The Last of the Analogue Supercars
How I Learned to Stop Judging, and Trust the Drive.
Someone, pinch me. I seem to be trapped in a fantasy world, where AlphaLuxe hands me the keys to the supercars of my boyhood dreams, then provides a forum to share my thoughts with thousands of like-minded enthusiasts. At my disposal, most recently, were the achingly gorgeous race-bred Porsche Carrera GT, and the Maranello-mocking, muscular Ford GT. The last of the analogue supercars, and two diametrically-opposite approaches in the pursuit of performance.
I’ll keep milking this unlikely reality ’til my alarm clock inevitably rings, and I realize I’ve overslept and missed my dentist appointment, or something.
Fab Ford Fenders
Keen on another blast up the endless curves of Angeles Crest Highway, we convened at the base of the mountain on a chilly November morning, reserving a few minutes to gaze upon the sumptuous curves of our contenders.
From the rear 3/4 view, the Ford is unrivaled by almost any car in recent memory, with bulging rear fenders, flowing flawlessly into a sculpted ducktail spoiler, below which, prominent round tail-lights and a twin-tip exhaust round out a muscular rear.
Its chunky tire sidewalls look almost laughable by modern supercar standards, but harken back to a time when compliance was achieved through simpler means than magneto-rheological 8-way adjustable dampers.
And, up front, gargantuan twin air extractors ensure the GT doesn’t run as hot as it looks. But, only in motion can its aesthetic be fully appreciated. Even from behind the wheel of the Carrera, I found myself drooling over the tungsten-grey body of the Ford as its thunderous V8 propelled it away from stoplights.
If the Ford is the perfect modern interpretation of a race-car from a bygone era, the Porsche will perhaps become inspiration for spaceship builders of the 22nd century. Approaching in your rear-view, the Carrera looks akin to a low-flying jet, about to kick on its afterburners and rip past you at Mach 1.
Its side profile exposes what might have been an unforgivable break in continuity between passenger cabin and engine bay, if not for the prominent silver shrouds bridging the gap, which I still suspect might house a couple jet turbines.
The rear of the car oozes exotic charm, with oft-imitated twin exhaust tips exiting the bumper, and an active rear wing integrated perfectly into the body lines; that is, until the throttle is ‘matted’ and speeds start to (rapidly) climb.
With power delivered by a naturally-aspirated, 5.7L V10 that started life as a Le Mans motor, the Carrera is capable of hair-raising acceleration, even from the lower reaches of its tachometer. No matter how many times I nailed the 3-2 downshift and punched the accelerator, the car never ceased to surprise me with its ability to deliver apparent peak torque from 3,000 RPM up to redline, inciting ridiculous giggles from this unworthy narrator. And, my God – the noises and sensations that the Porsche delivers to its pilot are unparalleled by any road car I’ve yet experienced. Never have I been treated to such a cacophony of mechanical clatter, with noises from the valve train, carbon clutches, intake and exhaust performing a well-orchestrated symphony in my ears. The auditory experience alone was enough to encourage any driver to rail this car through its gears; heart-stopping acceleration notwithstanding.
Of course, the Eaton-supercharged 5.4L V8 in the Ford provided no shortage of thrills. Despite being fully steeped in the allure of Porsche’s race-bred engineering, nothing sets my heart ablaze quicker than the burbling idle and gratifying whine of a hot-cammed and blown American V8 (‘Murica!).
From the cabin of the Ford, most of the raucous noise of its powertrain was, sadly, muted. Next to the Carrera GT, nearly any cabin feels docile, so it’s tough to say how much bias was imparted by time behind the wheel of the Porsche. But, a little more noise would have been a welcome addition. Linear power delivery and impressive low-end thrust made the Ford GT feel effortless to pilot through the canyons, pulling hard across the breadth of the rev range with an enjoyable, yet subdued, blower whine. While it never felt lacking in power, the Ford never surprised me, perhaps a testament to the linearity and predictability required of a truly analogue performance car.
One pain point with the Ford – never before, in my automotive experience, have I feared lobotomy in the process of closing a door. And, best of luck to owners over 6 feet tall – you’ll need to crane your neck every time you yank that door handle, and will likely struggle to wear a helmet inside the car, should you ever wish to the push your car to its limits at the track. But, once one manages to settle into the cabin, the gorgeous full-carbon bucket seats cradle and support the driver through all manner of hooliganism – while looking sexy, to boot.
Form and Function
Ergonomically, the Porsche fit me like a glove. Its equally circuit-worthy carbon buckets hugged all the right places, and the seating position felt spot-on to attack the twisties at speed. Years of observation from afar left me convinced that the high-mounted shifter of the Carrera GT was nothing more than a gimmick – a concept-car vestige that somehow never got axed. Yet, hours behind the wheel told a different story. That lever is placed so perfectly that the transmission feels like an extension of the body, allowing effortless rowing of the gears, permitting unbroken focus on the road, and the drive.
Not so much, in the Ford. While the clutch proved effortless to operate smoothly, the shifter itself left me a little cold. It felt a little sluggish to slip into its gates, and even when certain I had mastered it, an occasional mis-shift left me puzzled and annoyed.
But, no more so than the finicky clutch of the Carrera GT. A multi-plate carbon clutch, so expensive to replace, that its owner has no choice but to gingerly release the clutch with zero throttle application, unless comfortable footing a $25k repair bill every 2,500 miles.
Finally – a little drizzle on the Porsche parade!
What fun is a manual transmission if you can’t launch it from a stoplight every now and then?
How I Learned to Stop Judging, and Trust the Drive
Despite the financial burden of getting the Porsche up to speed, once underway, its ability to attack a set of curves cannot be overstated. From behind the wheel, there’s almost no sensation of squat, dive, or roll regardless of the ferocity of the driver’s inputs, and every square inch of road surface feels like it’s communicated directly through the wheel. After a pulse-quickening blast through 2nd and 3rd, an absurdly-firm brake pedal demands the full effort of the driver, but allows for near-infinite resolution in modulating trail-braking right up to the apex. Heel-toe downshifts are also made effortless and smooth by the firm pedal, permitting minor inconsistency in pedal pressure without upsetting the car’s chassis.
Strong initial bite from the Ford’s brakes was more akin to a typical high-performance road car, but demanded much more skill and precision in execution of a heel-toe maneuver. Eager to attack the twisties with sharp turn-in and a playful, yet controlled chassis, the Ford was unfortunately let down by slow damping, which meant the balance could be easily upset by mid-corner bumps and couldn’t recover quickly enough to instill confidence in its driver. The jury is still out on whether this 10-year-old car’s suspension simply needed a refresh, so a follow-up ‘canyon blast’ might be in order, once the Ford’s suspension is sorted.
Interestingly, I entered the comparison with a lackluster outlook on the Carrera GT. I was the first to exclaim that I’d rather own a period GT3 or GT2 before hopping behind the wheel of the storied supercar. I think it’s perhaps that the Carrera GT always flew under the radar – mainly catching the attention of the Porsche fanatics, whose ranks I’ve only recently joined. Time behind the wheel has completely re-written that script, as the Carrera left me with an embarrassing grin from ear-to-ear, giggling like a child every time the throttle was planted, and furiously tabulating financials in my head, in an effort to determine how I could possibly put one in my own garage (salvage title, maybe?).
Conversely, I always held the Ford GT on a lofty pedestal – with images of the Le Mans-winning GT40 running through my head with its muscular, throaty V8 and brawny styling, I assumed the modern Ford GT would be a take-no-prisoners brawler, loud, obnoxious, and unapologetic. In reality, it felt a little more grand-tourer than race-winner, offering the aesthetic appeal of the race car with road manners more in-line with the desires of the aging enthusiasts who were around to see the original GT40’s rise to fame, and upset victory.
With most of my formative years in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, these machines are the personification of my car-enthusiast youth. I have clear memories of piloting both through the earliest iterations of Forza Motorsport™. To think that I could one day thrash these dream cars through Southern California’s most revered canyon roads seems like a nearly-impossible reality. And, once again, seat time has handily disproven my long-held conceptions of both cars, and the Porsche has absolutely overtaken my daydreams in the time since climbing out of its cockpit. Pure, analogue driving, without the intervention of modern electronic nannies, is very quickly becoming a relic of the past. Nearly every driver input to a modern supercar is filtered through a microchip before reaching the tarmac, with each generation feeling more numb and autonomous than the one that preceded it.
A chance to flog these two machines – the last of the analogue supercars – was a refreshing reminder that what truly inspires driver confidence is feedback from the road, not a safety-net algorithm. While the tactility of the Porsche left me starry-eyed and weak at the knees, the Ford still commands my total respect. These machines represent two remarkably different approaches to speed, yet both exemplify the same goal: let the driver control his or her destiny; not the ECU.
I just pinched myself – seems like this is real life, after all!
Thanks to the dream-maker, AlphaLuxe.
Counterpoint by ThomasM
I have long loved the 1st Gen Ford GT, ever since a good friend, who had bought one new, let me drive it 30 or so miles. My take away at that time over a decade ago was, “The easiest supercar to get comfortable in that I had ever driven.”
A decade later, I had the opportunity to put over 500 miles on another one, and my earlier impression was reinforced – so docile, so easy to drive, yet capable of worldbeating performance.
Fast forward to today – having now put over 500 miles on this 2006 Ford GT, my takeaway echos most of Kevin’s feelings, with a few reservations.
As Kevin picked up, there was something not quite right with the suspension – it was surprisingly loose and soft, relative to my memories of the previous two cars. On smooth roads this was fine and the mechanical grip was extraordinary, but any unevenness or undulation in the road and the balance of the FGT was upset, undermining driver confidence. My suspicion is that this particular car is underdamped, the shocks somehow not operating in their sweetspot.
For me, cabin and controls, if well designed to begin with, are a matter of fit to the particular body size of the driver – limbs, body shape, and range of motion of the driver are a key element of fit and for me, the FGT fits like a bespoke glove. To me, the FGT just feels right and is immediately comfortable. But every body is different.
Haptics and materials feel is another matter, and on these points the Porsche Carrera GT shines while the Ford GT shows its more…”commoner” lineage. Switchgear, breakover and activation, overall “feel” of the interior in the CGT shows so much more refinement, with better finish and materials, than the FGT.
The performance of both last Gen analogue production supercars is without doubt electrifying and deeply satisfying to the driver who values organic purity in the driving experience – just the driver dueling with the laws of physics and aerodynamics, armed with the best weaponry that automotive engineers and constructors can muster. Spec-wise they appear similar and comparable, but they are so different from behind the steering wheel.
To me, the Ford GT is like marrying the beautiful and wholesome girl next door – reliable, dependable, predictable in the best way.
The CGT is more a Mensa member supermodel – drop dead stunning looks, not necessarily in a conventionally beautiful way, with razor sharp responses which can draw blood if you are disrespectful or careless. More than a little exotic, much less forgiving than the sweet girl next door.
If driving each car is like a gymnastics exercise, the FGT is a balance beam to the CGT’s knife edge. But when wielded properly and with great respect, I have yet to experience a more engaging, visceral, synaptically connected drive than the CGT.
On the easy-to-drive end of the spectrum, the RUF CTR2Sport gives the FGT a run for its money (well, at 4 times the money, at current market values…)
Symphony vs Cacophony
The mechanical cacophony in the CGT bears a comment or two – everyone sings the praises of the glorious V10, even among those who have never heard it in person (such is life in the multimedia internet age) What is less frequently mentioned are the secondary and tertiary noises – the rattle and grinding of the carbon fiber clutch, the myriad other sounds and noises that together truly do create a cacophony in a not so complimentary sense, unless one is totally, madly in love with the Carrera GT, in which case all that noise becomes a beautiful symphony.
Which would I prefer?
One of each, please…there is no redundancy whatsoever in my mind between the Gen-1 Ford GT and the Porsche Carrera GT. Every real driver needs seat time in these two timeless greats.
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Author’s Biography: KevinB
KevinB is a 29-year-old auto enthusiast – a Mechanical Design Engineer by day, and serial side-hustler by night. By age 4, he could spout the make and model of any passing vehicle, and by 12 he was an expert in the inner-workings of the internal combustion engine. His love for all things motoring expanded into the two-wheeled world at age 17. He currently owns a 2014 Porsche 911 GT3, and a 2018 Ducati Panigale V4, and has somehow managed to retain his driver’s license.
When he’s not daydreaming about cars or motorcycles, you’ll find him at the gym or yoga studio, on a backpacking trip, or walking shirtless on the beach to maximize Vitamin D, whilst listening to the latest book or podcast on nutrition and healthy living. He currently resides in Santa Monica, CA with his girlfriend of 8 years, and the world’s cutest Dachshund-Yorkie mix: Vincent.