Q&A: SVT Director Hau Thai-Tang on the Shelby GT500

Gary Witzenburg
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0506 Hau Thai Tang 1

What was Ford SVT's toughest challenge in developing the 2007 Shelby Cobra GT500? Hau Thai-Tang, the Vietnamese-born engineer who was recently promoted from Mustang chief engineer to director of advanced product creation and SVT, put it this way:

"Delivering the performance our customers want-which keeps escalating-while maintaining the value . . . walking that line, making those trade-offs in performance per dollar. You can certainly make a great-driving car at $100,000. That's a lot easier than doing it at the price we're trying to achieve."

Those trade-offs included independent rear suspension, which would have required a substantial investment in engineering and development dollars, time, and resources to design and tune it well enough to manage all that torque effectively at launch and in hard cornering.

"When we start getting into redesigning the architecture, we spend our money doing that instead of spending it elsewhere . . . on the powertrain or the interior, for example. And in past go-fast programs, we have found late surprises that resulted in reliability or refinement issues. I would rather allow the team the time not to have to worry about that and work on the refinement, like the on-center steering feel, the shifter feel, the clutch pedal actuation-some of the things we could have done better on previous cars.

"So the geometry is the same [as that of the standard '05 Mustang]. We're not going back and changing the hard points. I would rather focus on delivering the driving experience, that last 10 percent of refinement."

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What else is different from the '05 GT? "The upgraded interior package. We've got unique SVT touches, like the steering wheel and seat inserts, and the top of the IP and the door trim panels are leather-wrapped. Those things raise the interior to a higher level. When we talked to rejecters [who considered but did not purchase the previous car], they said, 'I love the performance, but I'm not buying it because of the interior.' We're raising the water level a bit."

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