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Ford GT (2004 - 2006): review, history and specs of an icon

Few supercars have allowed such easy access to their performance as the original Ford GT, making it one of our top 25 cars of the last 25 years

It would be easy to believe that the Ford GT, evo Car of the Year 2005, got the win partly because it was so much better than we were expecting. After all, Ford hadn’t built a proper supercar since, well, the GT40, and this pastiche of that legendary car was bigger, heavier and had been developed in the US, which, to be polite, wasn’t sitting on an impressive supercar-making CV. But that would be an entirely false assumption. Truth was, the Ford GT was a simply sublime driving experience, a supercar with enormous, thrilling performance, a brilliant chassis and terrific feel. 

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Jethro Bovingdon had been to the launch in the US and came back enthused, insisting that we include it in eCoty. Ford delivered and one by one we fell under its spell. Yes, we were on the Route Napoléon, but its brilliance would have been obvious on the North Circular. 

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I still remember hopping in the first time, being unimpressed with the plasticky seats’ fake eyelets, almost scalping myself when I closed the door, but then very quickly finding everything very much to my taste, from the lusty, smooth and tractable 550bhp V8 to the light clutch, precise throttle and snickety Ricardo six-speed manual. Dynamically, it got off on the right foot with superb ride quality, then added tactile, perfectly weighted steering and fluent handling. 

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Despite its lack of traction control and the instant, supercharged torque, it wasn’t intimidating. The Ferrari F430 we had along was c150kg lighter and more compact but also edgier. A small leap of faith was required to unhook its rear. The big Ford was much friendlier and more biddable, prompting us to describe it as a 550bhp Elise

I haven’t driven another supercar that allows such easy access to its performance and which transitions so naturally into power oversteer and back again. With hindsight, if you drop a supercharged V8 that delivers 500lb ft of torque at 2000rpm into the back of a supercar that doesn’t have traction control, you either have to make its rear grip virtually undefeatable or do the opposite, as Ford did, and make its handling supremely progressive. 

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Two, maybe three times a year, you get into a car, drive it just a little way down the road and recognise beyond all doubt that you are at the wheel of something remarkable. You never forget the moment. In my 2005 eCoty notes I wrote: ‘Within a couple of hundred yards I knew it was something really special. Half a dozen corners later I knew it was the winner. In more than 15 years that’s never happened to me before.’ Hasn’t happened since, either.

What we thought

'Perhaps it’s the old-school looks and historical baggage, but it’s hard not to feel daunted at the prospect of extending the GT – a car that feels as quick as anything I’ve ever driven, short of a Zonda F – on a road like this. But, unlikely as it sounds, once a few sinuous miles have rolled beneath its wheels, you know that the trickiest and most intimidating aspect of the Ford GT is climbing in and closing the door. Manage that without scalping yourself in the process, and the rest is absurdly easy.  

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Really. I kid you not. Nothing can prepare you for the delicacy of the controls and the progressive, measured way in which the GT responds, both to throttle and steering inputs. It’s calm when you expect it to be jumpy; fluid when you think it’ll be ragged; approachable and exploitable from the moment you drive away. You feel encouraged to stretch yourself and the car sooner than you’d ever believe. 

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Everything, it seems, has been honed to help maximise your enjoyment. The clutch, feelsome but far from heavy, is a cinch to operate, as is the manual gearbox, which slots from cog to cog with a sweetness that belies the forces it has to transmit. The steering shares their delicacy and feel, shunning gratuitous weight for detailed feel and natural, linear response. You don’t fight the GT, you flow with it, powering calmly and precisely from straight to crest to bend, safe in the knowledge that each wheel and tyre is relaying faithful information to you through the steering wheel and seat cushion. Make no mistake, the Ford is vividly, explicitly, shockingly fast. It snacks on stretches of road that most cars would make a meal of, its rangy gearing and deceptive, devastating power delivery firing you through France at warp speed. What’s eerie is how tranquil it all feels from the driver’s seat. The eye of the storm. 

     
The brakes have magnificent power and feel, too, repeatedly wiping off speed without breaking sweat, the pedal pressure and consistent, minimal travel perfectly suited to heel-and-toe downshifts that further polish your progress. By the time I arrive in Castellane I’m completely at one with the GT, blown away by its composure, speed and uncanny depth of ability, mesmerised by just how good it felt on what must rank as one of the world’s greatest roads.'

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'Everyone, to a man, was completely blown away by the Ford GT. Even those of us who’d driven it before were surprised by its unique combination of towering performance and lightness of touch. Green, a newcomer to the big-hearted Ford, was just gob-smacked. ‘I’m still not completely convinced by the retro thing, but to drive it’s awesome. Perhaps because of the replica looks I was expecting a real GT40 driving experience: heavy and awkward, really fast but a real handful with it. It is really fast, but it’s easier and more accessible than you’d ever believe.’

Goodwin is another GT virgin. ‘I’m having trouble to sum up the GT,’ he says. ‘It’s such an emotional thing. You get incredibly excited just looking at it.’

It’s Harry’s first taste of the Ford, too (some suggest it’s his first taste of any Ford), and guess what? He’s under its spell. ‘I’m absolutely staggered. It’s one of those cars you just presume is a concept that’s just about made it into production, but it’s not. It feels like they’ve been building them for years. So smooth, so quick, such a supple chassis and a brilliant gearbox.’

The key to the GT’s success is its completeness. Comfortably the most powerful and fastest here, it’s also one of the most benign, despite doing without any form of traction or stability control. Coupled to mile-wide tyres, abundant torque and a mid-engined chassis, you’d expect it to be as progressive as a hair-trigger, but, as John Hayman says, ‘As crazy as it sounds, so long as they have a molecule of sensitivity, you could put anyone in the GT.’ 

Checking my notes, the GT is often referred to as ‘a 550bhp Elise’, which, if you can get your head around the concept, just about sums it up. The last word on our newest eCoty champion, though, goes to Barker. ‘Within a couple of hundred yards I thought the GT was something really special. Half a dozen corners later, I knew it was the winner. In more than 15 years that’s never happened to me before.’ – Peter Tomalin, eCoty 2005

Ford GT (2004 - 2006) specs

EngineV8, 5409cc, supercharged
Power550bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque500lb ft @ 3750rpm
0-60mph3.7sec
Top speed205mph
Price new£120,900
Price today£280,000 - £500,000
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