Looks to die for, stunning performance and more grunt than a buffalo convention means the FPV GT is set kick some HSV butt. Glenn Butler reports. Ford's long been the whipping boy of the Australian performance car scene, unable to convert a strong XR Falcon line-up into a serious opponent for the mighty Holden Special Vehicles. Tickford Series One in September 1999 gave the Blue Oval boys a marketing opportunity to talk tough, but with a sports sedan that looked more sleeper than screamer, and barely 200kW of power from the venerable Windsor 5.0lt, the Lions weren't running for cover. A little more than three years later, and three generations down the Tickford track, Ford's dumped the old engine for the new, injected a ton of grunt, looks to die for and stunning performance. About bloody time. One of Australia's richest nameplates, this new GT's got a lot to live up to. Reckon it does? Buggered if I know, I wasn't around when the XR GT rolled down the chute in 1967, so there's no rose-coloured glasses in my pocket. If you're after a hit from the past lane, check out the April 2003 issue of Unique Cars magazine. It grabbed a 1971 XY GT and slammed it up against the 2003 model. Promises a thoroughly good read. But enough of that; back to the here and now. For those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of the FPV GT, wander down to the second half of this article, but if you're keen to know whether Ford's built a winner, then strap yerself in, we're going driving. How's it go? The first thing we noticed was how overly inflated our expectations were. Months of speculation and hype surrounding the prophesised return of Ford's golden boy left us feeling conned by the Ford/FPV juggernaut. Truth be told, the blame lies more with assumptions made by us journalists than any false information promulgated by Ford or FPV. Look at the power, the performance, the price, and understand this: the FPV GT lines up against the HSV ClubSport. The more expensive FPV GT-P is a ClubSport R8 competitor. The GT is not a GTS competitor; that position remains to be filled, though we have little doubt that it will be. So, with the GT positioning clear in the mind, how does the GT stack up. Very bloody well. Better than a ClubSport? Read on. Performance is king, and Ford's 290kW Boss V-eight wears the crown. With monstrous power delivery that builds like a Kakadu thundercloud, the FPV rides a torrent of torque right across its rev range. Getting the GT off the line at maximum attack is a hard ask when there's 290kW and 520Nm hell bent on shredding Dunlop rubber. Get the balance between wheelspin and thrust just right and the GT will stampede to 60km/h in 3sec. Those looking for a quick 0-100km/h time might be disappointed because the GT's gearing gets in the way. Second gear slams into the rev limiter at 103km/h, which means you've got to shift a little bit earlier to not lose momentum. Excuses aside, the GT still blasted the tape at 6.0sec dead. A standing 400m is a similar story, with a familiar excuse. At the 370m mark the GT is thundering down the strip at 160km/h, millimetres off the limiter in third. Flatshift into fourth and the GT bellows on, crossing the line at 164.1km/h just 14.23sec after it all began. Gearshifts at two crucial points on acceleration runs hamper the GT against the clock. Even though, it's lineball with the ClubSport to 100km/h and across the 400m. FPV doesn't care, it's not about figures, they reckon; it's about the entire package. The FPV GT ushers in a new Aussie muscle car era. It's a no compromise assault on the heartland, and Ford's won the first round. Decisively. The biggest surprise with the GT is not the power; we were expecting that. Nor is it how well the car handles; Ford and Tickford got that trick down pat years ago. No, the big surprise is how well the GT rides, while still holding true to its hard-edged dynamics. The GT's supple ride makes it an easier car to live with than any HSV. It handles rough roads, potholes, ditches, speedbumps and more with a detached efficiency. The springs are stiffer than the XR8's but coupled with softer shock absorbers, the ride is actually more precise and controlled, and preferable to the XR8. Get beyond the city limits and that detached efficiency sharpens to a surgeon's precision. Steering weight and communication is inch perfect, giving the GT plenty of attack on turn in. There's a tendency for the big Ford to run wide on the limit, but that's easily and quickly corrected via the throttle. In fact, the GT is incredibly easy to control on the throttle, thanks in no small part to its strong and predictable torque delivery. But it's more than that. It's the whole GT package coming together to give the driver total and intuitive feedback, a front row seat to everything that's going on. There's nothing wrong with GT's boots, either, low profile 18in Dunlops doling out the traction in abundance. Under brakes, the GT is solid and stable, though it's no record breaker. Sometimes there's no hiding the kilos. As an overall package, the GT has few flaws, though the most notorious is its weight. Extra weight means extra fuel (premium only), extra wear on the tyres, more stress changing direction and more punishment on the brakes. There's no escaping that, and we suspect it'll have a detrimental effect on the long-term cost of ownership. The GT makes no attempt to 'disguise' its 1827kg waistline, choosing instead to work with it. For example, the GT's a fairly substantial 167kg heavier than the 1660kg ClubSport, hence the 5.4lt V-eight's extra 30kW and 45Nm. It's that approach to the problem that means the GT doesn't suffer for the extra weight it carries. Are we blowing the BA Falcon weight issue out of context? Euro cars are fairly heavy, right? A Mercedes-Benz E55 sports sedan weighs 1835kg, lineball with a GT, though its 350kW and 700Nm are far ahead of the GT. So, on the surface you'd have to think we aren't being fair. But remember to compare apples with apples: the GT doesn't offer anywhere near the level of sophistication and equipment of the E55, and anyone who begs to differ is kidding themselves. Accept that the GT is bigger and heavier than your average bear. It's also heavier than its main rival, the HSV ClubSport. But it's also a better overall package; one that won't rattle your back teeth in transport mode but will give your emotions a major shaking when it counts. Reckon there's the odd HSV fan out there accusing us of bias, or of making calls without back to back testing. We did, sort of. CarPoint drove the FPV GT just a few days after lending a hand to Wheels magazine on the Falcon XR8 v HSV ClubSport v Commodore SS comparison published in the March 2003 issue. Whether by accident or by design, both tests were conducted on the same selection of back country roads in Victoria. If you want a more definitive result than that, wait for the April issue of Wheels. Heady metal - inside the FPV GT Ford Performance Vehicles is the Phoenix rising from the Ford Tickford Experience ashes. Different name, same bunch of blokes. FPV's first model line-up is officially on sale from March 2003 with three models: the GT sedan, GT-P sedan and Pursuit ute. The GT and GT-P sedans are both based on Ford's bread-and-butter Falcon family car. Four doors, five seats, an engine up front, and rear wheels driving. Familiar tune for Aussie sedans, and one that's been playing for more than half a century. Enter the Boss. 5.4lt of V-eight, based on an imported block - again from Windsor in Canada - and built up in the back-street headquarters of FPV in Broadmeadows (Vic). All three models get it, making the Pursuit the most powerful mainstream production ute in Australia. However, don't expect it to be faster than the sedans: it weighs 43kg more than the GT. Differences over the 260kW Ford XR8 engine include: Cobra R alloy cylinder head with increased inlet and exhaust valve lift, and mods to camshafts, valve stems and followers to accommodate this locally sourced, high performance, domed pistons for higher compression re-engineered conrod to accommodate larger gudgeon pins crankshaft balanced to match new pistons unique engine management system Ford's future-proofed the Boss 290 with the 'Terminator' head gasket developed for supercharged versions of the 5.4lt V-eight, as seen in the new Ford GT (2003 GT40). Hmmm. That leads down an interesting, speculative track, doesn't it. Say goodbye to the old T56 transmissions and hello - again - to the Tremec T3650, which we saw on the Tickford 5.6lt stroker engine. Designed to handle mountainous torque, the T3650 five-speed manual is a lighter, smoother shifter than the T56. Unfortunately it's a more expensive gearbox, which mitigates against its suitability for Ford's cheaper XR models. Ford's launched the GT at $59,850 in five-speed manual form, roughly $1300 more than the ClubSport. The four-speed automatic version, which won't be available until May, costs an extra $1150. All FPVs come with a free performance driving course in the owner's home state, which FPV boss David Flint says will give owners a better appreciation of their vehicle's abilities. Standard kit on the FPV GT includes dash-mounted starter button (naff), cloth sports seats, air-conditioning, cruise control, single CD player, split fold rear seats, electric adjust on driver's seat and tilt/reach adjust steering wheel. In addition, the instruments are backlit with a blue light, the speedo goes to 270km/h and tacho goes to 8000rpm - though the car itself won't. The FPV GT-P costs $69,850 for both manual and automatic versions, roughly $10,000 more than the GT, and $990 more than the ClubSport R8. The extra moolah nets you racing front seats, upgraded command centre with dual climate-control aircon, six-stack in-dash CD player, prestige steering wheel with alloy spokes and a trip computer. GT-P buyers also get the Brembo performance brake package, and stripes are a no-cost option. Automatic versions of the GT-P also get power adjustable pedals. (*Note: performance testing carried out at Calder Park using Wheels magazine's correvit with two people on-board and half a tank of fuel) --------------------------------------------------------------- A bit slower than expected, like XR8 times I guess they will improve. One thing to note though is these are effectively wheels times and wheels got 5.8 and 13.9 for the GTS, so I guess if the trend continues with MOTOR, then the GT should be 3 tenths slower at about 5.6 0-100 and 13.8 0-400metres. Not bad for a Clubsport competitor hey?