An interview with SVT Engineer John Pfeiffer
*Originally posted May 2nd, 2013*
1. What was your role as the Ford GT Performance Development Engineer program?
I was responsible for all the non-regulatory whole vehicle testing and development that falls under Vehicle Integration. Structural and powertrain durability, rail car shipping, stone abrasion, corrosion, straight line performance, water wading, snow ingestion, cold start, defrost/defog performance, wrecker loading, that kind of stuff. We had to invent some tests that were specific to the GT’s rear engine to protect the customer. We were concerned about water ingestion during a car wash and we did a drive by test with a semi to make sure the clamshell wouldn’t slam closed if you were on the side of the road. I think I have video somewhere…
2. What was in your background that led you to the Ford GT program, as it was a “dream team” of sorts?
I’d like to say I knew everything and had this tremendous background but in reality I partly had good testing experiences on Mustangs including some of the go fast programs like Bullitt and export specialty vehicles. Partly, I was in the right place at the right time.
3. What was the highlight of working on the program for you?
There are a lot of memorable moments:
The first red workhorse breaking through the sign at the Roush building, Fred and John quotes that I probably can’t repeat, driving my first CP, the first customer homecoming in August of 2006….
I really always tried to stop and take it in as I knew we were making history.
4. Were there any particular incidents or events during the course of the program that were particularly memorable?
I think I was the first person pulled over in a Ford GT. It was the workhorse that was on display at Doral open, I think it’s in the Roush museum now. I was going to MPG that summer, no AC, fixed windows and I got pulled over. All I did was accelerate as fast as I could to the speed limit. No tire noise. The officer said I didn’t break any laws but he wanted to see the car. No harm, no foul.
5. How hard was it to balance the demanding engineering needs with the wants of the design team?
For my work it was easy, I didn’t have significant influence on the exterior design. Most of my development work impacted parts below the skin. But remember, we knew what the car had to look like. We didn’t even camouflage the cars because everyone knew what the car would look like. That alone saved us a ton of work.
6. Was it a high priority to develop an aerodynamic package that allowed for one of the highest top speeds of that (or any) era?
Yes. We tested our competitors and the old GT40 and we learned just how gutsy those racers were back in the 60’s. As much as Powertrain was pushed to make more power we needed to reduce drag and keep the car glued to the road.
7. Did it surprise you to learn that people had successfully managed to take the Ford GT over 265+ mph with little or no aerodynamic changes?
Well I’ve heard of some impressive horsepower numbers so I knew the car could go faster than 200. But I’m impressed at the small parts, gaps and seals that while they worked at the sub-sonic speeds that we tested were robust to 265.
8. Was there anything you would have changed about the GT in retrospect as we approach nearly ten years from the start of production?
I had always hoped for high revving NA motor with reverse heads so the exhaust manifolds would have been in the valley and a dual clutch paddle shifter. Maybe add traction control.
9. Wouldn’t it be nice to work on another supercar with a blue oval on the hood?
Absolutely! Maybe if I hang out and don’t get kicked out of SVT I’ll get another chance.
10. What are you working on for SVT now?
As always I can’t talk about future vehicles. We are very busy, we wrapped up the 13 GT500, Raptor has been getting annual updates and we’re excited about the feedback on the ST products hitting the market.
Ford GT Forum: So you’re saying there are future vehicles? Hmm….