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Ford GT, Raptor, and GT350R From the Men Who Made Them a Reality

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/19/2015 Edward Loh
Ford GT, Raptor, and GT350R From the Men Who Made Them a Reality

Just after Ford’s stunning lineup of high-performance vehicles was revealed at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, we had time for quick chats with the two Ford engineers directly responsible for their existence; Raj Nair, Group Vice President of Global Product Development, and Jamal Hameedi, Chief Engineer of Global Performance Vehicles.

Raj Nair, Group Vice President of Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company

MT: We’re surprised to find out that it’s not the 5.2-liter flat plane V-8 from the Shelby GT350 powering the Ford GT, but a new 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost. How early was that decision made? Was it a fundamental part of the program?

RN: “Yeah, it was early on. We wanted to highlight EcoBoost in the vehicle and we’ve got a lot of great experience with the 3.5. It’s a great engine for us, whether it’s the upgrade in the Raptor or how well it’s doing in the Daytona Prototypes for us. And so yeah, very early on we decided on EcoBoost and not just because of that experience but also when we went through the analysis of fuel efficiency, horsepower per pound, all those aspects of efficiency that we wanted to emphasize with this vehicle as well. That’s why it was the engine choice.”

MT: Is it mandated by regulations? Perhaps in other markets like Europe where it’s easier to sell a smaller-displacement turbocharged engine versus a big V-8?

RN: “No, not really. Not really driven by regulations, more driven by efficiency, horsepower on the fuel efficiency, and horsepower on the weight efficiency.”

MT: Now you said it was born in a wind tunnel -- what does that mean?

RN: “It was. I think on a lot of cars we start off with a segment and a structure that we’re looking for and to some extent, design from the inside out. And then have some ideas of themes and concepts, and then work, optimizing that through CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and the wind tunnel. On this car we started with what could we do to really generate higher levels of efficiency than we’ve seen before -- and we designed the car around that.”

MT: What is the innovation story around the chassis?

RN: “It’s a torsion bar, active suspension. So full inboard suspension, to get it out of the way and help with the aerodynamics and it’s ride height-adjustable. And so some of the active parts of that are an opportunity to experiment with that technology as it is on the GT350R -- to bring some of that stuff to the mainstream.

MT: So MagnaRide shocks like the GT350R ?

RN: “We're still working through what kind of shock technology we’re going to have on it, but it will be active.

MT: Body material?

RN: “Carbon fiber. So, carbon fiber tub, carbon fiber body panels, aluminum structure front and rear, high-strength steel in the upper structure.”

MT: It’s not 40 inches tall like the first GT40.

RN: “It’s not. It’s a little more than that. But it is shorter than a Ferrari 458 for example.

MT: So, 600-ish horsepower… how much does it weigh?

RN: “Too early to talk about weight but expect to have one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car.”

MT: We’re surprised how finished it is. What a surprise. Did you happen to see our renderings from Camilo Pardo (designer of the previous generation Ford GT)?

RN: “Yes, I saw them.”

MT: And how close did we get?

RN: “Well, you can see from the car -- particularly the front end of the car, the nostrils, the shape of the windshield, the overall profile -- it’s got a lot of heritage to it. But when you look closely at the front but obviously the rear, it’s entirely new and that was driven by aerodynamics. So I don’t think anybody really in all the renderings that we saw from you, Camilo, or anyone, really anticipated what we were doing with aerodynamic efficiency and how it wrote the design, particularly at the rear.”

MT: Do you just laugh when you see renderings of your future product?

RN: "Well most of them we laugh at them. Sometimes we get mad, like ‘Where did that come from?'"

Jamal Hameedi, Chief Engineer Ford Global Performance Vehicles

MT: So you have three babies here? Ford GT, Shelby GT350R, and Raptor. You are the hardest working man in baseball.

JH: “I know, we’ve been busy.”

2017 Ford F 150 Raptor© Provided by MotorTrend 2017 Ford F 150 Raptor MT: How do you improve on a hit like Raptor?

JH: “We improved every single facet. It's not unlike a 911. Each generation of 911 that comes out, it’s better in every single category. So, you know the truck is faster, it’s more powerful, it’s lighter, it’s got more travel, it’s got bigger, better shocks, it’s nicer on the inside, it’s got a stronger frame, higher top speed. Every single aspect we touched and improved upon.

MT: What do you think the acceptance will be of the 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost ? Do you think the guys who love their Raptors because of the V-8 will go for a turbocharged V-6?

JH: “You have to drive it. The engine is so capable and the thing with trucks is that you want a lot of torque -- a lot of low-speed torque -- and this engine is just vastly superior to the V-8 in terms of low-RPM torque. Like not even close.”

MT: So when the first Raptor came out, the first round of owners really had fun with it and some went way too fast -- and there were stories of frames bending, beds hitting the cabin. Is that a concern here?

JH: “It’s got an all-new frame that’s been designed specifically for the Raptor. If you want to, you’ll still be able to wad this truck up -- be able to damage it, like anything else, but its capability is significantly higher than the current Raptor.”

MT: Now there was a limit on the first Raptor. You set top speed, I think it was 100 mph on the dirt. What’s the story here?

JH: “It was 100 mph for the first Raptor. This will have a higher top speed.”

MT: Switching gears here, what's the scoop on the Shelby GT350R?

JH: “It’s ‘light-weighted’ -- it’s 130lbs lighter, it’s got significantly more downforce -- efficient downforce, not draggy downforce. And it’s got the world’s first production carbon fiber wheels. It’s a BEAST.

© Provided by MotorTrendMT: What was the target for it, what did you benchmark?

JH: “We benched a lot of cars -- Z28 was one of the ones we benchmarked.”

MT: I heard 911 GT3?

JH: “We kept an eye on that. It wasn’t available during most of the development so we took a 911 Carrera S, which was the benchmark for the base GT350 and then we projected what the GT3 would be from that.”

MT: On to Ford GT -- was there ever any talk of it having the 5.2-liter V-8 or was it 3.5-liter from the very start?

JH: “We did a kind of decision matrix early -- pros and cons. There were a lot of different architectures studied, but this engine is clearly superior for everything that a car like the GT needs -- in terms of power and torque per kilogram, power and torque per liter, package… you know the car is a fuselage design so it just dives in, so the package is extremely tight.”

MT: It’s kind of mind-blowing then. Why even do the 5.2-liter V-8 if not for a car like the Ford GT?

JH: “It’s the perfect engine for the GT350.”

MT: But just one vehicle? One model? That’s it? It doesn’t go anywhere else?

JH: “If I was a GT350 customer, I would love that. I’ve got an exclusive engine that no one else has."

MT: But then Raptor and the Ford GT share the same engine?

JH: “No, those two engines are very different. The Ford GT’s is a DP (Daytona Protype) engine -- with a dry sump, big turbos -- it’s a significantly different engine.

MT:Will it go racing?

JH: “We’re not talking about it at this time.”

MT: Just curious, did you see our renderings of the Ford GT? How did we do?

JH: “Yes I did and well, ahhh… I like ours.”

MT: Thank you, that’s a very nice way of putting it. So, what of the rumored mid-engine Corvette ? That’s an obvious competit-

JH: “Bring it.”

MT: OK, OK. So will this perform in the category of the hypercar -- LaFerrari, McLaren P1, Porsche 918 -- or the level below -- Ferrari 458, Audi R8, etc?

JH: “It’s not a hypercar. It won’t be more than a million bucks either. I can tell you that.”

MT: Ok, congratulations and thanks for the time.

JH: “Exciting times for Ford -- we’re all in. No one else has this kind of lineup in the world."

Ford GT at 2015 Detroit Auto Show© Provided by MotorTrend Ford GT at 2015 Detroit Auto Show
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