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2005 Ford GT - Light-Speed Supercar
So your E-ticket megacar isn't fast enough? Here's one that'll get you to Mars and back in mere seconds.
It pins you to the seat with increasing pressure, and while your body is busy becoming one with the black leather upholstery, the scenery outside begins to blur. The front end rises ever so slightly, and shortly thereafter you expect the wheels to come off of the ground for liftoff. This is not the Air Force's latest fighter jet, but if the military needed a lightning-quick supercar, this would be it.
If you haven't looked at the pictures or seen it on the Internet, we must tell you this is no ordinary Ford GT. While the factory 550 hp and Earth-moving torque is impressive, hold on because this one produces nearly twice that-at the wheels. With an estimated 1,200 crankshaft horsepower, this Ford GT is like no other.
The red and white Ford dispenses high-powered exotics at the blip of the throttle. ZO6 Corvettes? Not worth mentioning. Lamborghinis and Ferraris? No problem. Single-turbo Supras? Not a chance. Surely the twin-turbo Saleen S7 must be capable, but it got mowed down like yesterday's grass. Hayabusas and GSXRs offer a glimmer of hope, but they just don't have the stones.
Only modified race bikes have brought a challenge. Heck, we thought about setting up a match race with a million-dollar, 1,000hp Bugatti Veyron 16.4, but as this car's owner proclaimed, "I will smoke that thing." Bold words that are backed by more knockout power than UFC Champion Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell.
Plain and simple, Joe Cermin's twin-turbo Ford GT is an absolute rocket ship, and we should know-we spent about three hours in and out of the throttle of this 1,012-rwhp machine that has sparked a wildfire of interest on the Internet. What's more impressive is that we flogged this fine piece of Ford artillery in the midday, 95-degree Florida sun. With the air conditioning chilling us down and AC/DC cranking on the speakers, the GT never missed a beat.
Of course, we knew it was only a matter of time before Ford GT owners began modifying their cars. Whether its wheels and tires or improved performance, exotic car owners buy these machines for exclusivity, and sometimes it's not a matter of who has the fastest car. The urge to alter the vehicle from factory specs could just come down to making it fit your personality. But this story has more to do with street superiority than touting your unique ride.
Ford's GT supercar has received nothing but praise since its release, with Americans in general gravitating to the 550hp, U.S.-built machine simply because it's a Ford. It's a conglomeration of aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber, and titanium that touches the true heritage of the company.
The fact that it is a Ford and it shares numerous similarities with other highly popular, high-performance automobiles (think SVT Lightning and Cobra) no doubt helped to accelerate GT performance modifications. Ford Racing Performance Parts even offers a few hop-up parts for the beast. This relative ease of modification was just one reason Joe purchased his '05 Ford GT back in October 2005.
One year later, his GT has racked up some 8,000 supercar-slaughtering, street-bike-slaying miles on its ticker, more than half of which have been with its pair of Precision Turbo Garrett GT35R turbochargers pressurizing its eight cylinders.
But before we give you all the facts, let's turn back the clock. With just 250 miles on the odometer, a mere week after taking the keys, Joe stopped by HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida, to see what could be done to make his GT a tad faster. Joe is no stranger to fast cars, so he knew he wanted more from the GT. As president of a medical imaging software com-pany, he has been able to fill his garage with quite a bit of horsepower. "I had a Lotus Esprit twin-turbo and then a Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster that actually caught on fire while I was driving it," Joe says. "Right before I picked up the GT, I had a Kleemann SL65 Mercedes with 600 hp and 721 lb-ft of torque.
Joe had a friend with a hopped-up Mustang and saw firsthand how easy it was to make them go fast. Seeing the GT's obvious connection between SVT's Lightning and Cobra models, Joe thought it would be pretty easy to modify the GT for even more power, relatively speaking.
"I got a call on a Sunday afternoon from this guy who wanted to have his GT tuned," says HP Performance's Tony Gonyon. "I didn't give it much thought and figured it was just someone with a Mustang GT, but I was just sitting around and the grass was mowed so I called the guy back and he said that he wanted his Ford GT tuned today." That offer was something worth postponing Sunday's dinner for.
After consulting SCT tuning guru Jerry Wroblewski, Tony tweaked the ECM's file and took the GT from its stock 532 hp/467 lb-ft of torque to 552 hp and 511 lb-ft of torque. A week later, Joe stopped back in for more boost via a 2.70-inch Whipple supercharger pulley. By this time, word had spread that HP Performance had cracked open the power fountain of the Ford GT, and numerous people were requesting tuning assistance.
A week after the pulley install, Joe once again contacted HP, this time to install the Ford Racing Performance Parts long-tube headers and performance muffler kit. The new exhaust changed the GT's note completely, making it sound more like a Daytona Prototype race car than a smooth-sailing supercar. As Joe puts it, "It was ridiculously loud."
Many people got to see and hear the GT in action at the '06 Fun Ford Weekend event in Orlando, where HP's Tony Gonyon piloted the GT to a best 10.48-second elapsed time at 144.95mph using a Compucar Bottle-in-a-Bag nitrous-oxide system set for 75 hp. With the nitrous flowing, the GT turned HP's Dynojet rollers to the tune of 718 hp and 686 lb-ft of torque, which necessitated the use of a DiabloSport MAFia, a mass airflow sensor calibrator that allows you to control and regulate MAF voltage.
Obviously, the stock rubber, while designed to cover the Earth's span at over 200 mph, isn't optimal for drag racing, and traction on the street was becoming an issue. But no one made drag radials for the GT's 19-inch-diameter BBS rear wheels. Joe and the HP Performance team found that 18x9.5inch Cobra R wheels would fit, and Nitto made a 305/45/18 drag radial tire that gave the GT the extra hook it needed.
That extra hook forced the next weakest link to show itself-the twin-disc clutch. "We called a lot of people, but no one wanted to touch it," Tony says. "Dave Norton at Spec Clutches went the extra mile and helped us develop an aftermarket clutch setup for the GT. We went through three engineering prototypes before the final version.
With the GT chalking up victims faster than Woo Bom Kon, Joe's thirst for capable competitors led him to street bikes. Japan's finest crotch rockets offered a bit of a race, and it wasn't until the GT was defeated by a couple of track-modified Hayabusas that Joe came to the realization that he "ran out of horsepower."
Shortly thereafter, Joe called Tony to discuss his options. "I came up with the idea to put twin turbos on it," he says, "but Tony didn't do any of that type of fabrication.
"Joe wasn't interested in shipping his car out of state as there were a couple of offers to develop the idea," Tony says. "He asked me if there was anyone in the area that I knew of, and the only places I could recommend were Stage 6 Motorsports in Jacksonville, Florida, and Speedfab in Orange Park (Florida)." As it turns out, Joe had already visited Stage 6 where the gang had installed a twin turbo system on his Infiniti Q45 sedan, so he made the call.
The system took four 22-hour days to fabricate," says Stage 6 proprietor Dwight Baldwin. The hot pipes are all TIG-welded 304 stainless steel, and the charge pipes were made from aluminum. "We chose to go with Precision Turbo's Garrett GT35R ball-bearing turbochargers based on HP Performance's horsepower require-ment," Dwight says. "The 35s are compact in size and easy to fit in tight spaces."
The GT's factory water-to-air intercooler was employed, and Dwight ported the lower intake manifold to match the new custom aluminum upper manifold that he constructed. Gone is the GT's oval throttle body, as it has been replaced with a Wilson Manifolds 95mm billet unit.
A Greddy Profec Type-S electronic boost controller signals the two Tial 44mm waste-gates to control boost pressure, while a Tial 50mm blow-off valve keeps the boost from slamming back into the compressor wheels. The increased performance of the twin turbo system necessitated the use of an SCT 2800 mass airflow sensor, still employed in a draw-through design.
Back on HP Performance's Dynojet, Tony tweaked the GT via laptop and SCT custom tuning software. The GT gave out horsepower as if it was free. On pump gas, the 5.4 mill churned out 856 rwhp and 735 lb-ft of torque at 18 psi of boost using a huge JLT Performance air filter. Getting greedy with the Greddy boost controller led to the GT pegging the Dynojet software at 1,000 rwhp with C16 race fuel and 22 psi of boost.
Tony called Dan Hourigan at Dynojet who immediately updated the software for 1,500 hp, and the car's follow-up dyno pull netted 1,012 rwhp and 892 lb-ft of torque. Once the driveability was dialed in to the computer tune, the GT was set loose on the streets of northeastern Florida and on dragstrips from Orlando to Valdosta. Salvitar Charudattan of IMV Films, who had been documenting the GT's buildup from the beginning of the turbo install, was on hand at South Georgia Motorsports Park, where Joe took the GT to see what the twin-turbo supercar could do in 1,320 feet of pavement.
Tony has been behind the wheel of many a fast Ford, including his own high-eight-second Fox Mustang, and he was at the helm when the GT made its dragstrip debut in Orlando with the gas on it. Joe once again appointed Tony as official test driver this time out, and it was going to be a ride to remember.
After heating up the Nitto drag radials, Tony tripped the Tree and rolled into the throttle. Just as the turbos started making power, the car broke loose and got out of the groove, sending the GT towards the opposite lane in a bad way. By the time it had stopped spinning, the GT had completed a 360-degree rotation across both lanes, and Tony managed to keep it from hitting either wall.
Joe says, "I turned around and looked away, and said, 'this one's done.' I looked back and saw the car still in one piece, and asked, 'what the hell just happened?'"
That was the last time the GT went to the dragstrip. The idea of mounting up some slicks was tossed around, but the extremely wide gear spacing of the Ricardo six-speed transaxle isn't exactly optimal for quarter-mile conquest.
Joe's most memorable experience with the twin-turbo GT occurred at the Ford GT reunion in Dearborn. In addition to giving rides to such GT luminaries as Camilo Pardo, Primo Goffi ,and numerous other members of the GT team, Joe was able to have SVT Development Engineer Gene Martindale drive the GT on a closed test track in Michigan.
"We wanted to see how the car ran with the turbos and how the calibration was," Gene says. "A few of us had hypothesized doing a turbo version of the GT, and this was our chance to experience the real thing. The turbos were oversized as there was quite a bit of turbo lag for daily driving, but the raw power was unbelievable."
Leave it to the performance-minded after-market gearheads to go all out in the name of horsepower. "I've never driven a faster street car," Gene says. "The performance is similar to the American Le Mans Series Viper that I drove, which had about 850 crank horsepower and weighed only 2,400 pounds. I was very impressed with the craftsmanship and tuning. It ran great and never overheated. They are a great bunch of guys that are really enthusiastic, and we really appreciated their excitement over the car."
Joe and his build team were gratified that the SVT personnel were so interested in the twin-turbo GT. If you're a car guy, like most of the folks at SVT, it's hard not to like the sheer performance that this 1,000hp, 3,500-pound car can offer.
This isn't where the story ends, however, as Joe and his merry men of mechanical mayhem aren't resting on their laurels. Joe, along with Dwight and Tony have already built a second motor and plan to turn up the wick.
As we began this story, the factory long-block was stashed and a new bullett was slid into the chamber. Al Papitto at Boss 330 Racing in Vero Beach, Florida, built a new 5.4 mill, filling the aluminum block with a stock GT crank, Carillo billet-steel I-beam connecting rods, and CP pistons. The four-valve cylinder heads were ported and polished by Chris Starnes at Champion Racing Heads in Palm Coast, Florida. The engine's compression ratio was bumped from 8.4 to 9.4, and Chris and Al spec'd out some custom Crane camshafts, which would seem to be mild, judging from the exhaust note.
The fuel system finally needed to be upgraded to cope with the insane power. Two more GT pumps were added to the factory pair for a total of four-two of each feed -8 braided stainless steel line that floods the Stage 6 custom fuel rails. The GT's stock 32 lb-hr injectors were also upgraded to 60-lb-hr units.
With the GT35R turbochargers set for 25 psi of boost, the GT produced 1,181 rwhp and 1,068 lb-ft of torque on C16 race gas, which by the way is the only high-octane diet the GT is fed these days.
"For the Stage 2 setup, we're going with a pair of GT4067 turbos," Dwight says. "They're good for 750 hp each, and should make a very efficient 28 pounds of boost." Beyond that, GT42s are an option.
Tony credits HP technician Jason Combs for his assistance in the twin-turbo project. "Jason has had the clamshell off of that thing more times than I can count," he says. "His help, along with Steve Duncan's and Sean Story's, has been paramount in getting the car to where it is today."
With the help of Stage 6 Motorsports and HP Performance, Joe has been able to take his GT to performance levels unheard of, and they are expecting 1,500-or-so horsepower once the bigger turbochargers go on.
Having had a number of high-performance automobiles in his stables over the years, we asked Joe what was next on his list. "How do you top this?" he replied. "I'm really lucky that my wife, Christina, supports me in my speed hobby." Christina got her first glimpse of what they had done to the GT when she watched the IMV Films documentary on it-she thought what they did was pretty neat.
If you would like to keep up with the progress of this light-speed supercar, you can Google twin turbo GT or just go to www.turbofordgt.com and check out the latest information. You can be sure we'll be keeping an eye on this icon of Ford performance.