Tom Wilson
December 1, 2004
Photos By: Mark Wilson

So, the phone rings, and it's the nice folks at Ford's West Coast PublicAffairs with a red GT unexpectedly in their hip pocket. We can have ourway with it for several hours the day after tomorrow. Can we make it?

Well, yeah, sure. But what to do with it besides burnouts at Blimpie?The buff magazines have run the thing to death, so there's no need toget the numbers on it in formal testing, which takes time, money, andplenty of advance planning--none of which we have anyway. There's notenough time to head to Vegas, so a road trip--however logical for aGT--is not in the making. It's during the week, so there isn't anopen-track available. That basically left the real world of stoplightsand parking lots, downtown and urban freeway. Which is just as well, asthe GT was designed as a no-excuse grand tourer, not a prima donnaposer. So we went for the real world.

The real world, it turns out, begins in the parking lot of IrwindaleRaceway, a bottle's throw from the Miller Brewing plant--itself the siteof the long-gone Irwindale dragstrip. As with the GT, some things arenew all over again.

And there, berthed askew in the parking lot, the red bolide sat openedlike a Swiss Army knife on corkscrew maneuvers, its two public-affairshandlers swatting away dust here and there. It sure looked good inperson--low, but not impossibly so; wide, sensuously rounded, yet edgedin just the right spots. It's remarkable just how classic the GT40 shapeis. For 40-something, she's still striking.

Horse Sense: Yeah, it was that good.

For all the hot rods and race cars, one-off factory prototypes, stylingexercises, historical artifacts, and other once-in-a-lifetime automotiveadventures we've had, we were still quietly amped at the imminent act ofsliding behind the GT's wheel. Clearly the genuine article from thefirst glance, you know it's going to be good.

Getting in is easy enough, which can't be said for many cars in thisclass. Yeah, it's a bit low, but the sill isn't that wide, and the doorsopen nearly 90 degrees. They have to, because the "roof" section of thedoor blocks cockpit access at normal door-opening angles. Tall orlong-waisted folks will instantly wonder about headroom; even DannyDeVito would duck when swinging the door shut as the roof section comesswinging in like a blade.

But with the door latched, there's a pocket built into the roof that'sjust enough to give our thinning hair clearance, so head room, whileclose at 35 inches, is not a deal breaker save for the last 1 percent ofthe population. Otherwise, it doesn't take long to know the cockpit isgoing to be a happy place. The important parts--seat, wheel, pedals,shifter--are exactly where they should be. The carbon-fiber seat iscomfy and supportive, and the shifter flicks lightly through its gates.

Aside from headroom, the GT offers generous shoulder, hip, and (at morethan 44 inches) a ton of legroom. Quarters are close around your head,but otherwise there's plenty of room. Passengers even seem a bit faraway thanks to the large center console. A small steering wheel providesknee room, and the pedals are neither too small nor too close together.

Exotic traveling in fancy, mid-engine, sporty cars is done with one good friend and a credit card. The front trunk is the GT's only storage, and photographer Mark ended up deciding the Ford's public-affairs' chase Expedition would make a fine place to store the camera bag.
Chiropractors won't get any extra work from GT owners busting a move in and out of their cars--access is good. But it is necessary to open the doors wide to get the roof section away from the door opening. That basically rules out tight parking spots.
Back in the day, a bump in the roof for headroom was called a "Gurney bubble" because too-tall racing driver Dan Gurney needed one to clear his helmet. Ford did the same in the GT, with a dish in the roof section of the doors. Duck when shutting them!
Looking over your shoulder to check traffic is alone worth the price of admission. For placing 500 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque in your ear, the engine is amazingly quiet. The blower and belt are silent, yet there is enough mechanical background noise to render the somewhat basic sound system nice for a change, but hardly the main attraction. While unsure of any historical significance, we ultimately decided the blue valve covers on the 5.4 lend a festive air.