Features, Mustang and America

Ford GT and Ford Mustang GT: A celebration of performance


One’s a race car that wears almost no disguise. The other is an American icon.

They’re both Fords, and they’re both GTs. But as you might guess, there’s just a little bit of a difference between the Ford GT supercar and the Ford Mustang GT.

We traveled to California to take both for a back-to-back thrill ride.

2018 Ford GT

A race car reborn

Let’s take a way-back trip with the Ford GT first. The GT—namely the GT40—roared out of Carroll Shelby’s skunkworks and claimed the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans podium (Eds note: All of it) and raced into folklore. The Shelby-engineered cars finished 1-2-3 and drubbed Ferrari.

Ford revived the GT briefly in 2004 with a retro-styled, mid-engine supercar. In 2016, the Blue Oval did it again with a mid-engine demon built with racing and the 50th anniversary of that 1-2-3 finish in mind.

The current GT sports supercar and race car credentials inside and out. It’s built around a carbon-fiber tub. Most of the body panels are carbon fiber, too. The jet-inspired body has active aerodynamics in front and in back. That rear wing raises and lowers, and it helps the car stop when it becomes an airbrake.

ALSO SEE: 2019 Ford GT adds lightweight Carbon Series, gets $50,000 price bump

2018 Ford GT

2018 Ford GT

Ford stuffs a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 behind the driver. It’s worth 647 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque, but it doesn’t make the most alluring sounds. It wails, it huffs, it drones. It also shreds tire treads, dispatches 0-60 mph runs in less than three seconds, and rockets the GT to a top speed of 216 mph.

A touch of turbo lag caused by huge turbos prevents the GT from roasting its tires from a stop. Flip it into Sport or Track mode, and it kicks in a race-bred anti-lag system that keeps the turbos spinning even when the driver is off the throttle. That creates a right-now reactions from the throttle pedal once underway, and the car eats vast swaths of pavement in precious little time.

Thrilling acceleration meets unbelievably flat handling in the GT, and the car reacts to driver inputs with a suddenness you won’t find even in other supercars. Its inboard suspension gets adjustable dampers and a dual-spring setup at each corner to give it a taut ride. A Comfort setting in the Normal mode makes it a tad more livable, but this is no Sunday cruiser.

CHECK OUT: Ford GT production extended to 1,350 cars through 2022

2018 Ford GT

2018 Ford GT

Flip it to Track, and that suddenness shows its face again. Hydraulics lower the GT 2.0 inches to just 2.75 inches off the ground, and it happens in the blink of an eye with a “pshhht” sound. It’s based on a race car, after all, when there isn’t time to wait for the slow air suspensions or even hydraulic systems of most other luxury cars or supercars.

Now the handling is even more precise. The GT darts from apex to apex. Not only does it corner flat, that low ride height barely allows any lean. The old-school hydraulic steering provides welcome feedback as it works with the huge tires to generate more grip than any driver can use up on public roads—unless that road happens to be the Nürburgring.

The GT is a special car that feels special from behind the wheel, and it begs to be driven fast and hard. To haul it down from the speeds it was built to achieve, Ford outfits it with massive carbon ceramic brakes that, again, feel sudden. The brake pedal is high and braking power is stunning, aided at high speeds by that rear airbrake.

It may feel special, but the GT’s interior is less luxury and more race-car spartan. In fact, it has almost no space, and driver comfort is not a priority.

DON’T MISS: Ford GT and Mercedes-AMG GT use same gearbox, Ford’s costs much more

2018 Ford GT

2018 Ford GT

The driver’s seat offers just two adjustments; the seatback tilts forward and back. To tailor a practical driving position, the pedal box moves in and out and the steering column tilts and telescopes. It works and the seat is supportive for performance driving, but it’s not all-day comfortable.

The rest of the cockpit is just as purpose-built. Open the doors and the carbon-fiber tub can be plainly seen; Ford doesn’t bother covering it to pretty things up. Ford also installs very little sound deadener, so the drone of the engine and the tires on pavement are constant companions. While the dash is wrapped, plenty of low-rent plastics show their plain faces. And total interior storage amounts to a glove-sized glove box that sits at the base of the driver’s seat.

The only nod to modern convenience is the standard Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Bluetooth, navigation, and access to apps.

Loud, impractical, and impossible to live with every day, the Ford GT also has the race-car goods to make for a once-in-a-lifetime drive.

2018 Ford Mustang GT

2018 Ford Mustang GT

So what about the Mustang GT?

No shock here: It’s the everyday driver the GT could never be. It makes the powertrain noises we wish the GT supercar had, and a sticker that’s one-tenth of the cost of its supercar brother.

The Mustang’s GT package was new in 1965. It cost $165 and added disc brakes, driving lights, gauges, and GT40-inspired racing stripes. Since then, it’s morphed into a muscular grand tourer with big horsepower—if not as big as you get in the Shelby GT350 and GT500.

History hasn’t left the Mustang GT behind. If anything, the Mustang’s left history behind. The live axle? Gone. Single-digit fuel economy? That’s in the past, too.

2018 Ford Mustang GT

2018 Ford Mustang GT

These days, the Mustang GT sports Ford’s fantastic 5.0-liter V-8. It boasts 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque and comes with either a 6-speed manual or a new 10-speed automatic. We’d stick with the stick: the 10-speed isn’t tuned as well as we’d hoped, while the manual slots into gears with satisfying metallic action. In peak performance mode, Ford says it’s good for a 0-60 mph time of less than four seconds.

If you haven’t driven a Mustang GT lately, be prepared for fantastic handling, at least as long as the last car you drove wasn’t the Ford GT. The Mustang GT now offers adaptive shocks that let it cushion the worst roads, or dial in firm, direct handling on back roads as great as we found in Southern California. It’s agile, capable, and composed, and with Performance Pack 1 or 2, the handling has taken a quantum leap compared to the old live-axle Mustangs.

Compared to the Ford GT, however, it’s not a fair fight. Move from the GT to the Mustang and you feel like you’re sitting three feet higher, driving a car a thousand pounds heavier, and leaning far more into corners. It’s a matter of perspective. The Mustang GT can’t compete with a street-ready Le Mans race car for handling prowess, but it’s a joy to drive and with Performance Pack 2, it plants itself well into sports-car territory.

The Mustang has some distinct advantages over the GT, too. It offers automatic smokey-burnout control. The Mustang GT’s electronic line lock lets any driver lay down a perfect pair of black rubber comet trails. It’s a car with hilarious levels of performance for the price.

2018 Ford Mustang GT

2018 Ford Mustang GT

The other advantages are in comfort and livability. The ride is far more supple, and that makes it a viable choice as a daily driver.

The interior has room for four, though the backseat passenger won’t be happy unless they’re kids. The seats are all-day comfortable, interior storage is plentiful, and it has modern connectivity.

The Mustang GT may not be a supercar but for something near $40,000, it can deliver astronomical thrills. And of course, there’s always a Shelby GT350 or Bullitt to step up into.

2018 Ford Mustang GT and 2018 Ford GT

2018 Ford Mustang GT and 2018 Ford GT

A GT celebration

Both the Ford GT and the Ford Mustang GT trace their roots back more than 50 years. Each represents the best Ford’s ever delivered to enthusiasts, whether they’re ready to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for unbridled American-badged performance.

The Ford GT delivers slashing acceleration and hyperspace top speeds. It’s a custom-built Le Mans-ready race car with a twin-turbo V-6 that just needs a better soundtrack.

The Mustang GT? It’s a rolling piece of Ford and American history. And thankfully, it no longer drives like a piece of history. This latest Mustang GT has BMW in its sights, and it pulls up impressively close.

This isn’t a compare, it’s a celebration. The future of performance cars looks very different today than it did a decade ago. With high-performance battery-powered supercars and even Mustang hybrids on the way, gas-powered muscle cars and supercars like these are bound to become more rare, and more special.

We hope there’s a place for both in the electrified future we envision where the rush of V-8 power and the thrill of a low-slung, Le Mans-style supercar never go out of style.

For two months, Motor Authority crisscrossed the U.S. in an automotive icon seeking stories about the Ford Mustang’s place in American history. These are our stories from the road about its owners, its history, and its status as an evolving symbol of our relationship with cars in America.



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Features, Mustang and America

Bullitt’s Broadway Revisited: The two worlds for the iconic Ford Mustang and San Francisco


Across the Nob Hill and Russian Hill neighborhoods of movie history, Frank Bullitt’s battered green Mustang Fastback bounds over hills and through narrow streets. It chases an unyielding and seemingly indestructible Dodge Charger for more than 10 minutes on film. Through North Beach and Chinatown, near Frank’s apartment at Taylor and Clay, near Coit Tower, around Broadway, the famous chase immortalizes a world of imagination created in two weeks in an editing room.

His Broadway—the Bullitt Broadway—where Robert Duvall’s beige Sunshine Cab No. 6912 waits for Frank at a clandestine meeting at Enrico’s restaurant, lives forever in “Bullitt.”

San Francisco’s Broadway—the real Broadway—is a seedy 2.7-mile mess of detestable vulgarity and destitution in places, bookended by idyllic Bay Area affluence. It’s wonderfully nostalgic and brutally real in others. The real Broadway lacks the polish that the king of cool once gave us. The real Broadway is a sign of the schism between utopia and dystopia, the kind of negative space that only reality creates today.

Broadway in San Francisco at night (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Ryan Maxey, owner of Naked Lunch (Aaron Cole/Motor Authority)

Ryan Maxey, owner of Naked Lunch (Aaron Cole/Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

At its heart—the heart that people will find looking for the world of “Bullitt”—flickering neon bounces off aging signs from skin joints like the Hungry I Club and Hustler Club into burgeoning restaurants and literary holes-in-the-walls, beatnik Babels. All of it is real, and all of it is raw.

Ryan Maxey knows those sides of Broadway, and everything in between. Ryan owns Naked Lunch, a restaurant at 504 Broadway named with a not-so-subtle nod to his neighborhood’s sandpaper-rough alley where vice can be a window dressing sometimes. It’s a neighborhood place, the real neighborhood place.

DON’T MISS: What does the Ford Mustang mean to America?

Naked Lunch is also ground zero for Bullitt’s Broadway and San Francisco’s, too: the restaurant is directly downstairs from the sign for Enrico’s restaurant, a visible tie that binds movie history to present-day reality.

It’s also where Maxey, since the 1990s, has watched the dot-com world boom and bust, Silicon Valley’s draw and repulsion, and the original San Francisco Broadway claw its way back into relevance again.

“Places like this, they always come back. It’s just a matter of time,” Ryan says in an afternoon lull, post-lunch rush of reflection. Naked Lunch closes after 4 p.m., when Broadway changes its attitude and clientele.

It’s not a big bet that he’ll stick around for Broadway’s next up from its current down but he’s here for now.

* * *

2018 Ford Mustang GT (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

2018 Ford Mustang GT (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

 

Look closely at the Ford Mustang and Steve McQueen and it’s not hard to draw parallels between those two, and the streets of San Francisco it helped make famous.

The Mustang was Frank Bullitt’s car. But it was also James Earl Ray’s car. For all its fame the Mustang has its infamy, too.

McQueen’s life was similarly tumultuous. Just as difficult as the history some associate with the lonely, orphaned, and temperamental actor, he’s universally revered as the exact opposite: “cool,” everyone wanted to be near him. A postmodern superhero whose own body betrayed him with cancer far too young.

Broadway—the real one—attracts and repels. Ryan looks out on the particle-board brown empty storefronts that have been vacant for years near his restaurant, maybe close to a decade, and wonders how their owners can cling to an idea that’s long gone.

“They’re hoping they can get rents from 5, 10 years ago,” he says. “They’re keeping them empty for nothing. They’re worthless to this area.”

Despite his discouraged tone, Ryan’s attitude is upbeat and forceful. He sees value in the neighborhood that brings him regulars and passersby like me. His tone and approach with familiar and unfamiliar customers is the same—come in, sit down, watch the Warriors, have a beer or lunch. Behind his full beard and tattooed, folded forearms, he smiles in a broad satisfied way that speaks to his optimism—and pragmatism.

A new Mustang sprayed in Dark Highland Green parked near Maxey’s restaurant gets a second look and a smartphone snap. The boarded-up window with a promotional comedy poster from 1997 near countless defunct storefronts doesn’t.

Broadway doesn’t have the pedigree that other famous streets in San Francisco have. It missed out on the Twitter-loin jackpot of Market Street, doesn’t clang with streetcar tourist swagger like Powell, isn’t all elbows like Lombard. It lacks the historical significance of Grant Avenue—one of the first streets named when the city was called Yerba Buena—but Broadway’s roots go back before 1852, when the street appeared on a map by Britton & Rey.

READ NEXT: Terlingua, Texas: Where Carroll Shelby’s rat pack let their Mustangs run wild

Then, Broadway bounded San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, an infamous red-light district during the city’s gold rush boom. The few women in the city during those early boom-town days may have worked there in the world’s oldest profession, and nearby ghettos filled with workers from China and opium dens set the table for Broadway’s checkered relationship with the city around it. In some ways, it’s never gotten better.

Broadway’s schism with the city became a beatnik draw more than 100 years later. Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” a peyote-fueled nightmare told in three acts, was first sold at a bookstore on Columbus and Broadway. It was pulled several times for being indecent.

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Ginsberg’s local bar, Vesuvio, is next door to the bookstore—across Jack Kerouac Alley—and still open until 2 a.m. every goddamn day of the year.

A passage from Herb Caen, former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, pronounces the permanent, current mood at Vesuvio, posted on a placard near the bar’s door:

Life is a bad item, short but pointless. You stand at the bar and play Liar’s dice with fate. It’s the San Francisco way. You might win and even if you lose the scenery’s great and the weather isn’t too bad.

Janet Clyde manages Vesuvio and has been in the neighborhood for 40 years. She’s watched the neighborhood move like the waterfront near The Embarcadero. North Beach neighborhood has had working-class to upper-class and every shade inside and outside those lines as long as she’s been around. Vesuvio is a place where the clientele could pay cash for a car, now—or barely scramble the change together for the beer in front of them, now. A projector flashes images from postcards on the wall that change for the season, but the idea is same year-round—there’s an idealized world out there, and there’s also the real world for the rest.

“Money is a barbaric force,” she says.

* * *

Vesvuio in San Francisco Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Vesvuio in San Francisco Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Broadway in San Francisco (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

Back up.  

Clyde recalls the Broadway neighborhoods where garbage men and stock brokers lived next door. When the financial district and the red-light district weren’t on so-different sides of the same street.

“It’s a mixture of a neighborhood. You needed everybody. You had cab drivers who lived in the neighborhood. You had bartenders who worked in my industry…we had a mixed urban neighborhood with some long-established families,” she says.

“This neighborhood in the late ‘70s was still a very urban neighborhood, mixed-income district. You could cocktail here and make a couple-hundred bucks but feed a family for $7.50.”

Clyde came up from L.A., where life was more expensive. When she made it to San Francisco, the artists had already been priced out to The Mission—but some were left.

Inflation-adjusted, the Ford Mustang that debuted in 1965 would’ve cost less than $19,000 in 2018. Now, the red 2018 Ford Mustang parked out front costs more than twice that—20 times more than the $2,372 needed in 1965 dollars.

By the time the Dark Highland Green Mustang was immortalized in 1968, the pony car wasn’t any less affordable—$2,955 for a GT Fastback.

Bullitt’s Mustang would’ve been equally at home on both sides of Broadway—real, or on celluloid. That car, made an icon by everyman’s cool actor, Steve McQueen, never existed.

The real car made by Ford, sold to middle, high, and low America most certainly did. McQueen, in the real world, was hardly as cool as his character, too.

DON’T MISS: Wild horses, part one: The misfits

Like Broadway, capitalism’s creep has left shells that history has spit-shined after generations have left. Like Broadway, we can revisit the past and argue about the barbaric forces that have driven an icon like the Mustang away from America.

Like Broadway, the Mustang and McQueen and a single 2.7-mile stretch of America will always boom, bust, but always come back. It’s just a matter of time.

For two months, Motor Authority crisscrossed the U.S. in an automotive icon seeking stories about the Ford Mustang’s place in American history. These are our stories from the road about its owners, its history, and its status as an evolving symbol of our relationship with cars in America.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified one car from “Bullitt.” The Dodge Charger was used for the film’s chase scene.



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