Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Looking Back On Special Vehicle Team At 20 Years
Ford’s Special Vehicle Team has prospered since 1993
Without question, the Ford GT introduced in 2005 was and remains the crowning achievement of the original group known as SVT. Scarpello says, "By that time, SVT had developed a lot of credibility. We had taken the business from break-even to a small but profitable solid business, making cars and trucks that people were really enthusiastic about it. By then, even the most jaded bean-counter could see that SVT was really good for the company, but this program was so big and so high-profile. At the time, John Coletti and I didn't have the kind of freedom that we had on SVT products. But Neil Ressler and Bob Rewey provided air cover for us, protecting us from all those that were trying to kill the program."
Coletti retired in December 2004 after 11 years on the job, because, he says, there was no way he could top the Ford GT. "I was afraid that one day I would reach down into the top hat and there wouldn't be a rabbit, so I left the company." Even though the chairman, Bill Ford, had asked him to stay on, Coletti says there was nothing left for him to do. Hau Thai-Tang, chief engineer on the '05 Mustang, took over SVT and advanced product creation, and is now vice-president of global product development engineering.
Jamal Hameedi has been with SVT since he was the Ford GT program manager in 2002, and as chief engineer and later director of SVT, he has brought the organization into the present. He says, "At the end of 2004, when we decided we weren't going to do a continuation of the Ford GT--a Mark Two, if you will--the team split up. "Some of the team went to the GT plant, some went back into the mainstream, and some stayed on to finish up the work on the '07 Shelby GT500. I was the SVT program manager, and Ellen Collins was in charge of that program. The Shelby GTs were built at Shelby in Las Vegas using a lot of parts from Ford Racing." He says of Carroll Shelby, "I worked with him for 10 years, starting with the Ford GT. I could take any kind of a car program proposal, and I could tell you what Carroll would think about it. He's gone, but he will always be with us in spirit." Hameedi says the progress of power development at SVT was very steady.
"The GT500 had a 5.4-liter supercharged engine in it, with an iron-block for durability and cost reasons, and it made 500 hp. In 2010 we went to 540 hp, and then in 2011 we did the aluminum block with the plasma-spray bore and went to 550 hp. We set targets for the '13 GT500 program at 650 hp, 600 ft-lb of torque, and 200 miles an hour. We were able to take the engine from 5.4L to 5.8L with the plasma-spray bore technology." SVT was also working on what it considered a third-generation F-150 Lightning pickup, but the new truck was so heavy that the 500hp 5.4-liter engine and six-speed automatic didn't perform better than the previous Lightning. It was Ford's product development boss, Derrick Kuzak, who suggested an off-road high-performance truck, and the X-Zero program that became the Raptor was started.
"Everyone thought we were crazy for doing it. We had an uncamouflaged maroon F-150 4x4 prototype full of aftermarket parts, and we disguised it by using the aftermarket decals and hiding the manufacturer license plate. That truck was all about the chassis, not the engine. When it was introduced in 2009, everyone was shocked!" The supertruck has since been upgraded several times, and now uses a 6.2L V-8 making 411 hp, 4.10 gears, and a Torsen front differential.
SVT was also developing the GT500KR program with Shelby American, the '10 GT500, and when the Boss 302 program came along, SVT was so busy that it deferred to the Mustang group to do that one. Hameedi says the Boss 302 had turned out so well that the GT500 had to be better--a lot better. SVT has now been merged with Team RS from Ford of Europe to form a global performance group, with new products like the 250hp Focus ST, which will be sold in 40 markets; a global Focus race car for sedan racing; and the Fiesta ST.
Hameedi says, "We're always looking for ideas on how to make cars faster. When we celebrated out 20th anniversary, we kind of looked back and said 'There is no other performance group in the world that has done the diversity of products that we've done--front-wheel-drive coupes, front-wheel-drive sedans, muscle cars, an aluminum mid-engined supercar, an on-road performance pickup truck, and an off-road performance pickup truck. No on else even comes close to having that kind of breadth in their history." Happy 20th birthday, SVT!