A legend digitally remastered and repackaged for the 21st century
It shimmers in the studio like liquid mercury, the light flowing effortlessly across the highly polished aluminum panels. Long, long hood, hip-high roofline, cabin set hard back against the rear wheels, stubby Kamm tail–it hits all the right hot buttons with a collection of cues straight out of Sports Car Design 101. We’ve seen the shape before, in the form of a full-size silver-painted clay model unveiled at last year’s Pebble Beach Concours. But not like this. In gloriously naked metal, with a real interior and, soon, a real running engine, Ford‘s Shelby GR-1 is, quite simply, drop-dead gorgeous.
But is the GR-1 the real deal? Or just another Detroit show-pony? Well, it’s built on exactly the same chassis as the Cobra roadster unveiled at the 2004 Detroit show, which means it uses a lot of ready-made suspension and chassis hardware from the mid-engine Ford GT, plus the Cobra’s thundering 6.4-liter, 605-horsepower V-10 and six-speed manual transmission. Ford execs admitted the Cobra was production feasible. Ask the inevitable about the GR-1, and Dearborn insiders will say, yes, it could also be built. But they insist no decision on a production version has been made.
It sounds like the usual PR spin that surrounds any number of concept cars. But what if we told you Ford has done a full engineering feasibility study on the car? If Ford management presses the go button, a production version of the GR-1 would get a new chassis with the wheelbase stretched almost three inches to accommodate a 20-gallon fuel tank between the seats and the rear shock towers. The A-pillars would be pulled slightly more upright and the roof raised 1.6 inches to move the front-header rail away from the occupants’ heads to meet safety regulations. And the show car’s V-10 will be replaced by the oft-rumored 7.0-liter “Hurricane” V-8 pumping out more than 600 horsepower and more than 500 pound-feet of torque.
Using the V-8 rather than the V-10 means marginally better weight distribution–47.6 percent front and 52.4 percent rear versus 48.3 percent front and 52.4 percent rear. You only have to look at the cars the GR-1’s engineers are using as benchmarks–Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and Mercedes SLR McLaren, both of which have rear-set front engines–to see where they’re heading in terms of handling. Target weight for the production version is 3450 to 3550 pounds (the GT weighs 3480 pounds), and the key performance targets are 0-to-60 mph in under 3.9 seconds, 0-to-100 mph in under 8.0, and a standing quarter mile in better than 11.9 at 126. Yeah, it’s going to be fast.
It looks stunning, has the right hardware, and carries the legendary Shelby name. If you have an ounce of gasoline in your veins, you’re probably already wondering how you can sell the kids and raid the 401K to raise the ready cash. So what’s stopping Ford? “We still haven’t made a business case for this thing,” insists Ford design chief J Mays. “We’ve made the announcement that we have a relationship with Carroll, that we’re going to put his name on a couple of products–and I’m sure you can guess what the other one might be,” he adds with a big grin. Uh, that wouldn’t be the Shelby Mustang, would it, J?
A key piece of the puzzle, says Mays, is the Ford GT. “We’ve got to sit down and look at the runout of the GT and what we want to do with that,” he says. “We’ve got to put the final numbers together on how this would fit into things as a potential replacement.” With GTs selling faster than Ford can build them–“we sold it too cheap,” grumbles one insider–the planned production run of 1500 cars will finish much sooner than expected, leaving the small manufacturing facility specially set up at Wixom, Michigan, with nothing to make. Because it uses a lot of GT parts and requires similar low- volume manufacturing techniques, building the GR-1 there “obviously makes a lot of sense when you think about it,” Mays admits.
It sounds like a no-brainer, especially when you consider Ford’s beancounters figured the company could bring a production version of the closely related Cobra roadster to market for about $110,000. But there are a couple of complications with the GR-1. First, as Mays points out, a closed coupe requires far more work on NVH suppression than an open-topped roadster. That takes time and costs money. Second, says Ford product creation chief Phil Martens, those cool scissor-hinge doors are a nightmare, requiring a lot of expensive engineering to ensure they fit properly and protect adequately in a crash.
“It’s gonna be up to Phil and me,” says Mays bluntly. “How badly do we want to do it?”
Let’s make that decision easier for them, shall we? Let’s get their boss to order them to build it. If you want Ford to produce the Shelby GR-1, send your cards and letters to Bill Ford at The Ford Motor Company, The American Road, Dearborn, Michigan 48126-2798. Ours are already in the mail.
|2007 Shelby GR-1|
|Base price (est)||$130,000|
|Vehicle layout||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-door, 2-pass coupe|
|Engine type||90* V-8, aluminum block/heads, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement, ci/cc||427.0 / 6997|
|Max horsepower SAE net||600+ @ 6500 rpm|
|Max torque SAE net, lb-ft||500+ @ 4000 rpm|
|Curb weight, lb (est)||3450-3550|
|0-60 mph, sec (est)||3.9|
|EPA mpg, city/hwy||Not yet rated|
|On sale in U.S.||Late 2006|
Okay, Okay, So You Didn’T Like Der Cobra
Does the Shelby GR-1 owe its existence to the lukewarm reaction the world’s media gave the Cobra concept at the 2004 Detroit Show? Well, sort of, says J Mays (left).
“We said we didn’t want to go retro with the Cobra in the way that we did with the GT because we were just going to end up with a kit car. Although I still really like the car, when we finished it we sort of stood back and said ‘you know, it’s like a Cobra TT. It’s just too German looking.’ Almost everyone agreed, including me, that it wasn’t voluptuous enough.”
“We wanted to come back and show that we can do big, fluid, voluptuous,
wonderful, organic shapes, and that we can do them fresh.”
“Is there a Cobra coupe influence in the GR-1? Yeah, I suppose there’s a knowing wink to it in the tail, but everything else is different. It’s got some 1970s Italian influence in it as well–there’s a lot of linearity and sheerness to it that you might find on Maseratis from that era. There’s some DeTomaso Mangusta in there, too.”
“But I wouldn’t call this car retro. I’d call it bloody modern.”