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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Ford engineer creates vibrating shift knob from Xbox 360 controller

If rookie Ford engineer, Zach Nelson had created a novelty vibrating shift knob on the payroll Alan Mulally might have told him to vibrate his things into a box.  Luckily Nelson was smart.  His wiggly shifter does much more than tickle palms to prompt gear shifts.  

Kardashians consider legal action over Ford ad

The Kardashian sisters are probably better poster girls for capitalism than feminine equality.  That isn’t stopping them from considering legal action over an ad that featured them bound and gagged in the back of a Ford Figo.  Paris Hilton smiles from the driver’s seat and a slogan reads “Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot”.         

2015 Mustang won’t be retro, will be powered by a four-cylinder

Ford is banking hard on their turbocharged EcoBoost engines to increase fuel-efficiency without sacrificing horsepower.  Road and Track confirmed via an anonymous source this month the 2015 Mustang will feature a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, not only to save fuel but also to overpower the Stang’s current V6:  

Big news @ the Seattle Auto Show

Scoring a press pass to the Seattle Auto Show is kind of like finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar.  Only the press pass doesn't come with the risk of being saddled with CEO duties to an ailing chocolate factory. It does come with the responsibility to attend the Seattle Auto Show’s press day before the doors open to the general public. The experience isn’t unlike touring the Wonka factory except the stops on the candy land map are replaced by ten minute presentations from automaker’s public relations departments.

In the time it takes to bake a tray of cookies representatives from each company do their best to regale the local auto press with their brands’ most important stories.  Here’s what made it to my notepad from the adventure this year:


Ford decided to focus their presentation on the five year anniversary of their partnership with Microsoft to produce the Ford Sync connectivity system (Ha!).  As of this year Ford has produced five million sync-equipped vehicles that allow consumers to integrate the technology of the ever expanding smart phone craze with Ford vehicles.

A representative from Ford and Microsoft led the presentation in front the new Ford Escape, which since its recent exterior makeover is looking much sleeker and less boxy. 

Is it a small SUV?  Multi-Purpose-Vehicle (MPV)?  Crossover-Utility-Vehicle (CUV)?   

These confusing acronyms are mattering less and less.  The Escape is helping to pioneer a future where more vehicles will be celebrated as Renaissance men of many disciplines, like a tight end in the NFL that can block as well as author a successful motivational book.

Other big players on the blue oval floor included the roided-out 650hp, 200mph 2013 Mustang GT500 and Prius intimidator C-Max.  These polar opposites are glowing examples of the healthy range in Ford’s lineup.

Further proof was supported by a black 2013 Focus ST, the first performance Focus available stateside since 2004. In ST trim the Focus pumps out 252hp.  That makes it a serious contender to the Volkswagen GTI in Fast and Furious-style street races for pink slips and floosy girlfriends. On the commuter end of the spectrum the Focus SE is good for 28city/40highway.

That’s the best kind of automotive progress; the kind that doesn’t kill fun.

News from Buick, Toyota, Fisker, Dodge

Greg Biffle’s victory at Michigan breaks winless streak for Roush, Ford

With his third victory at the two-mile track, his second of the season and the 18th of his career, Washington state native Greg Biffle broke a seven-race dry spell for both Ford and owner Jack Roush. Biffle also grabbed the points lead from Jimmie Johnson, who finished 27th after his engine failed in the closing laps.

Be happy the 2015 Ford Mustang won’t be retro

Today’s muscle cars are carefully designed to resemble their iconic forefathers. It’s been a winning recipe thus far for the current generation Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang; the big three of the new muscle era. 

One-up competition has always driven muscle car design and evolution. Battles between the big three in the 1960’s for top horsepower ratings, 0-60 times and cool factor led to some of the most extreme street legal tire-burners to ever come out of Detroit. Not much has changed.

In the past year Chevrolet resurrected the Camaro ZL1 with 580 horsepower, putting the Camaro in direct competition with the 2012 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 (550 horsepower). Recently Ford announced the 2013 Shelby Mustang GT 500 will make 660 horsepower and be capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200mph. 

The muscle car war is alive and well. 

Coupled with modern technology and the probability that Chevrolet and Dodge will likely respond with GT500-esque monsters of their own at some point, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to assume that 200mph muscle cars topping 600hp could be the norm in a matter of years, or that they might be driven in our first wave invasion of Iran. 

We need that oil!

Sky rocketing gas prices in the 1970’s put an end to the original muscle car war. Engines were detuned, horsepower ratings plummeted and the cars got ugly. In other words, gas prices didn’t just kill the muscle car, poor long term planning did. They were one trick straight line ponies that could only survive on cheap gas. 

The 50th anniversary of the Mustang is approaching in 2014 and Ford is using the occasion to set their sights farther down the road this time around. 

“The challenge or the opportunity for 2014 with a 50th anniversary car is to not just look back over your shoulder, but to try to win all of the Mustang faithful yet bring the brand forward as well,” said Ford design boss J Mays. (1)

It’s believed Ford is planning to scrap the Mustang’s retro look entirely. Rumor is the main design influences on the next generation design will draw heavily on the Ford Evos concept and Ford Fusion. 

“The only thing 'retro' about it are the proportions — long hood, short deck,” a Ford insider said. “It will still look like a Mustang,” he emphasized. (2)

Ford isn’t trying to alienate the Mustang loyal, at least not exactly. One of the biggest obstacles in Mustang’s future is actually the car’s most common owner – men over 50 years old who remember drooling over 60’s era Mustangs and can now afford one of their own. 

Modernizing the next generation Mustang design is aimed at catching the attention of younger buyers while at the same time making the car more attractive in Ford’s “One Ford” mission to sell more vehicles on global platforms. 

Ford drew on design resources from their studios in Europe and Australia to prepare the redesigned car for the world. For the first time ever the Mustang will be sold in markets such as England, Japan and Australia. 

Beneath the skin one glaringly retro aspect of the Mustang that needed to be brought up to modern standards was the live rear-axle. It will be replaced by an independent rear suspension system that should improve handling and make for a more comfortable ride. 

As for the heart and soul Ford will most likely keep the 3.7-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8 with minor improvements. There have been reports though that EcoBoost I-4s and V-6’s could fill out the power plant offerings.

From what we know at this point there’s plenty of reason to be excited about the Mustang losing its retro look. The changes are meant to help sell more cars and grow the brand around the world. For anyone who likes Mustangs that shouldn’t sound half bad – so long as it still looks like a Mustang. 



2013 Ford Shelby Mustang GT 500 tops 200mph, v8


Ford didn’t just up the ante with the new GT 500, they blew up the table: 650hp, 600lb-ft of torque and a top speed over 200mph. Boom! 

To obliterate the power figures of the new Camaro ZL1 (580hp), Ford’s SVT team bored out the GT 500’s 5.4-liter aluminum block V-8 to 5.8 liters. Both the block and heads were cross-drilled and the camshaft profiles updated. The old supercharger was ditched for a larger and more efficient Eaton TVS Series 2300 supercharger used on GM’s LS9 engine, raising boost from 9 to 15 psi. 

These upgrades add another 100hp and 90lb-ft of torque over the outgoing 2012 model. Sounds like a game changer, but it also begs the question:

Didn’t the old GT 500 have plenty of trouble putting its power to the ground?

Indeed it did, in fact the old GT500 wasn’t much faster off the line than the Mustang GT. To help translate the added power to more usable grunt SVT nerds altered the six-speed manual transmission’s gearing to make the most of the added torque. Every gear except fourth was re-calibrated and the 3.55 final drive ratio was dropped for a 3.31 final drive. A dual-disc clutch and carbon-fiber driveshaft help disperse power down through Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires.

“That’s all well and fine,” you say, “but would I have to be stupid to drive a Mustang over 200mph?”

Not necessarily. The 2013 GT 500’s front fascia was red-designed to maximize down force while minimizing drag. The front end utilizes a new front splitter and front grills that help keep the car stuck to the road at speed. For a point of reference on the aero changes, Ford says the new GT 500 is 33 more planted at 160mph than the outgoing model.

But of course, a 200mph muscle car wouldn’t be complete without optional performance packages. The GT 500 sports two, the first of which is called… Performance Package.

It includes a Torsen limited-slip differential and an SVT-designed Bilstein suspension system featuring electronically adjustable dampers and Normal/Sport driving modes.

One step above the Performance Package is the Track Package, which adds to the Performance Package an external engine cooler, rear differential cooler and a transmission cooler to fend off heat in high speed track conditions.

Ford claims the 650hp V-8 in the 2013 Mustang Shelby GT500 is the most powerful production V-8 in the world. If that’s any indication of what we can expect to see from the second-generation muscle car war we should all be very excited for the future.