2005 Ford GT
Everywhere it goes, this car's a star

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. -- We are rolling out of town under cover of . . . nothing.

That's because, when you are buckled into the tight seats of a gleaming, rumbling, 200-plus-mile-per-hour high performance supercar, made right here in Michigan, it's impossible to go unnoticed.

I am driving out of the mists of racing history -- heading to Manhattan -- at the wheel of the 2005 Ford GT, descendant of the legendary GT40, whose driver's seat encapsulated such greats as Mario Andretti, Bruce McLaren, Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, and Peter Revson. (They were better drivers. The GT40, in 1966, took the top three spots in the 24 Hours of LeMans. But our car is faster, as proven when it hit 205 in testing in Italy. The GT40 only hit 201 on LeMans's Mulsanne Straight back in '66.)

The Ford GT is on sale now for $150,000, and 1,500 will be built in each of the next three years before production is stopped. This is a halo car, which the company hopes will attract buyers to other Ford products. And it's easy to see how that would happen. Everywhere I go, the car is a star. At rest stops, where I purposely take up two spaces to prevent the dents that doors from other cars might inflict, crowds gather. There are thumbs ups delivered from truckers, bikers, other hot-car drivers.

If the Porsche Carrera GT displays the brutal grace of a German soccer player, and the Ferrari Enzo the suave lines of an Italian ladies man, then the Ford GT is pure Elvis, from its brooding eye headlamps and insouciant, thin-lipped front fascia, to its abrupt rear deck that ends in a chopped duck tail.

The car has a 550-horsepower, 500 lb.-ft. of torque engine that is thumping more than 100 horsepower per liter from its 5.4-liter, aluminum block engine. It has forged aluminum pistons, four valves and two fuel injectors per cylinder, and it is fed by an Eaton supercharger.

Its shifter is a Ricardo six-speed manual that clicks as crisp as stepped-on glass and yet is seamless.

The ride is smooth, surging, succinct in sudden movements.

How fast you wanna go? Point me there, the GT says as we move through highway traffic.

I'm riding on a mostly aluminum suspension system that includes control arms, coil springs, monotube dampers, and antiroll bars front and rear. We're also atop 18x9-inch wheels up front and 19x11.5-inch wheels in the rear. And the sleek buggy sits only 44.3 inches high. Thank God for those wide, roof-biting doors that offer easy in-and-out maneuvers.

And stopping is no problem with four-piston Brembos locking their calipers onto 14-inch discs up front and 13s in the rear.

But the gawkers don't see this. What they see is the beautifully sculpted body that harkens back to glorious days of racing.

That body is an engineering wonder, made up mostly of aluminum panels -- wrapped around an aluminum space-age frame -- and created in a process called super plastic forming. Instead of stamped pieces -- a process that limits imagination -- these pieces are formed by heating aluminum to nearly 950 degrees, then using high pressure air to sculpt it around a single die.

The process is very much one of handiwork, and a tour of one of the Saleen Special Vehicles plants in Troy, Mich., showed body parts being inspected for defects, taped for painting, baked in ovens, and assembled.

"It's hard to form a piece of steel," said Jamal A. Hameedi, Ford GT program manager during a tour of the plant. Aluminum, indeed, seems the medium of an artist looking for gentle flow, not stamped angles. Pointed out was Ford GT VIN #1. That would be going to one Bill Ford, head of the company.

The inside features a brushed aluminum magnesium tunnel that covers a center-mounted fuel tank. Atop it ride the emergency brake handle, rotary climate controls, and sh ft lever. The instrument panel features analog gauges with a center-mounted, oversize tachometer. The center control panel, with magnesium supports, handles audio and climate controls and the starter button.

Mounted horizontally on the dash, in homage to the car's racing heritage, is a line of toggle switches that control headlamps, fog lights, dimmer switch, windshield wipers, and rear defroster.

Inside and out, with its performance, its style, its racing aura, it is a car to grab attention.

As it did as we crossed Manhattan, hit Broadway, and tourists in a city where it is hard to be noticed snapped pictures as the car rumbled by.