5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Dream Factories: Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 Production, Start to Finish
We followed the GT 500 from its start on the Romeo Engine Niche Line to its finish at the Auto Alliance International assembly plant--and tried not to drool
With the plugs and coil packs in place, the Powered By SVT coil covers are put on and oil goes in the pan before the engine receives a final check.
In the early days of the Niche line, the assembly associates actually signed the plates that adorn the valve covers of these special engines. Eventually, efficiency and permanence dictated that the signatures be replicated and pressed into the plates prior to installation. So stamp the plate, ring the bell, and another great Niche Line engine is born.
The newly minted plate goes in a familiar and prominent spot on the driver-side cam cover. These plates are valuable apart from the engine, fetching upward of a $100 at online auction sites. Apparently, the car-show Melvins like to have an extra plate to go with their display paraphernalia.
This final engine inspection is no simple visual once-over, rather it's a computer-controlled dry-test stand that actually runs the engine without fuel. The engine is plugged into the stand, the injectors fire, the plugs fire, and the throttle body opens, all as if the engine were running. Meanwhile, the fuel system is checked for leaks using pressurized air, which shows leaks much easier than fluid would. Everything checked out fine on Jeff and Gary's engine. We knew it would.
Before the complete engine goes on a pallet for shipment to Auto Alliance International, it receives exhaust manifolds and EGR tubing. This is the only area on the line that uses air ratchets, but the torque on the fasteners is checked again with a standard torque wrench before the engine is sent on its way.
Here are the proud assemblers of this GT 500 engine, Gary Marston and Jeff Hamblin. Being a member of the Niche Line team is prestigious duty at the plant, and you must have seniority and be on a waiting list to get a shot at the job. From there, new team members get about a month of training before they begin stamping their names on a plate.
After a morning of seeing our favorite modular engine born at the Romeo plant, we made the short drive over to Auto Alliance International to see the rest of the car come together. AAI is unique, not only because it's a joint effort between Ford and Mazda, but because most of the sheetmetal stamping is done right at the plant. Only the Mustang hoods are stamped off-site at a Ford stamping plant.