Last year in Monterey, we met GTR1 for the first time. Galpin Auto Sports pulled the wraps off its Ford GT-based supercar, powered by a twin-turbocharged 5.4-liter V8 good for a whopping 1,024 horsepower and 739 pound-feet of torque. The thing was totally custom-made and reportedly took some 12,000 man hours to create. And there it sat on the Pebble Beach grass, $1,000,000-plus price tag and all.
This year, the Galpin was back, albeit with one big change. That twin-turbo engine? Gone. In its place, a 5.4-liter V8 with a 4.0-liter Whipple supercharger bolted on, delivering an astonishing 1,058 hp and 992 lb-ft of torque on 110-octane fuel. 0-60? 2.9 seconds. Top speed? Somewhere above 225 miles per hour.
"Some things to keep in mind: no stability control, no traction control," were the only warnings given by Galpin's Brandon Boeckmann before taking me on a quick spin in the supercar. And after having my eyes thrown into the back of my skull a few times, laughing hysterically and trying to regain full use of my hearing after my ear drums being bombarded by the apocalyptic roar behind me, Brandon pulled over and said it was my turn, if I was ready to take the wheel.
- Getting in and out of the GTR1 is the same awkward experience it is with the Ford GT. The doors extend into the roof panels, so you have to open wide. You don't really hop in so much as you sort of throw yourself into the driver's chair. The seat grips you tight, you reach down and slide the chair forward. You instinctively tilt your head to the right as you pull the door closed. At that moment, you're greeted with a familiar interior - though in a jarringly unfamiliar all-blue color scheme, here - with a small steering wheel and familiarly long, horizontal row of gauges that extend out to the middle of the dash.
- Turn the key in the ignition, hit the red engine start button in the center stack, and the GTR1 comes to live with a noise that cannot be precisely described. It's loud. No, louder. No, louder than that. It's so loud that the Galpin crew were not able to test it at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca because it exceeds the track's noise restrictions. It is illegally loud. And you won't be able to get enough.
- Pulling away at low speeds, the GTR1 chugs to life, with a throttle and clutch that are surprisingly easy to modulate. There's a progressive nature to the go-pedal, too - all that power isn't available right at the start. Good thing, too, so you can actually pull out onto the road with some dignity, and you won't get the back end to kick out until you're deeper into the throttle's travel.
- The shift lever has been shortened versus the standard GT, and the gears are selected with a solid, shorter-throw action, too. You don't feel like you're trying to move the earth when shifting gears in the Galpin - it's pretty easy, and feels natural. It reminds me of the stock Ford GT in this regard - incredibly capable, but very easy to drive.
- Now, to be clear, I didn't even reach close to the car's full potential on my street drive. I was limited to the roads of the Monterey Peninsula, and while there were plenty of great curves to throw the GTR1 into, it is simply too powerful to explore its limits on public streets.
- From what I can surmise, Galpin engineers have done a nice job of not only keeping the spirit of the Ford GT intact, they've added some of that conceptual madness in a way that's easy to manage. The steering is generally good, with a direct action that isn't overly touchy, allowing the driver to correct the occasional bouts of oversteer with ease.
- The ride height has been lowered, and the car rides on 20-inch wheels with super grippy Pirelli PZero tires. The ride is rather harsh, considering the overall lack of suspension travel, but it won't break your back. The comfortable, supportive seats keep things copacetic from inside, too - even if you do hit a particularly jarring bump, you won't be thrown around inside the cockpit.
- Most impressive, though, are the brakes, able to absolutely halt the speeding GTR1 on a dime. The car uses carbon-carbon rotors, and they stop. Immediately. Yet they don't feel snatchy when you don't need 100-percent, remaining well-modulated and progressive.
- The only thing I'm not fully in love with is the styling. From the rear three-quarter view, the GTR1 looks really cool, and reasonably unique. But from the front, I can't help but think it still looks like a less-attractive GT, with some odd Jaguar XK cues thrown in there, too. That said, it gets a ton of attention - everyone on the road gave me the thumbs-up, and cyclists on the side of the road waved me by, some urging me to slam the throttle and give them the full brunt of the Galpin's noise and fury. Monterey Car Week brings out some really interesting stuff to the peninsula in northern California, and even in this company, I was a rock star.
- Galpin Auto Sports has six Ford GT chassis standing by, reading to fill orders for the monstrous supercar for those able to handle the over $1-million starting price. But you'll get a car that's built to order, with the interior and exterior able to be fully customized. Of course, with enough time and money, pretty much anything is possible.
I'll be honest; when Ford first unveiled its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, I was skeptical. Past attempts at building turbocharged American cars were almost universally awful, I reasoned, so why would Ford's latest effort be any different? This may seem foolish today, considering the success that the growing EcoBoost range has achieved - particularly the 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter mills. Yet I once again found myself questioning Ford.
It's the makeup of the 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder slotted into the compact engine bay of this Fiesta that has a way of breeding doubt. Three-cylinder engines remain an extreme rarity in the US. What's more, they earned a less-than-desirable reputation for applications in the 1980s and 1990s, and my trepidation about this latest three-pot as a result.
As I found out, though, history is a poor informant of modern technology. The thrust available in other cars with the EcoBoost badge on the back has not gone missing here; something the International Engine of the Year committee has lauded. That august body named the 1.0-liter Ecoboost the best engine of 2012 and 2013. After a week of driving, it didn't take long for my fear of threes to get turned into something like that line of thinking.
- How much power can a 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder that's small enough to go through an airport x-ray machine really produce? 90 horsepower, maybe 100, right? There's not much wrong with that specific output. The reality is more impressive, though. The 1.0 in the Fiesta turns out 123 ponies and 125 pound-feet of torque. Dig into the throttle, and the heroic little mill can call up a total of 148 pound-feet of torque, courtesy of an overboost function. Perhaps most impressive is that peak torque is available at just 1,400 rpm. For reference, the standard 1.6 in the Fiesta only pumps out 120 hp and 112 lb-ft of torque - so yes, this little triple is actually more powerful.
- The result of all this easily accessible grunt is ridiculously, hilariously good. The Fiesta pulls with a diesel-like sense of authority, regardless of gear or engine speed, and had little difficulty when it came to on-ramps or highway merging, where power is most likely to be needed. Throughout my week, every single situation I put the 1.0-liter in, it wowed with its super accessible acceleration. Put another way, if this engine were in a Pepsi Challenge with the standard 1.6, I'm convinced it'd win every time.
- As low and mid-range output are this engine's strongest assets, the transmission should be geared to exploit that. In the Fiesta, it is. The five-speed manual isn't great to work with, with long throws and a vague clutch, but it's geared perfectly for this engine. At 80 mph, the engine turns over at just 3,000 rpm. At 70, it spins at 2,500. And yet, the gearing is broad enough and the power ample enough that you won't be forced to work the clutch and transmission too much to get about. This powertrain is just very, very easy to drive and live with.
- For those that are concerned about the engine's sound, well, don't be. Sure, it's a bit clattery when idling and it doesn't sound great when accelerating hard, but it's not a buzzy or harsh engine, and it's darn near silent at cruising speeds, even when turning over at 3,000 rpm.
- There are a fair few flies in this ointment, though. First and foremost, we have fuel economy. Ford rates the Fiesta EcoBoost at 32 miles per gallon in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. I didn't have much difficulty matching the 37-mpg combined rating, and the EcoBoost's ratings are noticeably better than the 1.6, which returns 30 and 41 mpg when fitted with a manual transmission and the SFE package. The problem, as I see it, is this: there's a stigma against super-small engines like the 1.0, and unless they provide some ridiculous improvements in fuel efficiency, consumers will dismiss them outright. As of this writing, I simply don't think there's enough of a benefit to tempt the average buyer to get behind the wheel and find out how good this engine really is.
- I think this is solvable problem, though, if Ford opts to develop the Fiesta EcoBoost as a fuel-sippers choice. Start-stop would be a natural fit here, as would active grille shutters and, perhaps, the excellent suite of efficiency training systems found on Ford's hybrid and electric offerings. It would add some to the cost (perhaps $295?) but it would fit with Ford's plan to introduce that technology to more models. It's not likely to provide a huge bump in the EPA sticker numbers, but the real-world improvement could be enough for Joe Consumer to decide to take it for a spin, just to see what it's all about.
- The Fiesta SE starts at $16,080 for the five-door model, which doesn't include an $825 destination charge. Adding the three-pot turbo kicks the price up $995. It's a reasonable sum, considering the premiums that other EcoBoost mills offer, and one that I wouldn't be too miffed about paying. My tester also featured a $290 Comfort Pack, which added heated seats. Beyond that, the only other options worth mentioning are MyFord Touch and a sunroof, both of which add $795 apiece to the Fiesta's bottom line (although my car didn't have either). As tested, the car you see above is $18,190, including destination.
- A final problem, as I see it, is that Ford hasn't done a lot to make this a very appealing engine to customers. It's only available on the mid-level SE trim, and can only be had with a five-speed manual and 15-inch steel wheels. It is, at least, available in both sedan and five-door models. If the ho-hum fuel mileage doesn't doom Fiesta EcoBoost sales, the fact that its availability is so limited will. But this is the first year the 1.0 is on sale in the US, so it's entirely plausible that Ford is waiting to see what the initial consumer and critical response is before making it more widely available. Here's hoping that's the case.