sessions I have ever had. Its 550 HP (500 foot pounds of torque) is generated by a 5.4-liter V-8 that is supercharged and intercooled. A 6-speed Ricardo manual transmission sends the power back to the 19 inch diameter, 11 1/2 inch wide rear wheels. The rear tires are so wide you might confuse the car with a steamroller. The front wheels are 18 inch diameter by 9 1/2 inch wide.

The Ford GT is about 20% bigger in all dimensions than the original GT 40. This is good because it improves the interior space and allows room for all the technological updates packed into the car. It still maintains the drop-dead gorgeous looks and great aerodynamic stability of the GT 40. The Ford GT is built on a super still aluminum space frame for great handling.

Climb in and let's go for a ride. It's not easy to get in (fold yourself up a little) but once in, there is plenty of room to focus on the business of driving. Don't plan to put extraneous items in the driver's compartment, there isn't any extra space. Up front, under the hood, is enough space for a small suitcase. The seats are almost full racing buckets and hold you well. The dash is a work of engineering art and the toggle switches are little jewels all lined up in a row. The shift lever is in the perfect position. This space is for serious driving!

Hit the start button and the sound tells you this will be a unique experience. It's a kind of low rumbley guttural sound. It's pretty quiet considering the supercharger is 8 inches behind your ears. The clutch is not as stiff as I expected. Select first, add some throttle and she moves off with no muss or fuss. The rack and pinion steering is light, responsive and the feedback is good. Gear changes are easy and smooth. It is easy to see that this is a modern, well engineered car.

Head for the track and the gentle giant comes alive. Acceleration is fantastic. Straights that produced 110 to 120 mph in other "fast" cars would now see the Ford GT at 150+. And going fast was not a problem because the Brembo ABS brakes were spectacular. The front disk brake rotors are 14 inches in diameter. That's bigger than the wheels of many cars. The brakes were rock solid, smooth, and had no fade during our track sessions.

Handling? No problem. Just point the car where you want to go and that's where it went. It was very neutral, stable and surprisingly easy to control. The grip levels were very high and the ride is smoother than you would expect. It is a real confidence builder.

Downsides? As I said, don't plan to pack much stuff for a trip. Entry and exit aren't a piece of cake. Visibility out the back is nonexistent. Backing up in a parking lot is a leap of faith. The front A-pillars are part of the rollover structure so they are relatively thick and could create visibility issues on the street. BUT WHO CARES???????

Now comes the really bad news, my wife probably won't buy me a Ford GT for my birthday, she can't afford one. The original MSRP ranged from $125,000 to $160,000 depending on options. But dealers were (and still are) asking for large mark ups. It was rumored that some dealers were getting $300,000 over MSRP when the Ford GTs first became available. As time went on, many people paid a $25,000 to $50,000 dealer mark up over MSRP.

So what are we left with? World class performance, handling, and braking packaged into one of the most beautiful shapes in automotive history; unmatched drivability, none of those exotic car idiosyncrasies that make many of them diabolical to drive fast. Yes, it is expensive, but compared to other cars that offer similar performance, the Ford GT is the deal of the century (Honey please----If we sell the kids we can afford one.).

The photos for this report were provided by www.GotBlueMilk.com.


By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists
RRYAN@FRK.COM

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