Mule Drivers stories
One thing missing from the development of the new Ford GT is some good stories from those testing the mules. Something equivilent to when David Douglas Duncan rerpoted for LOOK magazine on his ride with the Mercedes drivers testing the 300SL roadsters in the Italian alps in '56--roaring around full tilt boogie, goggles and racing caps on (cloth caps in those days!). I know the Ford GT team had the mules out on the public highways, at first in flat black, and they even ran them on the dry LA riverbed, but haven't heard if any factory test drivers were ever pinched by the cops who didn't buy the story they were factory prototypes (despite factory plates) because the mules were so rude and crude (still pictures on the net for viewing).
I imagine most of the time any cops apprehending them let them off in the interests of commerce, but I wonder if any test driver had to post a bond in order to get himself (and the car) free of the pokey?
I only met one test driver in person, and he was a highly unlikely example. He must have been 70 years old and I ran into him at the Grove, a trendy shopping center in Los Angeles. He had a jacket that said in elaborate embroidery (including a side view of the Ford GT) something like "Ford GT Rollout Team" and I asked him what he had to do with it and he said "I drove Bill Ford's Ford GT 40,000 miles." I doubted Ford would employ a test driver this old (but then being over 60 myself I don't want in any way to denigrate the capability of senior citizens) but I knew that the three Centennial cars, in between show appearances, were being used as test cars; driven, torn down, built up, etc. so there was some plausibility to what he said. But I'd rather hear more romantic stories about the time they outran a pursuer in the Superstition mountains..etc.
I know of two stories, but neither is that interesting.
1. I was given a ride in an early test mule. It still had the non-supercharged, 4.6-liter V8 and it was primer black with no interior panels and plastic windows. Mark McGowan (lead suspension engineer) was driving and we just went for a 15-minute spin around Dearborn near the SVT facility.
But this was in August of 2003, so the car was still pretty much unheard of by most people. Two guys in a black Volkswagen GTI saw us and they absolutely freaked out. We were on the freeway and they came roaring up to us and were yelling and giving us thumbs up. Mark was used to it because he said it happened everytime they went out with the test mules. The car looked really atrocious, but if you knew what it was it was pretty amazing to see on a public road.
2. Another Ford engineer told me he was in the high desert of Nevada, in the passenger seat of a near-production version GT. He says to the engineer who was driving, "You ain't nothing if you can't get this car to triple the speed limit." I should emphasize that it was late at night and they were in the middle of no where, already doing about 80. So the guy drops it into third, punches it and gets it up to 160, and then back down to 80, in about 7 seconds. The engineer told me it was almost anti-climatic because the car so easily/quickly did triple the speed limit -- and then went right back to 80 mph.
That's more like it-anybody else with a mule story
That's more like what I expected to hear from journalists early on but I guess precious few had rides on the open road in the mules. Even on that drive journalists had in the new Ford GTs on the way to the preview, I guess there were few opportunities for adventures.
Mules being driven in cities must be more common due to some law that they have to have a certain route that encompasses all sorts of traffic including rush hour. I saw three Porsche Carrera GT mules in rush hour traffic in LA before they were introduced, the lead car was so rough--with phillips head screws holding on the roof, etc--I thought it was a damn kit car.