In March of 2007, 18 months after getting my 2005 Ford GT, I had finally lost patience with the weak factory audio system. When I ordered the car I didn’t want the “upgraded” McIntosh audio system for reasons I’ve already mentioned, but that base Sanyo head unit, even by 2005 standards, was simply archaic. Basically, it offered AM, FM and CD as media options. No satellite radio. No DVD. No audio inputs. My tech-geek nature simply couldn’t deal.

Thankfully, even with the limited options forced by the GT’s single-DIN housing for a head unit I was able to find a highly advanced (by 2005 standards) JVC unit and install it myself. The installation process did kill the GT’s battery.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Audi Head Unit

My 2005 Ford GT’s base factory head unit was too archaic for my tastes

Ford GT gets a New Head Unit

March 12, 2007 at 7,610 miles

After several months of considering a head unit upgrade for the Ford GT I’ve taken the first steps. The factory unit is passable, but that’s about it. Sound quality is rather impressive for a two-speaker system with no external amplification, yet the Sanyo head unit can’t even play MP3s. And if you’re looking for an external audio input to play satellite radio or an iPod through…well, you’ll have to look really hard.

2005 Ford GT Long Term DIN

With the factory head unit removed it was time to find a high-tech replacement that would fit

After taking a stab (several, actually) at removing the audio system myself I realized I was much better at gouging the head unit than I was at getting it out of the dash. A quick drive to the local Best Buy had the unit out in less than 10 minutes. Normally the removal and installation of an audio system is included in the price of a new unit, but I didn’t actually buy anything at Best Buy (still want to do more research). Thankfully the audio guys were happy to pull the unit for free (they did a great job, too, with no scratches to anything — except the ones I’d already made). I’m thinking the Ford GT had something to do with their willing nature. They probably wouldn’t have been so helpful if I’d driven up in a 1988 Dodge Diplomat.

Now it’s time to figure out what to put back in. The requirements are simple: CD, CD-R, DVD, DVD-R, DVD-Audio, Satellite Radio, MP3, WMA, iPod control, hard drive, video output, Navigation and Bluetooth.

Okay, all I really need is MP3 and Satellite. But the rest would be nice…

2005 Ford GT Long Term Audio Head Unit

A new JVC head unit added a host of advanced features to my 2005 Ford GT’s audio system.

Ford GT’s New JVC Audio System

March 19, 2007 at 7,698 miles

To say this installation was a female dog would be a not-so-creative description of upgrading the Ford GT with JVC’s new KD-NX5000 head unit. Beyond full DVD playback on the 3.5-inch LCD widescreen it also offers a 40 gig harddrive. Sixteen of those gigs are dedicated to the Nav system and its 13 million points of interest; the other 24 gigs are meant for storing music. It will play just about any type of disc, including DivX video, DVD-RW, CD-R, etc. And, if you splurge for the Bluetooth and Sirius add-on components you can have those to play with, too. This shot was taken shortly before the final-final install, so the unit isn’t pushed quite as far back as it ulimately went (didn’t want it locking in place until I was ready). It definitely fits flush with the DIN opening versus sticking out and looking at all awkward.

2005 Ford GT Lon gTerm Audio Head Unit Connections

The biggest challenge of installing the new head unit was routing all the wires for all its features

I spent about 12 hours this weekend dealing with the install, and it was mostly successful. Routing all the connections through the back of the center stack and into either the driver’s or passenger’s footwell was the biggest hurdle. One big challenge remains — getting the head unit to talk to the car’s speed signal lead (basically the speedometer signal). I lost several layers of knuckle skin clawing under the dash, and despite using the factory wiring manual to confirm I had the right wire the JVC refuses to talk to the speed signal. And without this connection the nav system functions are dead.

But everything else works. This picture shows the various connections coming out of the head unit just before my final installation. There are wires for the Bluetooth unit, video in (for rear camera), video out (for watching on a larger monitor), reverse signal, speed signal, Sirius satellite receiver, GPS antenna, terrestrial antenna and optical digital out. There’s also a gauge cluster illumination lead not seen here, so the display dims whenever you turn the headlights on.

2005 Ford GT Long Term JVC Head Unit

The styling of the new JVC head unit even matches the Ford GT’s interior styling

Even the styling works for me. With the round “engine start” button and the round passenger airbag switch right above it, and the round holes in the car’s seats, the control panel almost looks like it could have been a factory design. It’s certainly no worse in appearance than either original unit (the base Sanyo or the optional McIntosh).

Now — what to watch…or listen to. Maybe I’ll just make a hands-free phone call — or rip a CD.

2005 Ford GT Long GT Battery

The battery in my Ford GT died because of long periods of accessory use during the audio upgrade

Ford GT Battery Needed a Charge

March 26, 2007 at 7,789 miles

It was bound to happen. After hearing from plenty of other Ford GT owners about their batteries dying, most often from a lack of use over extended periods, my Ford GT’s battery finally lost the ability to turn over the 5.4-liter V8. To say it was the battery’s fault would be a cruel accusation after its recent torture tests. In the previous two weeks the car had put up with hours of sitting with one or both doors open while the new JVC audio system went in. And after it went in the car sat for several more hours while various features (DVD video, Bluetooth communication, Sirius satellite radio) were set up and/or tested out.

The killing blow came Friday night as I was ripping CDs to the 24-gig harddrive. The problem with this feature is that the CD has to play through at a normal rate while it is recorded to the harddrive. That means running the car for an hour or more per CD. Not a problem if you do this during a road trip, but when parked in a garage it makes sense to simply turn on the accessories and, well, let ‘er rip while you go do something else. To the battery’s credit it took 3 CDs before I noticed that the driver’s window was going up really slowly. I tried the “Engine Start” button and got nothing but a sickening chatter from the starter relay. Ooops!

2005 Ford GT Long Term

The factory battery charger that comes with the Ford GT connects through the 12-volt power outlet

Initially I pulled the storage tub in the car’s front end to access the battery. It was relatively easy to remove because the tub is held in with five twist clips. Once the tub was out the battery required quite a reach to clip on the Battery Tender’s leads. Like most major components in the GT, the battery sits very low in the car. Good for handling, bad for accessibility.

Shortly after thinking it through, I remembered that the Ford GT includes a battery charger (along with a car cover) in the purchase package. This charger simply plugs into the car’s power outlet, thus avoiding the whole storage tub removal bit. The storage tub went back in as easily as it came out, and after about an hour on the factory-supplied charger the car started. But I left it on the trickle charger all weekend just to make sure.