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Mustangs, Thunderbirds and F-series pickups are all legendary Fords that have populated America's highways for decades. Numbering in the millions, they're recognizable to just about everyone. For motorsports fans or those familiar with Ford's racing heritage, however, there's a lesser known but equally iconic "halo" model that best represents the technological capabilities of the marque: the exotic limited-production Ford GT sports car.
Arriving in prototype form just in time for Ford's Centennial celebration in 2003, the Ford GT debuted for 2004 as the modern, road-going interpretation of the GT40 endurance racing car that beat Ferrari and swept the 24 Hours of Le Mans race four years in a row from 1966-'69. The ultrahigh-performance two-seat Ford GT was produced from 2004 through 2006 and showcased many advanced technologies, befitting its $140,000 price tag. It sported a supercharged mid-mounted V8 engine, an aluminum chassis, superplastic-formed aluminum body panels, a capless fuel filler, cross-drilled Brembo brakes and a carbon-fiber engine cover. Not only did these exotic features showcase a technological tour de force, they also formed a visual feast once the large rear engine cover was opened.
After climbing inside -- a process made awkward by the GT's pronounced door frames that extend well into the roof -- the driver and lucky passenger enjoy surprisingly roomy accommodations for even 6-plus-footers. The cockpit offers a satisfying blend of old and new -- the wide gauge cluster with center-mounted tach, the red starter button, a metal shift knob, large toggle switches and carbon-fiber seats remind you of its more primitive heritage, while the magnesium center console and illuminated climate controls lend a modern and civilized touch. As you might expect, rear visibility is a weak point, but it's a trade-off we have no problem accepting.
Once underway, however, whatever ergonomic shortcomings the GT may have disappear as quickly as the road in its rearview mirror. Surprisingly, its drivability and user-friendliness is closer to that of a typical sport coupe than a high-performance sports car. The clutch pedal and shifter operate smoothly, the well-balanced steering provides excellent feedback and the engine remains civilized when idling through traffic. But the Ford GT really comes into its own when driven with gusto on the road or at the track, with blistering 3.5-second 0-60-mph performance and a reassuring combination of stability and confidence in place of the typical nervousness exhibited by some other exotics. As we said in our review, "think of it as a Viper-powered NSX with the daily drivability of a Corvette." In other words, the Ford GT is one of the most capable cars ever produced, with at-the-limit manners that not only give it an advantage over direct rivals, but also the ability to compete with supercars costing much more.
Most Recent Ford GT
The 2006 Ford GT was offered in one trim level with only a handful of available options. It featured an aluminum chassis with double-wishbone suspension, 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels, special high-speed tires and a supercharged 5.4-liter aluminum V8 engine putting out 550 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual transmission and limited-slip differential. Standard equipment included HID headlights, air-conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and a CD audio system.
Owners could opt for an upgraded McIntosh audio system with four-channel amplifier, as well as BBS forged aluminum wheels, red- or gray-painted brake calipers and a full-length racing stripe. Two special-edition color schemes for 2006 included a Tungsten Grey exterior that commemorated the original GT40's 1-2-3 Le Mans victory in 1966, and a Heritage Edition that featured the blue and orange colors of the GT40 that won Le Mans in 1968 and '69.
Earlier versions of this single-generation vehicle were similarly equipped. With a total production of a shade more than 4,000 units, the majority of Ford GTs were 2005 and '06 models. Those shopping for a previously owned GT should be aware that some early 2004 production models experienced "teething" problems involving leaking hoses and minor ailments with the electrical and climate control systems. Ford also recalled several hundred of the first '04 production cars to replace potentially defective suspension control arms, and also inspected and addressed complaints of engine main seal oil leaks. Although these early problems were likely rectified, we'd put our hard-earned money toward a later model.