Nobody goes into auto journalism to get rich; we’re in it to serve our communities and make the world a better place. Every now and then, however, we’re tossed the keys to a half-million-dollar supercar, and we have to admit our joy. I have a soft spot for this one in particular. I began researching the history of the Ford GT in 2006, and have driven any number of the various generations of them on both road and track. I have stacks of Ford GT literature taller than I am. So when Ford offered me a couple of hours in the latest upgraded car during Monterey Car Week, I jumped at the chance to continue my intellectual journey in real-time.
There’s arguably no other model of car with a bio as exciting as the GT’s. While this latest model may look nothing like its 1960s forebear, it still has that history in its bones. The Ford GT began life on July 12, 1963, when Lee Iacocca held a special meeting of Ford execs to create Ford Advanced Vehicles. He tasked this new division with creating a racing car to dethrone Ferrari at Le Mans. They wanted a mid-engine vehicle capable of exceeding 200 mph—in other words, a car unlike any that had ever existed. Project head Roy Lunn said at the time, “With the exception of land-speed record cars, no vehicle has ever been developed to travel at speeds in excess of 200 mph on normal highways. These speeds are greater than the takeoff speed of most aircraft, but, conversely, the main problem will be to keep the vehicle on the ground.” Many of the original diagrams and engineering papers of the 1960s are available today in book formand make for fascinating reading.
When Ford launched the next-gen GT for 2017, car fans scoffed at the idea of a Ford priced in the hundreds of thousands. Even the Ford GT of 2005-2006 was initially within reach for the moderately wealthy, although those cars have for the most part only increased in value. The new car is all but unattainable. That’s another reason I jumped at the chance to drive it; not only is it uber-expensive, but few exist.
The latest upgrade, launched in 2020, pumps 13 more horsepower out of its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and also gets a broader torque band. There’s also a decent list of racing-derived mechanical improvements, like gallery-cooled pistons, higher-energy ignition coils, and a new titanium exhaust that’s nine pounds lighter.
None of that is really noticeable during the driving experience. What you do notice is everything that a car this exclusive has to have: carbon-fiber body, 647 hp, laser-sharp steering, a center of gravity that puts extreme cornering potential in your hands.
The seven-speed dual-clutch manual clicks up and down like a race car’s, and while its 550 lb-ft of torque is less than you get in some of the new machinery out there, you wouldn’t know it when you hammer the throttle. Big Brembos let you carry that speed confidently to the very edge of a tight corner. A rear wing pops up during heavy acceleration, and the body shape makes the car look like it could beat the Bezos and Musk space machines to the moon. My test drive’s Code Orange paint wasn’t my favorite, but who’s complaining?
At the same time, there’s a level of comfort that could make the car a daily driver, if you’re spry enough not to mind a little difficulty getting in and out. Rear visibility, nearly nonexistent in many supercars, is plentiful in the GT. The car may be four parts race and one part road, but its nav system functions perfectly well and the seat’s as comfortable as the one in my Subaru Crosstrek. And on the coastal road from Monterey to Big Sur and back, this supercar offered not just high-speed cornering bliss, but the opportunity to forget I was driving a half-million-dollar machine. In the Ford GT, I could simply revel in the charm of one of the most beautiful roads on the planet.
Ford has announced that only 1,350 GTs will be built through next year, so many R&T readers won’t ever even see one of these things in the flesh, let alone buy one. But it’s an important halo car nevertheless. The racing car won its class in its debut at Le Mans. The road car’s mere existence means that buyers who want to own a real GT racing car for the road, a serious supercar with a Ferrari-level price tag, can buy American. That’s a win for all of us, whether we get to drive the thing or not.
AJ Baime is on R&T editor at large and the author of Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans.
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