In August of 2007 my Ford GT got its first serious aftermarket upgrades (beyond the audio head unit I swapped out months earlier). The upgrades included more power, a short-throw shifter and a transmission cooler. The car also attended the second annual Ford GT Owners Rally in Newport Beach, though it didn’t complete the event because a failing shock had it banging over bumps. I also noticed some rubbing between the rear clamshell and the body above the side scoops. The odometer crossed 10,500 miles this month.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Spa Treatment

The Ford GT spent a day getting upgrades to its power and performance

Ford GT Gets Serviced by Ford GT Guys

August 1, 2007 at 10,058 miles

My Ford GT just spent a day in the spa-like, caring hands of The GT Guy. Rich and Dennis were part of the original team that maintained various Ford GTs during development and pre-production testing. They’ve done everything from replacing oil filters to rebuilding wrecked Ford GTs from the frame up. You might say these guys know a thing or two about working on the GT.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Maintenance

My Ford GT was one of many getting worked on by The GT Guy

For my GT I signed up for the basic care package (oil/filter change, air filter replacement, overall inspection) followed by a vigorous regimen of strength building (smaller supercharger pulley, upgraded air intake) and toning (short-throw shifter installation). Finally, I was looking for some endurance training (transaxle cooler, upgraded Accufab transaxle bolts). The GT Guys made sure my car met its health goals.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Supercharger Removal

The supercharger was removed so a smaller pulley could be installed

First up was the supercharger removal. While I wouldn’t suggest GT owners go around casually lifting their supercharger it was only a matter of minutes before the blower separated from the aluminum 5.4-liter V8. The GT Guys surely made it look easier than it really is, but I have heard of owners installing these pulley kits themselves. The bolts are all readily accessible, though you’ll need a press (or a shop with a press) to remove the original pulley and install the new one.

With the supercharger off the smaller pulley goes on. The blower’s faster rotation, and an associated computer reflash, bump the GT’s peak horsepower from around 535 rear-wheel horsepower to around 600 rwhp. But the real improvement comes in the form of a livelier power curve with increased torque and throttle response, particularly in the mid-range. A recalibration of one’s GT driving style is highly suggested (don’t want to end up on WreckedExotics.com). Total cost: $2,000

2005 Ford GT Long Term Center Console Removal

Removing the center console cover requires care

Next came the short-throw shifter installation. After carefully removing the magnesium console cover (note the blue tape used to protect all interior surfaces from scratching) the original shifter is pulled and replaced by a Ford Racing shifter.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Short Shifter

The Ford Racing short shifter quickens things up when shifting the Ford GT

The Ford Racing shifter (left) actually keeps the shifter in the same location because the main shaft length doesn’t change. Instead, the shift linkage is modified to increase the amount of movement going on below the console (thus decreasing the amount of movement in the shifter). This effectively reduces the leverage of the shifter, which could be a problem in lesser trannies. But the Ricardo six-speed in the GT is so smooth that shift effort remains light while the duration of each shift drops. After about 10 gear swaps I stopped noticing the slight change in effort and simply enjoyed the rapid movement between cogs. Total cost: $1,000

2005 Ford GT Long Term Axle Bolts

Upgraded axle bolts from Accufab (left) gave me piece of mind

There have been numerous reports of snapped transaxle bolts, but Ford has yet to offer an official fix. Instead, many owners are using upgraded bolts and washers (left) from Accufab. These components are both larger/thicker and made from higher grade steel. At 10,000 miles I was still operating on the factory axle bolts…but when the GT guys pulled them the backing washer was noticeably “cupped” — meaning the bolt heads were experiencing a side-to-side force that ultimately would have snapped the heads off. There have been no reports of snapped Accufab bolts, so I’ll take the piece of mind. Total cost: $450

2005 Ford GT Long Term Transmission Cooler

The Ford Racing transaxle cooler is smart protection if you track your Ford GT

Finally, they installed a transaxle cooler. You don’t really need one of these unless you are going to track the car, but like the axle bolts it adds piece of mind. It comes from Ford Racing and is relatively easy to install. Total cost: $2,000

That’s it for GT Spa work. The car feels noticeably more powerful. I won’t know the real-world benefits until we get it back to the track for acceleration testing — hopefully in the next week.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Owners Rally El Toro

A group of Ford GTs showed up at El Toro air base to run a road course

Ford GT Second Annual Owners Rally

August 2, 2007 at 10,225 miles

The first day of the Second Annual Ford GT Owner’s Rally included timed laps through a road course set up at the El Toro military base. The course was too tight to generate much speed, but that was probably by design. One sure-fire killjoy at any car event is to let a vehicle, or person, suffer serious damage. Two timed runs were made in our long-term GT with no cone casualties…

I’d like to say the extra horsepower and short shifter made a difference, but on this road course they really didn’t.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Owners Rally El Toro Road Course

The second annual Ford GT Owners Rally included a road course at El Toro Air Base

However, even with the tame course design there was a certain level of vehicle damage occuring on a good chunk of participants’ cars. The GT has a notoriously high first gear to allow zero-to-60 runs with no shifting (great for those enthusiast publication spec charts). But it also means you have to be pretty skilled with your launch technique to avoid frying the clutch. I’d like to report on all the tire-smoking launches made during the timed laps…but it was rarely the tires I saw (or smelled) smoking…

To paraphrase Mr. Ferrari: “Not every Ford GT owner is a Ford GT driver.”

2005 Ford GT Long Term Owners Rally Camilo Pardo Art

An auction for Camilo Pardo’s artwork took place at The Petersen Museum

Ford GT Car Show, Auction and Carroll Shelby

August 6, 2007 at 10,410 miles

The Second Annual Ford GT Owner’s Rally wrapped up with a cruise through the high desert, a dinner and charity auction at the Petersen Automotive Musuem, and a car show featuring over 100 Ford GTs. The high-desert cruise proved challenging in the early stages, with standard-issue L.A. traffic on the northbound 15 freeway (why would anyone be going that direction on a Friday?). Once clear of Interstate 15 the parade of 40-plus GTs enjoyed wide-open cruising at wide-open thro-…er, at a healthy rate of speed across the Pearblossom Highway.

The cruise wound it’s way back to The Petersen Automotive Museum where participants enjoyed browsing the three floors of car-related displays before bidding in an auction of Ford GT artwork by GT designer Camilo Pardo.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Owners Rally Carroll Shelby

The Ford GT Owners Rally included an appearance by the one-and-only Carroll Shelby

The evening was topped off by the appearance a Ford’s most famous face, Carroll Shelby. Mr. Shelby signed all of the artwork before it was auctioned off to benefit a veteren’s charity. The elder statesman of speed then offered to pose for pictures with any and all interested participants (the line formed quickly and took up most of the museum’s second floor). At 84 it’s obvious Mr. Shelby still knows how to live life to its fullest.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Owners Rally Car Show

The local Cars and Coffee show celebrated the Ford GT with a special parking section

The rally’s final day started with an early morning car show in Irvine. Dubbed Cars and Coffee, this weekly gathering never fails to turn up a large collection of classic, exotic and special interest automobiles (and motorcycles). The Ford GT was the “featured” car this day, and with over 100 copies flooding the parking lot of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group it was easily the largest gathering of Ford GTs to date.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Shock

The rear, driver’s side shock was leaking and banging over bumps

And how did our long-term exotic perform throughout this four-day Ford GT frenzy? Admirably — until a failing rear shock sidelined us after the Petersen Museum auction. The growing “CRASH” from the behind our head, even over modest road imperfections, had us swapping the GT for another mid-engine V8 exotic car. You can read more about it in the next post…

2005 Ford GT Long Term Owners Rally Ferrari 308

A leaking shock meant I had to swap one mid-engine V8 exotic for another

Ford GT and Ferrari 308: My Weekend with Two Exotic Gals

August 6, 2007 at 10,479 miles

When your mid-engine, V8 exotic gets sidelined during an owner’s rally your options are pretty limited. You can bail out on the fun, cry in your latte and tell yourself “Well, there’s always next year,” or you can hop into your spare mid-engine, V8 exotic and keep on motoring.

I didn’t plan on switching from the Ford GT to the Ferrari 308 halfway through the Ford GT Owner’s Rally, but a leaking shock had the GT’s rear-end crashing over minor bumps with increasing volume. This is the same rear driver’s-side wheel that ran over nasty road debris back in December of 2006, forcing it to slam up-and-down as the metal jutting out of the tire bounced the wheel violently at highway speeds. Coincidence that this shock was leaking fluid months later. I think not!

Anyway, by Friday night it was clear that continued use would potentially spread the carnage beyond a dead shock to a cracked spindle and/or crushed wheel bearing (to say nothing of the car’s four-wheel alignment). It was time to bench the blue-oval exotic.

The initial plan was to switch into my own 1973 Saab Sonett, as I knew it would be sitting dutifully in the parking garage. But what’s this? A red Ferrari buried 30 feet underground on a Friday night in L.A.? Yeah, recent reports of anti-freeze burps and gas fumes might scare lesser exotic car fans, but not one with three old British bikes and two old Chrysler muscle cars in the garage. By my reckoning the 1984 308 remains a modern car.

Once underway the wife was quick to note, “This thing rides like a luxury car.” Yes honey, but so would a 1947 Willy’s Jeep after getting out of a Ford GT with a fouled shock. The Ferrari didn’t fire up as quickly as I remember, and the low-end torque is down. I believe both items relate to an “upgraded tune” peformed during recent maintenance work. It does indeed seem more powerful above 5,000 rpm, but as a torque fan I prefer the previous tune with a meatier low-end punch.

2005 Ford GT Owners Rally Cars Coffee

A Ford-GT-themed car show meant I had to park the Ferrari in another section

The 308 cruised effortlessly for 50 miles down the 405 to Newport Beach. The Ferrari really settles in happily at about 85 mph and will hit 100 without complaint. The next morning I had to fire it up early to make the Cars and Coffee show at Ford’s PAG in Irvine. Again it didn’t start as quickly as I remember, and the shifter was reluctant to go into reverse. The last time I drove it reverse was relatively easy to get, but for some reason I had to wrestle with the shifter for what must have been over a minute. I’ve since altered my technique (more side force before pushing down) with much success.

The cars and coffee show was dedicated to the Ford GT this morning, but in the rows marked for “other” vehicles I found a suitable parking mate (Testarossa) and slid in next to it. With these two cars in close proximity I noted many a child of the ’80s wandering by for a closer look, often accompanied by “Don Johnson/Tom Selleck” comments.

Some other items to note in the “Ford vs. Ferrari” discussion. First, while the GT offers more legroom, the Ferrari has just as much space behind the seats, and considerably more cargo space. Even with the car’s cover taking up 30 percent of the storage area there was plenty of room for my overnight bag, my laptop and the wife’s small bag (in the GT only my overnight bag fit in the cargo area…barely).

One other item continues to plague the Ferrari — a constant haze on the inside of the glass whenever it’s parked under the sun. I’ve washed the windows every time I’ve driven it, but the cloudy windows return again and again. This issue, along with the weak low rpm power, mar an otherwise fabulous driving experience. Fix those, and I’m ready for the next Ferrari rally. As is, it makes a fine substitue when you’re 10,000-mile, two-year-old Ford GT goes on the trailer.

2005 Ford GT Long Term Door Trim Ring

Loose door trim ring required a TSB fix at the Ford dealer

Ford GT Warranty Repairs and Engine Cover Rubs

August 27, 2007 at 10,520 miles

Picked up the Long-Term GT from the Ford dealership after having the dead rear shock replaced and loose door panel trim repaired. The total bill came to $0, as there’s a TSB on the loose door trim and the dead shock was replaced under warranty. Good thing it’s not a F430, as Ferrari’s 1 year/12,000-mile coverage wouldn’t have applied (the GT has been in service for 2 years/10,500 miles and comes with 3/36 coverage).

But I did find another minor issue while washing the GT…

It appears the engine cover is rubbing against the main body every time it shuts. I noticed this on the passenger side scoop, just behind the door. I immediately checked the driver’s side scoop and, interestingly, found a small piece of clear tape applied to this area. This side is rubbing, too, but not as severely.

Curious that the tape would be there at all (never noticed it before), and also curious that it has only been applied to one side. That, or it was on both sides and rubbed off the passenger scoop. Not a huge issue either way, as the rub marks are in an area you can’t see without lifting the engine cover. Probably won’t do anything about them.