Never Stop Driving #102: The Mustang King


This week a video emerged of a prototype Ford Mustang GTD testing at the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany. Painted in black, the king of all Mustangs looks and sounds sinister. There’s no place like the ’Ring to establish the GTD’s bona fides, as it’s where the highest-performing street cars from other manufacturers are routinely shaken down.

Every so often a mainstream automaker manages, against considerable odds, to produce a special, low-volume sports car like the GTD. Companies like Ford, GM, and Toyota have tens of thousands of employees, shareholders, and customers to answer to, not to mention regulators. These parties want profitable SUVs and pickups, a swift transition to electrically powered vehicles, or both, but they don’t often demand limited-edition, six-figure sports cars. The GTD, then, is incredibly audacious, an 800-hp Mustang that Ford is selling for a cool $300,000.

The Chevy Camaro ended production last year and the Dodge Challenger is in transition, which leaves the Mustang as the sole pony car. Ford is leaning into its survivor position by producing a smorgasbord of nine street Mustang models and three racing versions, not including the electric Mustang Mach-E. This weekend, I’ll be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to sample the tamest of the racing trio, the Dark Horse R, in the first race of the new Mustang Challenge series. Next week, a trio of heavily modified Mustang GT3s are racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans against Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin, and Porsche.

Ford CEO Jim Farley is a gasoline-fueled motorhead who frequently races on weekends. An early version of the Mustang GT3 race car reportedly inspired him to approve a street car that morphed into the mighty GTD. When the GTD debuted last summer, Ford announced a targeted sub-seven-minute lap time around the Nürburgring.

The Nürburgring Nordschleife, or “north loop,” was built a century ago and is about 13 miles long. As a cross between a racetrack and a curvy mountain road, it’s a unique testing venue, scary fast and dangerous, which adds to its mystique. Last summer, two engineers were killed in a crash while testing tires. Car companies routinely rent the facility not only for chassis development testing but also to achieve lap times for promotional purposes. Such test days are closed to the media, but that doesn’t stop spy photographers from hiding in the thick forests that surround the Nordschleife to capture prototype performance cars as they run the course. A lap time under seven minutes would put the GTD in rarefied air.

The GTD is a sterling example of the engineering artistry and creativity I’ve frequently written about. The car has, for example, a novel hydraulic system that prepares it for track duty by lowering the chassis and stiffening the dampening and spring rates. Much of the tech sprang from the unconventional mind of engineer and racer Larry Holt, who is a modern mix of Carroll Shelby and his famed fabricator, Phil Remington. Watch Holt explain the car here.

Ford has not said how many GTDs it will produce. Some buyers undoubtably hope to buy and flip a GTD for profit, a common scenario with low-volume sports cars. I know of a local Ford GT, the last special-edition sports car Ford made, that has never been driven because its owner hopes to profit from a future sale. Ford requires potential GTD buyers to apply for the privilege, which is now commonplace in the industry, and some 7500 people responded.

The GTD was created by car nuts for car nuts. That’s why it exists; not to please Wall Street or regulators. It’s the sort of passion project that makes me love the car business.

When you’re not out driving this weekend, check out the latest from Hagerty Media including:

If you’re at Mid-Ohio this weekend, come say hi. If not, get out and drive this weekend!


P.S.: Your feedback and comments are welcome!

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    Your vocation to the automotive enthusiast is infectious and wanted to thank you for the podcast and quality storytelling shared. It’s like being in coffeeshop together talking cars. Recently I have rejoined the car community with little Z3 I have grown affectionate with. This car has enabled me to share time with my father whose memories are fading… but when we are in front of cars, he has no loss for words. To me, this is how powerful a car culture is, and I cherish the stories of his ‘65 GTO and other cars along the way.

    Larry- love to get your feedback as someone at your level of auto-authority, but why ‘sports car’ and not ‘sport car?’ I mean, what sports beyond the sport of driving would a car participate? While there are many aspects of driving in a sporting manner, they are all derived from the sport of driving.

    Oh interesting topic! Shelby was pretty adamant it was “sport” and not “sports” if memory serves. There are no hard and fast rules here, however. Usage, however, often determines the how something is written. I’ll ask our copy editors and report back.

    I even had free tickets.

    Of late the Trans Am race later this month has been the must see race.

    I agree I love TA2 and go to VIR every year. I do have an 84 Mustang (my first new car) and look back that Willy T. Ribbs won the Trans Am title back in 84 with a Roush “Capri” the Mustang’s brother.

    I do enjoy IMSA especially the Michelin Pilot Challenge with the GT4 cars as they “resemble” the cars we drive now. The Prototypes are exciting as well as GTD Pro and GTD but they are purpose built race cars.

    NASCAR has lost its appeal to me, and I was also a die hard drag race fan (especially early Pro Stock days) as I had a cousin who raced and won NHRA Championships in the class. But that too has lost its luster to me.

    “The GTD was created by car nuts for car nuts. ” But sadly most will end up like the Ford GT you mentioned, packed away like an “action figure” still in its plastic so a collector can make a profit.

    “I think a solid majority will drive them.”
    Agreed….about an average of 50 miles I’d say. 😂

    Thanks goodness for Jim Farley. When I found out that he was taking the reins of the company AND was a motorsport nut…I knew good things would happen. Now if they would only bring back cars!

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