Intriguing GN-34 details are very slowly coming to light. Read more about the GN-34 by using the “See similar posts” link in the tools section of this post below. We’ve copied this letter verbatim from NextAutos for the sake of posterity:
Interesting article you ran on the GN34 test mules at Roush. However, as someone who was on the GN34 team from the start, I can say that Jack’s memory (or the reporter’s transcription) is not quite right! For starters, this was not a Ford Europe program, as Jack said. It was initiated by SVO under the leadership of Glen Lyall. SVO had been searching for their next program after the 1984 SVO Mustang. After a couple of planned SVO programs were pulled out of Ford’s cycle plan, SVO decided to go after independent corporate funding to do a new sports car, which was code-named the GN34.
We first looked at Ford’s front-engine, rear-drive platforms, and had Giugiaro at Ital Design do a styling theme on the Ford Mondeo platform. When we brought the property to Dearborn, it looked remarkably like the original ST16 Probe. We then gravitated to an all-new mid-engine proposal. Styling clays were commissioned by Ital Design, Ghia, and Ford’s International Design Studio. We researched these in California, and the Ghia design won overwhelmingly. It looked nothing like the test mules at Roush, by the way. It was about the same size as a Ferrari Testarossa, with similar styling. A really beautiful car! The vehicle assembly was to be done at Chausson in France, which may be where the error on Ford Europe comes from. Chausson had previously assembled premium vehicles such as the Citroen Maserati SM and the Opel GT. They were cost competitive and a natural choice since there were no coachbuilders in North America at the time that could assemble a complete vehicle.
The related article on the SHO engine is also incorrect. Ford had already contracted with Yamaha for the 3.0L SHO for the Taurus BEFORE the GN34 looked at it. Once we settled on the GN34′s N-S mid-engine layout, we really struggled with the engine choice. Ford had nothing available that would do it justice. We didn’t want to put in the pushrod 5.0L V8 from the Mustang – - too low tech. I personally visited Lotus and determined they were interested in a partnership with Ford to build a new 4.0L DOHC aluminum V8 that would use Ford’s EEC-IV engine controller. Those of us that appreciated the long Ford-Lotus history thought this would have been a natural for the GN34! We pitched this proposal to Lou Ross, Ford’s NAAO VP at the time, but he insisted on a “Ford” engine.
The 4.6L DOHC “Mod” V8 was just being designed for the Mark VII, and would not be available in time for the GN34′s planned 1990 intro. As noted, the 3.0L SHO V6 was already under development for the Taurus in mid-1985. We asked Yamaha how much they could increase the displacement, and they said they could bore and stroke it to 3.6L with 280 HP. So, we committed to a 3.6L SHO V6 as the initial GN34 engine, but also packaged the 4.6L DOHC V8 to be used as soon as it became available. That’s why one of the Roush mules has a 351 V8 in it, to properly simulate the weight and power of the 4.6L (I have pictures of Jackie Stewart wringing this car out on Ford’s handling course). The transaxle was basically the old ZF 5-speed as used in the Pantera, but with upgraded synchros. We were also working with Getrag in Germany on a N-S hi-torque automatic.
Ford Mules & Prototypes: GN-34, 2000 Cobra R, S197 Lincoln LS, 2002 Explorer – and my spy photo addiction
Surprisingly very little has been written about the Ford prototype code-named “GN-34“. I looked thru another website earlier this evening that had the entire story wrong… and that needs correction.
Once upon a time… way back when, I was in Dearborn on business (not with Ford). Of course, when in Dearborn, the thing to do is to go past Ford’s proving grounds. The best way to do this (at the time) was to get out of your car and walk past the wall around the proving grounds - and also past the infamous “experimental engines” building. These days, walking by will result in several cameras being trained on you – and a call going out to remove you from the area (Ford security will follow you… hassle you…).
But back in the good old days, you could walk past the entrances to the proving ground – and see *cool* stuff inside (those entrances have since been blocked off)! On one trip, I saw a Mustang go into the proving area with dual exhausts – and Mustangs didn’t have such things back then (I saw them again a few months later at Nelson Ledges during the 24-hour). On another trip I had the catch of a lifetime. As I walked by, suddenly a gate opened and a black 2-seat sports car shot out. It was black, long, sleek (not unlike a Pantera) and only lightly camouflaged. And the engine sang to high RPM – obviously a V-6 but with an exotic scream.
I didn’t know the name at the time… but I was looking at the Ford “GN-34″ prototype – a Yamaha-powered mid-engined 2-seater. I found out what it was when Autoweek published a picture shortly thereafter of the same prototype. The prototype (and planned production car) was intended to be powered by an enlarged (by rumor 3.8 liters) SHO engine with 5 valves (a Yamaha specialty), and used a 5-speed transmission (probably the one in the future SHO Taurus). Ford wanted to build this car – and even tried to find a way for it to be built less expensively in France. Unfortunately everything went downhill. Much later I would own a red 1989 SHO – one of the very first off the assembly line (before the car was even released for sale) – with a detuned and down-sized version of this same engine.
My personal encounter with the GN-34 started my long history of “drive-bys” while in Dearborn. I won’t encourage you to do the same, and Ford will certainly not like it. But given enough trips, you will see many things you shouldn’t be seeing.
One of my trips revealed a Taurus SHO with the front end of a Mercury Sable. It took me until the following spring to understand that what I had seen was indeed the next-generation Taurus SHO.
A later trip involved driving around (not past, but around the outside on all 4 sides) the original 1994 Mustang ‘”Team Mustang” development building – the location of which wasn’t exactly a secret. Driving past open doors… revealed lots of 1994 Mustangs! Unfortunately, I never saw a “mule” – a FOX Mustang with an SN-95 front end or other parts. Later, the same building was used to develop the all-new F-150.
How about a Mercury Marauder two years before it came out? Full production trim, right down to the undisguised name in the rear bumper. I pulled up near it – the driver looked over at me – and took off to get away. Revealing a nice sounding high performance engine.
A less interesting find was a highly revised Windstar… spotted near a Jack Roush building.
A far more interesting find was a 2000 Cobra R prototype – actually several of them during a period when I was traveling thru Detroit regularly. Both the earlier prototype (built on the earlier SN-95 chassis and with a very different rear wing) and several later prototypes on the late SN-95 body. Including a final prototype driving thru a snow storm!
And there was lots more. How about a ~98-vintage Explorer – with the future 2002 fully-independent suspension underneath? Fully instrumented underneath with every sensor you could imagine. It had already been reported that the Explorer was going to move to an IRS, and this vehicle or one like it had already been photographed. The chance to see it up close and personal was *very* interesting – especially in the ”mule” engineering underneath which adapted the production prototype pieces to a cut-up and re-sectioned older chassis. Even to the point of fabricating the gas filler on the opposite side (with a pop-riveted aluminum plate over the old hole).
One of the easiest finds was a black Expedition with a Lightning front-end and trim. Some Ford execs took it to the airport to pick up some people just as I was coming out to get my rental car. This same vehicle was later photographed and identified as an SVT prototype that didn’t make it into production.
But the best find was a Lincoln LS with a strut-type front suspension. As I reported in an earlier posting, when I saw this (confirming a talk I had with Tom S. of SVT a year earlier, otherwise it might only have been an experiment), my heart sank. This was probably proof that the new Mustang would have a strut front end (although the rear on this engineering car was still independent… that probably didn’t mean anything). And this was in 2002… I didn’t know it but the Mustang program was in trouble and temporarily on hold. When it finally came back it was dumbed down even further (and any platform-mates that may have been planned were gone from the plan).
The LS was in what I called the “mule car junkyard” – in an open lot next to a popular restaurant and watering hole. It was actually sometimes used as spillover parking for the popular chain restaurant – so it was fair game for me to park in there. I used to eat lunch in there myself sometimes – and I heard a number of interesting things being discussed by Ford engineers. Discussions I wanted to join… but of course couldn’t. At that particular time, the lot also included several Aston Martins and some European Fords (Euro Fiestas and Foci were commonplace).
BTW, that lot is no longer used for that purpose… perhaps partly because they noticed me (and certainly lots of other folks) climbing under various cars to look around. Of course it was a public lot… a poor choice on their part.