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Hagerty
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.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/the-fastest-ford-the-world-never-saw/
74 REPLIES 74
hyperv6
Racer

Looks like a bad Fiero GT redesign.
Parts of the car held up better than other parts. The hard edged styling of this era did not always work from Ital.

 

The photo with the Ferrari TR is a good example. The Ferrari even with hard lines had flow to it. The Ford rear just was too cluttered with too many lines not flowing. 
But hind sight is 2020.

MeJ
Advanced Driver

Beat me to it. That thing is horrendous looking. Some could even be Delorean rejects...
Omerta
New Driver

Agreed, that rear quarter view looks like a mix of Fiero GT and 1990 Nissan 300Z
2005E55ANG
Pit Crew

When I saw the lead picture, that is exactly what I thought........
great car minds think alike.....I guess not at FORD for this project.
427sc
Detailer

AMEN... Ford Fiero it is! In fact, some of those supposed "Italian" iterations look so close to the plastic turd that GM marketed, one has to wonder if GM got a quick lookey at the Ford project, stole it and just beat them to the punch??? LoL... I also see some "Ferrari 308" design cues in this car as well as some "Bricklin SV-1" lines in this car too.
Although the Ford car looks to be a bit larger wheelbase than the Fi-junko (that's what my friends and I used to call the Fiero back in the day). Me wonders if Ford wouldn't have been more successful than the Fijunko was with a higher horsepower plant behind the seats (rumors of the day was the Fiero's front tires got too light with a hi-horsepower turboed V6 in the engine bay to be able to "safely" market that car to the public)?

Also, RE: the Ford Exploder (my name for the Explorer), from my recollection in talking with Ford Engineers of the day, the Explorer was the attempt to distance the newer/4dr design version of the car from the flop-of-a-car that the Ford Bronco II was. Remember all the "rollover dangers" that the Bronco 2 was plagued with early on (most of which was in reality, complete BS)?

I STILL love the Pantera though. Imagine if Ford made an all aluminum Pantera, with the floor pan dropped to where it needed to be for a 6'+ driver and WITHOUT all the wiring/overheating problems the early cars had! WoW!
jelliott
Pit Crew

Note that DeTomaso did make changes to the Pantera chassis (in ~1980 and again in ~1990) after Ford stopped importing/marketing them in North America. I don't know what changed, but I assume DeTomaso's limited resources meant that it always would have seemed a little old-fashioned compared to a 308/328 for example. Sometimes I wonder what might have been if Ford had gotten/stayed more involved in that program...
Truthworldwide
Detailer

"America-inspired, Italian-styled, powered by Japanese engine technology through a German gearbox and British chassis and assembled in France"

A collector's nocturnal emission. Even the home the SHO V-6 eventually was multi-flavored, with a Ford body, Yamaha engine, and Mazda transaxle; with Germanic aspirations.
Classic57al
Pit Crew

What could go wrong?
pitchrollyaw
Pit Crew

British electrics, Italian engine technology...could have been worse:-)
Oscar
Intermediate Driver

Muletto is Italian for forklift? I don't get it.
AG1962
Instructor

Also “little mule”, as in “production mule”.
TeutonicScot
Detailer

So many different design cues on this car that were borrowed or found their way into/from other vehicles about that time.
Clearly, a Pontiac Fiero, Ford Probe, Nissan 300 ZX-Z32 and Corvette C4 approached a 4 way stop at the same time, and none of them stopped. When the smoked cleared, voila!
DAY
Detailer

Looks like a Fiero GT on steroids.
Not applicable

"The fastest Ford the world never saw" Well, we'll never know because not one word about performance specs. A basic tenent of journalism: The story should expand on the headline.
audiobycarmine
Technician

Quite right, (except for tenet.)
930Flachbau
Intermediate Driver

Geez, and I thought the Corvette C4 was bland!
GoFast
Advanced Driver

A Ferrari for a Corvette's price isn't at all elusive. That's exactly what Chevy delivered with the 2020 C8, especially the 2023 Z06 edition.
AG1962
Instructor

Front underbumper skirt on the Maya version stops short; it should have been dropped at least by three more inches. It looks like an anteater with an underbite — or a Delorean’s hillbilly cousin. The Ford International version looks much better, even though the rounded nose screams “Ford Probe” now. Maybe it carried over to the Probe?

AG1962_0-1643468091770.jpeg

 

Sad — and telling — that Ford could not build a halo car to top even the strangled and insipid 1980s Corvette body-shakers. The SUV story does somewhat vindicate Ford management and their business sense, at least.

MustangJim
Technician

agree with you ag...while I saw " the nissan z, fiero, etc.." I was definately thinking Probe. Same that they never built this car but the Explorer was and is a beancounters dream.
427sc
Detailer

I really used to like the Probe GT. Good looking lines, OK performance (for its day). With an SHO engine in it, and feeding power to the rears, they might have had something...
My friend's dad, a Ford exec. had a Probe GT as his "company car" and my friend and I used to beat the snot out of it! One night, coming back to the NW Detroit suburbs from some downtown "clubbing"/bar hopping, we got into a freeway-race with some low number BMW car and spanked him pretty badly multiple times. The BMW punk got so pissed because we were laughing so hard at him (he just kept coming back for more) that he ended up pulling a gun on us! He's lucking I was bar hopping that night or I might have had MY gun with me! LoL...

I have another friend in my Cobra group who 10-15 years ago took a Probe GT, stripped the body, tube framed it (rear wheel drive of course with big-a$$ tubs to fit drag slicks under the body panels) and shoe-horned a blown V8 under the hood (w/tunnel ram; I can't remember the displacement). He wins a LOT of $ with that car doing late-night Outlaw Street Drags, towing it to various places around the midwest. One night, I think he came home with $20K in cash. One QUICK Probe!
DT
Advanced Driver

I would say that you were the one that was lucky you didn't have a gun with you that night. You would most likely be dead today or in jail. Wouldn't that have been a total waste of life ????
Reinhold_Weege
Instructor

We wouldn't have to read his re-names of cars that he finds so clever, so that would be a positive.
petersalt
Advanced Driver

no, not vindicative in the least. The GN34 project and the Explorer/4-dr Bronco had NOTHING in common except a competition for corporate funding. Ford's corporate structure has a history of making FINANCE decisions influence product design and production when the $$ ideas should ENABLE good decisions on product. Oh, well, Toyota/Honda/Nissan/etc. showed Ford's ineptitude to great advantage; at least Ford escaped the Literal Bankruptcy of Chrysler and GM.
68AMX390
New Driver

Looks like the love child of a Pontiac Fiero and Mitsubishi 3000 GT.
buellerdan
Instructor

.......an internationally-minded group of Ford mavericks.....[pun intended?]
KeninFL
Intermediate Driver

This article comes as close to calling Lutz a bean counter as I've read in a while.
And... "Frey was a Ford lifer and knew full well the risk of engineering a vehicle using external suppliers, especially one targeted at millionaires and sold through Ford dealers. Point-by-point he set out his concerns; warranty, quality, safety, and cost overruns—in his opinion GN34 was too big a risk." I put myself in Frey's shoes and had to admit he had the #'s on his side (as did Lutz, who also wanted his project - the Bronco - to get the $ for development - it is a corporate world remember). Sitting in his chair I would have felt like my eighteen year old interrupted my reading the evening paper with a plea for why we should get the V8 in the new family four door; he's wild with enthusiasm, even has figures about resale value, etc. I'm impressed he dug up some info but know his hope is not practical. I tell him to put his energy into his homework. He goes to the garage instead and checks the wagon's plugs.
CarsAreMe
Pit Crew

Looks far too much like an enlarged Pontiac Fiero to have been successful.
wdb
Advanced Driver

My dad had a Taurus with that Yamaha V6. Nice motor.

I'm not surprised to read about great cars being killed by committee in the 1980's. Running companies has come a long way since that time.
Gimmea6
Pit Crew

Just too doggone ugly.
GomBoo
Pit Crew

Take the roof off...it looks a little better, operative word here is 'little'.
mawgui
New Driver

I'm not going to get into the accuracies and inaccuracies of the article or a reprise of the heroes and villains. The car was much more attractive than these pictures. The team was the best (and most entertaining) group of engineers and planners that I worked with in my Ford career. All these folks (save perhaps Jack) are or will soon be retired, but you can still find pictures and pieces of the GN34 hanging in scattered offices and collections. The GN34 would have been marvelous.
FigueroB
Pit Crew

Ford saved a lot of money and embarrassment by not building the GN34. There was no "Ferrari Appeal" and they sure wouldn't have sold many at a "Corvette Price". I even doubt that it could compete with a Nissan 300zx.

Classic57al
Pit Crew

Looked like a love child of a Corvette and a Pontiac Fiero. Just saying...
acooper529
Advanced Driver

That last (final design?) picture does look very similar to a Ford Probe GT, minus the broken camshaft option of course. Now that was a truly crappy V6 engine after very few miles!
I don't ever remember the Taurus SHO 3.0 Yamaha being "powerful" but was noticeably smoother.
And why does any Car Company waste R&D money or risk production on such a niche vehicle?
One design point that I think is just crazy is producing non-framed door windows. Can't we all see how the lack of wind noise control can makes ANY car appear junky after a few years on the road?
Pault1
Pit Crew

The SHO was one of the fastest sedans in the world. 220HP out of 3.0, just a dozen or two behind the 5.0 V8, and one of the higher specific outputs (per liter) available at the time; I think the Ferrari V6 was a little higher. Bob Bondurant said that on the track it was as fast as that year's Mustang GT.
VictorK
Pit Crew

Kind of boring looking.
Rather drive a Pantera if I wanted a Ford drivetrain.
win59
Advanced Driver

Wow! Tough room! Lots of Z32 300ZX here, really liked that car.
Give me this all day long instead of a 4-door Bronco.
BiffNotZeem
Intermediate Driver

"SVO visited Lotus to examine teaming up on the next Esprit, but, to nobody’s surprise, Hethel had no defined plans."

Poor research on the part of the author. Check out the Jan 85 issue of Road&Track. Lotus had all sorts of plans, as is often the case since Chapman died, for models that they would never build.

Relevant to this story, Lotus had the Etna. It was also styled by ItalDesign and looked enough like the Maya that Ford was upset with Giugiaro.

Mention Lotus so often in this story, but not mentioning the Etna, suggests someone did do all of their homework.
Bigblk4spd
New Driver

I worked at ECS/Roush in the late 80's and remember these cars in the back shop. I think Jack still has two of the prototypes and they have been on display at his museum.
I remember not being impressed with styling and very disappointed at v6 engine.
docburry
New Driver

Ford could have simply made a good Ford “Corvette” type car. But for some reason, they didn’t carry over Ford vs Ferrari race victories into creating an American Sports Car. Their attempt with the Pantera was not bad, they just dropped the ball and never have achieved a good competitive sports car. Carol Shelby gave them more opportunities, but the old school executives won out and lost again. Sad.
427sc
Detailer

Naaah, Carrol Shelby was just a chicken farmer opportunist who stole the glory from all the hard work of the un-sung people below him. Kinda like Bill Gates: Doesn't really know $hit, but is a pretty wily/conniving thief.
DT
Advanced Driver

"Carrol Shelby was just a chicken farmer opportunist" Yep Carrol Shelby didn't know **bleep** did he LMAO. I'll bet you think you are much smarter/wiser than he was ? BTW, Who has cars with his name plastered on them all over the world? It sure isn't you 🙂 Envy is a wicked thing.
pitchrollyaw
Pit Crew

Odd that every one of those design exercises strongly resembles another car or a mix of other cars; Fiero, 300ZX, M1....
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

I think the car had potential. Lots of design cues in this car that appeared elsewhere. While not the same car if you want to see a mid-engined car with a Taurus SHO motor there was the 1991 Perkins M2.

https://www.allcarindex.com/production/united-states/perkins-2/m2/

"Michael Perkins created the Perkins M2, an exotic mid-engined sports car with a Ford SHO V-6 engine. It had a composite monocoque chassis with fabricated suspension. The stock engine developed 300 hp, but a turbocharged 500 hp version was optional. The body resembled a cross between a BMW M-1 and a Ferrari Testarossa. They were built by Perkins Engineering in Austin, Texas in the early 1990s, and sold for $45,000 in kit form or $125,000 fully assembled."
Mike_E_V
Detailer

I don't recall ever seeing anything the shouted "The 80's" more than the cars in this article. I will say, a more fitting set of today's wheels and tires would make the car look much, much better. The SHO V6 was pure genius. It's hard to deny the Explorer put Ford back on the map and, like Chryco's mini van, created a market segment still in charge today. The Ford version's front-end design wreaks of what would become the Probe. If built, how mant would still be on the road today and would they be worth more than the average C-4 Corvette?
Mot
Intermediate Driver

All of those concepts look like a mashup of other eighties designs and not many eighties designs have caught their second wind yet so not much love here.
PRNDL
Pit Crew

Those wheels in the final photo make my head hurt.
oceanview
New Driver

Smart decision to go with the Explorer. That GN34 is nothing like a Ferrari, Porsche or Corvette.
Davidb
Intermediate Driver

The Blue Oval has NEVER catered to the individual. It is not in their DNA. From the Model-T to the Tarus they play to the masses. Thunderbird and Mustang actually failed to develop an audience. Why? Constant change aimed at a small niche. Number of doors changed. Number of cylinders changed. Number of seats changed.

This story brings to light the mentality of Ford. They have NO interest in selling to small markets. Every vehicle they offer is just like all the others, aimed at the masses. One more reason why I drive a Corvette C-7 from Chevrolet. They know I am out here. If Ford ever knew, it never showed.