The Big 3 are lining up for high-performance showdowns.
John Coletti, director of Ford's Special Vehicle Team programs, is the engineer charged with making sure Ford Motor Co. runs with -- or, preferably, ahead of -- its rivals.
Coletti leads a group of 38 product development engineers working on the next-generation SVT versions of the Mustang Cobra, F-150 Lightning and Focus. He is also a key figure in the development of the Ford GT. Coletti spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett at the Chicago Auto Show.
The new Dodge Ram SRT-10 looks poised to give the F-150 Lightning a run for the money. Are you worried?
I look at its numbers in the quarter-mile, and I think they are loading it with sandbags or the truck is underperforming miserably. They say 13.8 seconds in the quarter-mile? That's awful. With a Viper engine, I was expecting 12.9, a whole second faster.
The Mercury Marauder is not selling as well as expected. Has the Special Vehicle Team been asked to fix it?
It's a Mercury brand. I'm working on the next SVTs right now. What does the Marauder need? More power. I'm leaving behind the engine in the Mustang Cobra and Lightning. Either one of these would make that an absolute kick-ass car. We are leaving stuff on the parts shelf that can do the job.
What's the status of the high-performance Lincoln LS?
I'm not working on it. I have more than a plateful with three next-generation products, plus the Ford GT.
You've said you plan to sell about 25,000 SVT-badged vehicles in 2003. How much more potential is there in expanding the number of SVT vehicles and increasing the volume?
If we tried to push more models, we would violate what we call our exclusivity rule. When you buy one of our vehicles, you know you aren't going to see it all over the place. You are going to be one of a small group of people. We don't want to give marketing more vehicles than they can sell. We want to keep the exclusivity there, which helps keep the resale high.
How much is the production version of the next F-150 Lightning going to differ from the concept Ford showed at the Detroit auto show?
That depends on what the reaction is. Everybody wants more horsepower. If I would have said it has 600 horsepower, it would have been accepted. People always want more horsepower. Now we are talking about the other features, the expressive looks, independent rear suspension and the supercooler.
How does the supercooler work?
It uses the air conditioning compressor to generate a short blast of supercold air. Air from the supercharger is about 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The intercooler takes it down to about 150 degrees, With the super- cooler, we can get temperatures of about 50 degrees. You are creating a denser charge for each power stroke. It works like a nitrous oxide system and adds between 50 and 60 horsepower. The system is self-contained and never needs recharging.
How much cost does the supercooler add?
Early estimates are about $750. But keep in mind that performance enthusiasts will pay for horsepower. I contend that performance enthusiasts will pay between $25 and $30 per horsepower. If I can give them a 100-horsepower kick, they'd gladly pay me three grand for it. So you are talking about giving them a 50 to 60 horsepower kick for under $1,000.
Can the supercooler be used on other Ford products?
Anything that is boosted (with a supercharger or turbocharger) and has an intercooler. The Mustang Cobra has that setup. The GT has it. You draw your own conclusions. If we need more power, it's on tap.
What's Ford going to do with the Cosworth brand?
Cosworth is a prized brand we have. We are looking for an application in a product that is very unique, a very serious machine. The serious discussion within the company right now is why would we have Cosworth as even another brand above and beyond the SVTs. When you have SVT models sporting 400 to 500 hp, Cosworth has to be applied to a very serious performance machine.
Not just more horsepower?
Where's this horsepower game going to keep going? If they go 500 horsepower, we go 600. You will have a technological limit. Whoever has the best technology is going to win.