Let's Talk Cars, Motorcycles and Other Life-Changing Events

Month: April 2018

My 2005 Ford GT Factory Tour

Ford GT Factory Tour

Completed Ford GTs at the Wixom Assembly Plant

In June of 2005, about 8 weeks after ordering my Ford GT, I got a call from my Ford contact. He had promised to let me visit the Ford GT assembly plant in Detroit while my car was being built, and he said he’d give me about a week’s notice so I could schedule travel. Well, that was the plan anyway. When he finally did call the first words out of his mouth were, “Your car’s on the line right now and will be done in the next few days. Can you get here this week?!”

I actually had a prior trip to the east coast scheduled over the coming days, but I was able to change my return flight for a stopover in Detroit. Of course there were weather issues in Newark on my way back, which meant I had to take a cab to JFK to get the last flight to Detroit, and that flight was delayed, getting me to my hotel at roughly 3 a.m. Factory tour start time at the assembly plant was 9 a.m., which meant another sleep-deprived Ford GT experience just like my first GT driving experience at Gingerman Raceway the previous October. And just like that event, I didn’t notice the lack of sleep once I arrived at the plant and saw hundreds of GTs in various states of assembly. 

Original 1966 Ford GT40 Brochure

Ford’s GT40 swept the podium at Le Mans in 1966, taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd place while making it the first American car company to win the prestigious 24-hour endurance race. The 50th anniversary of that win is being celebrated this weekend in Monterey, and I’ll be attending an event that will include all of the winning Ford GT40s of that era.

1966 Ford GT40 Le Mans Brochure

A brochure for the 1966 Ford GT40 that won Le Mans

Years ago I spotted a brochure for the 1966 Ford GT40 on eBay at a reasonable price. I’ve scanned the brochure and posted it here for your reading enjoyment. I’m not sure if this is an original brochure of a reprint, but it’s a fun read either way.

1966 Ford GT40 Le Mans Brochure Page 2

A brochure for the 1966 Ford GT40 that won Le Mans

Ordering My 2005 Ford GT

Ford GT Quick Reference Guide

2005 Ford GT Quick Reference Guide

When I was told I’d “made the list” to get a 2005 Ford GT, in April of 2004, I didn’t know exactly when I’d take delivery. At that point I was just happy to be getting a car. But after a year of waiting I’ll admit, I was getting antsy. The delays to the car’s production due to paint issues, the “ship-in-a-bottle” central fuel tank design and the extruded aluminum suspension pieces were well known to Ford GT fans and industry followers. By spring of 2005 cars were slowly trickling into dealerships, and any GTs not snapped up by dealer principals were going for $250,000-plus on the open market.

2005 Ford GT Order Form

My order form for a 2005 Ford GT

Then in mid-April 2005 I received paperwork from Ford asking me how I wanted my GT configured. The car’s base price started at $139,995, and of the four options offered I knew how I wanted all four of them configured. “Yes” on the painted racing stripes ($5,350), “yes” on the BBS lightweight aluminum wheels ($3,500), “yes” on the (red) painted brake calipers ($750), and “no” on the optional McIntosh audio system ($2,100). I actually liked the McIntosh audio head unit, but the large subwoofer that came with it was mounted between the seats, blocking the view of the supercharger on the other side of the rear cabin glass.

My Second Drive In The 2005 Ford GT

2005 Ford GT Front

2005 Ford GT pre-production press car with early headlight design

After briefly driving the Ford GT for the first time on Gingerman Raceway in October of 2003 I was given a second opportunity in April of 2004. This time I had the car for over 48 hours on the roads in and around Napa Valley. During this drive I also learned I was getting an allocation to buy a 2005 Ford GT, equipped the way I wanted and sold at MSRP. This is the road test I wrote and these are the photos that came from driving that pre-production test car. This article first published July 2, 2004:

2005 Fod GT Rear

2005 Ford GT pre-production press car in Fort Bragg, California

The Ford GT40 Stars In Its Own Show (and I co-star…sort of)

In June of 2004 I went to a small studio in West Los Angeles to be interviewed for a series called “Behind the Headlights.” This series of documentary programs, written by noted automotive journalist and historian Ken Gross, focused each episode on one highly significant automobile from history. Examples included James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR from the 1955 Le Mans crash, and the 1961 Lincoln Continental, also known as the X-100, that carried JFK on that fateful day in Dallas.

The Behind the Headlights episode I contributed to focused on the 1967 Ford GT40 Mark IV that won Le Mans in 1967. While that specific GT40 was the star of the show, the 45-minute documentary discussed the entire Ford GT40 race program, from the attempt to buy Ferrari in 1963, through the 1969 Le Mans win and even the 2005-2006 Ford GT revival. I’m probably biased, but I consider it the most effective and entertaining telling of the Ford GT40 story (and I’ve seen them all).

Karl Brauer on Behind the Headlights

I played a tiny role in a highly-entertaining Ford GT40 show

Being a part of this show, shortly after learning I’d be getting a new 2005 Ford GT but about a year before I took possession, was incredibly rewarding. Not only was I thrilled to discuss the original Ford GT40, I also felt honored (and a bit out of place) to be among the legendary individuals that appeared in this episode of Behind the Headlights. I’m convinced when people watch this episode they ask the same question Bill Ford Jr. asked when looking at the list of 2005 Ford GT applicants: “Who is Karl Brauer?”

I Get the Word on My 2005 Ford GT Allocation, and the Word is Good!

2005 Ford GT Rear Red

2005 Ford GT Press Car in Fort Bragg, California, April 2004

In my 2-year effort to secure a 2005 Ford GT, preferably at MSRP, I had called over 50 Ford dealerships across the U.S. When I started the process in mid-2002 the most common response to “Would you commit to selling me a GT at MSRP?” was “Sure, we got Mustangs on the lot. Come on down!” Telling the dealer rep I was calling about a future Ford exotic car, with a mid-engine V8, was usually met with an extended pause, followed by “Umm…I haven’t heard about that. Let me get back to you.” Despite these challenges I had five dealers express interest in selling me the car at MSRP “…if and when it shows up.” I was surprised by the skepticism many dealers expressed about the car ever actually being built, which was increasingly frustrating as I watched the Ford GT progress from concept car to production vehicle over the course of 2 years.

Then, the Super Bowl commercial hit on February 1, 2004, and suddenly every Ford dealer was very aware of the car…and the potential it held for dealer mark-up. I can only imagine how many phone calls flooded showroom switchboards on the Monday after Super Bowl XXXVIII. Not surprisingly, when I checked back with the dealers who had previously committed to selling the car at MSRP (including one I’d sent a $2,000 deposit to), they had a different attitude after the Super Bowl commercial. “Yeah, we’re going to use a bidding process for the car.”

That Damn Ford GT Super Bowl Commercial

Ford GT Commercial

The Ford GT commercial meant this car’s secret was out.

On February 1st, 2004 the New England Patriots eked out a 3-point win over the Carolina Panthers. It was an excellent game, though somewhat overshadowed by Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show. For me all of those factors faded into the background of what I considered the most exciting (and frustrating) element of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

This was the moment the world discovered the Ford GT. Yes, it was shown at the Detroit Auto Show 2 years earlier as a concept. And yes, plenty of magazines and websites had published stories of its ongoing development. Heck, I’d already written two well-received stories on the Ford GT myself. But Super Bowl commercials are not random auto show debuts or car buff articles. Super Bowl commercials remain the one place where much of our distracted Western Civilization stops what they’re doing and pays attention.

My First Drive In The New 2005 Ford GT

2005 Ford GT Early Test Car

2005 Ford GT Early Test Car

By October 2003 it had been almost 2 years since the Ford GT40 concept debuted at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. At this point GT enthusiasts knew the car would be called the “GT” and not “GT40” due to a legal battle with Safir GT40 Spares (a company that owned the rights to the term). We also knew the car was suffering delays in development. Challenges related to the Ford GT’s paint process, central fuel tank and aluminum suspension pieces had delayed its production, though three prototype versions of the GT (one red, one white, and one blue), were presented in June of 2003 at Ford’s Centennial Celebration.

Those three prototypes, dubbed 2004 Ford GTs, were one-off models used to engineer the final 2005 production versions. Their prototype nature made them worth over a million dollars, each, and the white one also happened to be Bill Ford Jr’s personal car. I didn’t know if I’d ever get to drive these prototypes, but then my primary Ford GT contact, Alan Hall, called to say I could drive them (except Bill’s) at Gingerman Raceway, a track in Western Michigan. I actually had a prior commitment in Las Vegas the night before, which meant a red-eye flight to Detroit, followed by a 3-hour drive from Detroit Metro Airport to Gingerman Raceway. Ford was kind enough to leave me a Ford SVT Focus at the airport, but I was running on empty when I got to the track. Thankfully, the sight of multiple Ford GTs racing around Gingerman instantly restored me to peak energy. This was the first time I’d seen the GT outside a static show display.

A New 2005 Ford GT is in Development

Ford GT40 Concept Clay Design Front

Ford GT40 clay design work-in-progress (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Once I knew Ford was producing a new Ford GT (in March of 2002) I followed the car’s progress very closely. I’d already let my Ford contacts know I wanted a GT, but there was no guarantee I’d have any better shot at one than the thousands of other car fanatics chomping at the bit. Actually, despite the car’s stunning looks and unique mid-engine V8 design I was surprised how many people didn’t know the Ford GT was coming. But that would change soon…

Ford GT40 Concept Design Review

Ford GT40 concept design review (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

In the meantime I kept in close contact with my friends at Ford, listening for any updates on development progress. I even flew to the Ford GT’s development center in Dearborn and interviewed several members of the design team. Here is the original text from an August 21st, 2003 story:

Awesome Ford GT40 Concept Debuts…Now What?

Ford GT40 Concept Car

Ford GT40 Concept Car in Gulf livery. (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

When Ford debuted its GT40 concept at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2002 it completely stole the show. Nobody knew it was coming, and nobody (including yours truly) thought Ford would actually build a production version. It was less than 6 months after the September 11th attacks. A new level of uncertainty had gripped the nation. Car companies didn’t know what the economic fallout would be. GM’s “Keep America Rolling” campaign started a few weeks after the attack, with major price cuts that actually kept Americans visiting dealer showrooms versus locking up their bank accounts. Most automakers joined the effort, the government instituted several automotive tax incentives, and 2001 ended up being a healthy year for new car sales. But could Ford, a company that was already struggling financially in the early 2000s, really afford to build a single-minded, low-volume sports car?

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