Ain't that America

Nov. 22, 2002
For over a decade, Ford Motor Co.'s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) has kept America's love for high-performance vehicles alive.

A legend returns

A midengine configuration carries an aluminum engine cradle behind the bulkhead that holds the 500-hp V8.

SVT engineers had a hand in the creation of the GT40 concept, unveiled at the 2002 Detroit International Auto Show. Inspired by the GT40 Le Mans racecars of the late 1960s, the concept is part of the Living Legends lineup which includes Thunderbird and Mustang, as well as the Forty-Nine concept.

SVT engineers are responsible for vehicle development, creating the chassis and powertrain for the GT40. They developed an entirely new aluminum spaceframe which provides a rigid cradle for the engine and driveline. The frame consists of a central cabin section, a front-suspension subsection, and a rear powertrain chassis cradle, all bolted together. The front and rear suspension use unequal-length control arms, and a push-rod/bell-crank system which links to horizontally mounted spring dampers.

The modular (MOD) 5.4-liter V8 provides 500 hp at 5,250 rpm and 500 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm. The aluminum powerplant carries high-flow, four-valve cylinder heads and DOHCs. A forged-steel crankshaft, shot-peened H-beam connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons help withstand the 500-hp load. Also, the V8 uses a modified Roots-type supercharger from Eaton with an intercooled intake.

SVT engineers installed a special transaxle to accommodate the mid-engine layout. A close-ratio six-speed transmission is fully synchronized and features an integral limited-slip differential and a 9-in. heavy-duty clutch.

Eleven years ago, Ford Motor Co.'s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) formed when the automaker decided there was an untapped market for high-performance, niche vehicles. Initial products included the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra, Cobra R, and the F-150 Lightning, introduced at the 1992 Chicago Auto Show.

Headed up by director John Coletti, the team includes 28 engineers, and design, marketing, sales, public affairs, and finance departments. Says Tom Scarpello, SVT sales and marketing manager, "People sometimes use the term 'skunk works' when referring to us, but I think that underestimates the capability of this organization."

Performance vehicles at SVT mean increased power, supple road manners, and balance among engine, suspension, and braking systems. There's an element of exclusivity as well: SVT produces only 5,000 vehicles yearly. In a sea of 4,000 Ford dealers in the U.S., SVT vehicles could easily get lost in the shuffle. Instead, dealers can receive additional training to be authorized SVT dealers. Also, SVT has its own national club, the SVT Owners Association (SVTOA). The club has 10,000 members and 40 regional chapters.

Currently, the SVT lineup includes the Focus three and five-door versions, Mustang Cobra, and the F-150 Lightning. SVT produced its 100,000 vehicle in February, the 2002 SVT Lightning.

So what does the future hold for SVT? The Ford unit won't discuss future products. We can only wait and see.

SVT Focus
To create the SVT Focus, SVT engineers take the Focus ZX3 and kick it up a couple notches. In standard ZX3s, the 2.0-liter Zetec engine produces 130 hp at 5,300 rpm and 135 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The SVT Focus engine has 170 hp at 7,000 rpm and 145 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm. Components in the block are tweaked as well, including forged-steel connecting rods with

Short-runner position, above 6,000 rpm, helps the SVT 2.0-liter Zetec engine continue making horsepower up to its 7,200-rpm redline. In the "open" position, the air flows immediately into the intake port.
Long-runner position of the dual-stage intake manifold helps produce low-end torque. As air enters the plenum, it is directed through the long runners with the manifold in the "closed" position.
20-mm wrist pins and cast-aluminum pistons. The pistons increase compression from the Zetec's 9.6:1 to a 10.2:1 ratio.

An aluminum cylinder head has enlarged intake ports for increased flow. Intake valves measure 33.5 mm in diameter, compared to 32 mm in a standard Zetec. Intake valve springs are 27% stiffer, and a 19% increase in stiffness of exhaust valve springs give the engine's redline a boost from 6,750 to 7,200 rpm. The intake camshaft has an electromechanical control mechanism which lets the cam's maximum opening point, relative to crankshaft degrees, vary between 85 and 145* after top-dead-center on the intake stroke. Variability depends on engine speed and load, and is a result of changing oil pressure on either side of a piston in a helix between the cam and its drive pulley.

A dual-stage intake manifold also contributes to low-speed torque. Intake air is directed through four long runners below 6,000 rpm and, above 6,000 rpm, the manifold switches position to shorten the runner's length, improving peak power output.

The catalyst is repositioned under the vehicle, far enough to incorporate tuned 4-into-2-into-1 tubular headers. Engine calibration retards the spark during cold starts, quickly heating the catalyst for a clean exhaust. Exhaust pipe diameter is enlarged to 58 mm, with a 75-mm chrome tip.

A Getrag six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, and incorporates an input shaft flanked by two layshafts. Each layshaft has its own set of final-drive gears. For instance, layshaft number one carries first, second, fifth, and sixth gears, and a 2.88:1 final drive ratio; while layshaft number two carries third, fourth, reverse, and a 4.25:1 final drive ratio. All six forward gears, plus reverse, are fully synchronized. Dividing the output shaft into two lets the transaxle be shorter than a conventional single-shaft six-speed, and occupies the same space as the ZX3's five-speed gearbox.

Up front, the SVT Focus rides on MacPherson struts with angled coil springs/dampers and lower A-arms with double horizontal bushings mounted on a separate subframe and a 21-mm antiroll bar. A tuned, independent control-blade multilink design in back carries separate vertical dampers and a 21-mm antiroll bar. SVT engineers use 10% stiffer springs up front and 20% stiffer in the back compared to the ZX3. Spring rates are 129 lb-in. up front and 157 lb-in. rear. Shock absorbers are tweaked for better handling, as well as to soften impact harshness and improve roll damping.

Power rack-and-pinion steering has a retuned boost curve for better feel and control. Four-wheel disc brakes have 11.8-in. vented front rotors and 11.65-in. rear rotors with single-piston calipers positioned to make full use of the large-diameter rotors. Four-channel ABS is standard.

To keep all this power in check, the SVT Focus comes with a personal-safety system. The system consists of an electronic crash-severity sensor; a restraint-control module; dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags; driver's seat position sensor; and front seat-belt energy-management retractors, pretensioners, and usage sensors.

For 2003, SVT engineers modified the Focus ZX5 to create the SVT Focus five-door. It carries the same modified 2.0-liter Zetec powerplant as the SVT Focus three-door, and includes an SVT-tuned suspension.

SVT Mustang Cobra
After a hiatus in 2002, the 2003 SVT Mustang Cobra is back. The 4.6-liter V8 now delivers 390 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, thanks to a supercharger and water-to-air aftercooler which increase flow capabilities. The powerplant is built on a cast-iron block with a fully counterweighted, forged-steel crankshaft carried over from the previous engine. The crankshaft is fitted with new forged H-beam connecting rods and pistons. The V8 links to a six-speed manual transmission.

The SVT Cobra has a modified MacPherson-strut front suspension with gas-charged Bilstein monotube dampers, separate 600 lb-in. coil springs (500 lb-in. on convertible Cobra), and a 29-mm stabilizer bar. In 1999, the Cobra was outfitted with an independent rear suspension. "Our position for all SVT products is that they are complete vehicles, not just hot-rod engines without any attention given to the rest of the car," says Scarpello. "We felt that to get the level of vehicle dynamics we wanted, we needed to have an IRS on the Cobra," he adds. The IRS carries cast-iron upper control arms, aluminum lower-control arms, fixed toe control tie rods, aluminum spindles, gas-charged Bilstein monotube dampers, 600 lb-in. coil springs (470 lb-in. on convertible), and a 26-mm stabilizer bar. For 2003, the IRS sports upgraded bushings and an additional tubular crossbrace. These upgrades support the increased loading that comes from higher horsepower and larger 17 3 9-in. tires. For stopping power, the SVT Cobra has 13-in. Brembo disc brakes up front, and 11.6-in. vented-discs rear with upgraded pads for durability and better performance.

SVT F-150 Lightning
Touted as the most powerful pickup truck on the road, the SVT F-150 Lightning carries a 5.4-liter V8 mated to an Eaton Gen IV supercharger that breathes through an aftercooler. The cast-iron block powerplant has aluminum-alloy heads and a forged steel crankshaft, providing 380 hp at 4,750 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm. The engine mates to a four-speed automatic transmission routed through an aluminum driveshaft for increased strength. Power transforms into acceleration by a 9-in. traction-lock differential with a 3.73:1 gear ratio.

For 2003, SVT engineers tweak the chassis, including Bilstein gas-charged shocks that sit at all four corners for firm control and a smooth ride. Also, dropping the chassis 1.5-in. up front and 2-in. in the rear is said to further improve handling. Firmer settings for spring rates and dampers increase payload from 800 to 1,400 lb.

The SVT Lightning rides on an SLA front suspension with coil springs, gas-charged shocks, and a 31-mm stabilizer bar. A solid-axle rear suspension has staggered gas-charged shocks, five-leaf springs, and a 23-mm solid stabilizer bar. The "staggered" shocks are mounted one forward and one back to help keep the axle from twisting during hard acceleration. Power-assisted recirculating ball steering sees the steering gear revalved for better on-center feel and reduced play. Braking power comes from 12.1-in. ventilated discs with twin-piston calipers up front and 13.1-in. discs rear with single-piston calipers.

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