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Hagerty Employee

GN34: The fastest Ford the world never saw

It was billed as Ford vs Ferrari: Round Two, with a new Detroit supercar to take on Maranello's finest. So what happened to GN34, the secret prototype that could have wowed the world? Steve Saxty, a former Ford product designer and author of Secret Fords, takes you inside the hidden world of the canceled supercar.
New Driver

Looks everyone agrees this was a bad design,even Ford since they did not market it.
Intermediate Driver

Typical Ford, "Boring".
Intermediate Driver

I struggled through this essay. Being a Ford guy for most of my three quarters of a century on this planet, I just wanted to know how fast this damn thing was. Still don't know .....
Intermediate Driver

The GN34 with the planned 3.6L version of the SHO DOHC V6 would have produced 280 hp and 250 ft-lb torque compared to the 1986 Corvette 5.8L V8 making 230 hp and 330 ft-lb.  GN34 acceleration at 6.0 sec 0-60 mph and 14.1 sec 1/4 mile would have been comparable to the Corvette (6.1/14.4) as well as the Ferrari 308 GTSi (6.4/14.3), Porsche 928S (6.2/14.3) and Porsche 944 Turbo (6.3/14.2).  Where the GN34 would have really shone was in handling which was targeted to be "Best-in-world."  When all the competitors noted were riding on 16" tires, the GN34 would have been one of the first with a 40-aspect ratio, 17" tire (also introduced on the 1989 Corvette).  The GN34 lateral acceleration target was 0.95-1.0g with much better ride than the Corvette, due in part to a standard adjustable hydraulic damping system.



A nascent, more muscular Probe.


VictorK above's right.  Ford would've done better licensing De Tomaso's Pantera.  


Another slow news day at Hagerty.  More overhyped nonsense for an advertiser/source of reworked press releases served as "articles."

More interesting would be learning about Pierce-Arrow's proposed company-saving 1938 junior model a la Packard's One Twenty, Lincoln's Zephyr, Cadillac's LaSalle,  or the 1936-37 Cord, the latter originally called "the Baby Duesenberg" by Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg insiders.


 But that would require digging,  not be as lucrative as stories like the above.

Pit Crew

2nd Gen Ford Probe in the front and Firebird-ish rear, Probe was much prettier. I can see why they never produced it. I do believe the Gen 2 Probe and the '89 T-bird to be very pretty cars of the 80's, so they had the talent but they sure missed the mark on this one. This reminds me of the 1st Gen Probe, not good.
Pit Crew

Oh Lordy. Please, why can't Ford get their head out of their sphincter band? They have screwed up the Mustang. A big ugly mess. The Thunderbird for the white shoe, white belt, walking heart attack crew, and this God awful mess of a car. Is it the unions? Why can't they compete with Chevrolet? The GT is so hot. While Chevy builds a beautiful sportscar, Ford designers stand around with their fingers up the butt hole with puzzled looks on their faces. Are they all drunk or high on pot? Give me a hit Ford! Not a stupid truck either. A $72,000 turbo charged rocket that I can go kill myself in. Finally give me a car I am proud to own. Not a dog bone. Get to work!

Let’s face it. The C4 Corvette, even with its shortcomings, was a hell of a lot better looking than any of these Ford prototypes.
Advanced Driver

I put 335,000 miles on two engines in my 1990 SHO. I will never forget that car. It was only exceeded much later by the Cadillac V models, of which I had two that I put a ton of miles on as well.

Two things. The car was a pedestrian Taurus up to 2500 rpm, when it turned into a rocket, redlining around 7000 rpm. It was fast, but ran out of torque around 140 mph.

The second thing that was unbelievable to me was the track performance of that SHO. After driving my 67 Toronado as a kid, I thought with front wheel drive cars one needed a lane on either side if one was about to stomp it, not to mention rolling it right through the turn into the grass with FWD understeer. Not on the SHO. That was every bit the road car on the track that my V's were. It was even more fun baiting BMW's. It is still a mystery to me how they did that.

Yamaha did a fantastic job with that engine and was worthy of supercar use. Ford gave them a block, they gave them high tech hp back. It was easily modded, although at some expense, and another 100 hp could be found. Which I did and it was driveable.

The downside to the engine? Every 60,000 miles the valves needed adjusting. Those valves up against the firewall were bears. A buddy of mine finally convinced me to let him do it. He dropped the motor and adjusted the valves. From a time perspective it was close to breakeven between my time time spent on that back side and his time spent dropping the engine, on a lift, of course.

Ford at least did that one right.

They have spent time and money to do so, but they have the Mustang working now, and sales reflect it. I would own one were it not for my Z07.
Advanced Driver

One other thing on the comments. One must remember what years these cars are being discussed. Car design was frightful during those years. Including some of Ferrari's and the other exotics. Of course that view is in the rear view mirror.

I'm no Ford lover. I do run F150 trucks, the current one as my primary car now. Z07's are not everyday cars, particularly in moderate to heavy rain, which is great for skiing in that car.

Design in general changes with time, tastes, and technology. As does my six pack.
Intermediate Driver

Not a handsome car at all. Regardless of how it performed, the big money crowd is not known for buying ugly.
Intermediate Driver

If a Probe and a Subaru SVX had a baby out of wedlock. (??!!! XD XD) Still, bland-ish, but fairly easy on the eyes.
Pit Crew

I'd love to know what the author meant by "two modified De Tomaso Panteras built by Jack Roush Engineering using the production-spec chassis." Huh? If it used the production-spec chassis, how is it a modified Pantera? Were they wearing Pantera bodies for purposes of disguise? Did the author mis-speak, and they were just using the Pantera drivetrain (i.e. the ZF transaxle) to develop the chassis dynamics while their own drivetrain was still in development?

I suppose half the point of this article is to make me curious enough to buy the book, but I'm not going to have a lot of patience for a book that oversimplifies to the point of being technically inaccurate...
Intermediate Driver

It is common in the auto industry to build a mechanical prototype which features the new vehicle's powertrain or chassis elements in an existing body. It can be very expensive to build a complete prototype body from scratch. I remember when the first Ford Escort was being designed in the late 1970's, Ford had mechanical prototypes built from Honda Accords with the Ford CVH engine and transaxle. In the case of the GN34, Ford had Roush Engineering take two Pantera bodies and fit them with the GN34 design-intent suspension and chassis pieces. The Pantera already had the ZF 5-speed transaxle that the GN34 was going to use (updated of course). One of the Roush vehicles was fitted with a stock 3.0L SHO V6 while the other ran a 5.8L HO V8 to simulate the power and torque that the GN34 would ultimately get from the enlarged 3.6L SHO V6 planned for production.




I think Ford would have had a profit-making hit on their hands using the Maya ES prototype. I also find it hard to believe they couldn’t find the budget to build the Explorer and a low-volume sports car (shout-out to Chrysler and its Viper team).
Remember, this was at the dawn of the Malaise Era’s demise: Ferrari and Porsche were set to trigger the Supercar Arms Race with the 288 GTO & 959 and the Japanese were ramping-up production of models with never-seen-before performance with the Supra Turbo, 3000 GT VR4, 300ZX Twin Turbo, and RX-7 Twin Turbo on the drawing boards….all front-engine designs of course.
While there were more “pedestrian” mid-engine entries from Ferrari and Lamborghini, as well as entry-level designs from Bertone (X1/9) and Toyota (MR2), there was a void in the middle of the mid-engine market - occupied only by the Lotus Esprit at the time - that Ford could have capitalized on.
Sure, Ford made a gazillion dollars off the Explorer, but they missed an opportunity that would have paid dividends for decades to come: the creation of an attainable halo car that would have generated an immeasurable amount of press, changed the way consumers thought about Ford, and brought new converts to the brand (shout-out to Chevy’s C8 team).
Pit Crew

That distinct 80's flavor that was hot (to many) at the time looks clunky today. But she's very pretty in the dark, and who hasn't fallen for that?

New Driver

Looks an awful lot like the Nissan 300ZX

The **bleep** love child of a 300zx and a Fiero GT with a Probe nose. And only a v6?
Intermediate Driver

I nearly wrote EXACTLY that! - But I could not decide whether the nose was a probe (nice car, crappy name) or a Fiero GT (nice car except the nose).
Pit Crew

Interesting. I have always read, multiple places, that the SHO got its motor for the 1989 model because the motor had been designed and built for the GN34 which was then cancelled.
Intermediate Driver

That was always one of the big myths about the GN34. The 3.0L SHO engine was already programmed for the Taurus when SVO went to Yamaha and asked how much more power it could produce. Yamaha determined they could bore and stroke the block to 3.6L making 280 hp so that version was what was planned for the GN34. This would have given it acceleration equal to or better than the Corvette which made 230 hp from it's 5.7L V8 at that time (1986). In addition, SVO protected package room for Ford's upcoming 4.6L DOHC V8 that was due for the 1993 Mustang Cobra and Mark VIII. That would have made a nice in-cycle upgrade.

Pit Crew

The Cobra Mustang didn’t see the modular DOHC V8 until the ‘96 MY, wellll after the fox body Mustang Cobra debuted in late ‘92.
Intermediate Driver

Hats off to the author; starting with an interesting story like this is half the battle, but what a masterstroke in sharing all the details with wonderful form! Thanks very much for a very entertaining and informative read.

Should have called the Texas chicken rancher.
Intermediate Driver

Bullseye my ass!
The best thing I can say about the final GN34 is that they beat Nissan to the rear end of the 300ZX (which I came close to buying) and stole the late front end of a Fiero - which I think ruined the original beautiful design. A Ferrari killer? No WAY! I'll keep my Dino 308 GT/4 any day.
They either should have:
1. Made a street legal GT40 sooner rather than later
2. Updated the original Cobra
or 3. Brought back the Pantera.
What they have here deserved to be aborted.
Believe Me!

PS: Did they steal those wheels off of a Chrysler Turbine Car?