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Factory Five Hits A Home Run Out Of The Park... Way Out!    
FFCars.com's Review of the Factory Five Racing's GTM Supercar - Part 1
By: Bill Peirce
April 29, 2006

Each Spring, Road Atlanta howls with the sounds of vintage and historical race cars as the participants of The Mitty lay siege on this famous track.  This was my third year of spending a day watching the races while hanging out with friends.  Fresh from the West Coast FFR-Huntington Beach Cruise-In, Factory Five Racing brought their trailer full of cars to show off to the hundreds of car crazy spectators, racers and crew members.  After seeing the pictures from the Cruise-In of the new mid-engine Factory Five GTM Supercar, I was looking forward to getting my first up close look at the finished product.

The Mitty is a real festival for sports car lovers. It may not be as prestigious as the Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca and you may not see a race field of million dollars cars, but you can see great racing that includes vintage and historical sports cars from Porsche, Jaguar, Lotus, Mazda, Triumph, Lola, MG and many more.  I enjoy watching the formula cars the most because you can get right up next to them on the straight and see the huge speed differences between a modern Benetton Formula 1 car that was once driven by Michael Shumaker and a vintage 60's Formula car made by famous companies like Lola or Lotus. 

Besides great racing, The Mitty brings together car clubs by setting up car corrals. This year was no different, with an Italian corral full of Ferrari's, Maserati's, and Alfa's, a Porsche corral full of everything from vintage 356's to modern Turbo's and the new Cayman.  There must have been at least 40 Lotus Elise's parked together, many Corvette's, and vintage muscle cars.  Because Factory Five had a large booth space set up, several Factory Five Roadster owners used the space to set up their own corral.  It was a great site to see.

Including Factory Five, the infield had a nice set up of vendors that included T-shirt sales, Lotus Cars USA, Superformance, vintage car parts sales, and much more.  Kumho sponsored an autocross which allowed spectators to test drive new Mini Coopers and Lotus Elise's.  I was hoping that my ostensible connections might allow me to sneak the GTM out for a test drive on the autocross track so that I could report back on the advancement of the GTM, but the car they brought had been assembled in 10-days to make it to the show in California and the shift linkage was not hooked up.  My focus shifted to crawling all over the car to find the good and evil in this black beast.  My GTM test drive will have to wait.

As I walked up on the Factory Five GTM the first thing that I realized is just how enchanting this car is with other car enthusiast; there must have been 20 people surrounding the car with jaws dropped, eyes wide open and cameras snapping.  Mind you, there were 20-30 vintage and modern Ferrari's within 50 yards of the Factory Five area, so there were plenty of other cars to make your jaw drop, but for some reason this was the car many chose to surround.  The Factory Five display area was also flanked by the Lotus group and being an ex-Elise owner I can attest to the fact that you would normally see people taking pictures of the Lotus', but not this time.  The crowds around the GTM were non-stop all day which is a true testament to what the people at Factory Five have created. This is a beautiful car by anyone's standards, but when a large group of knowledgeable car buffs agree, that really says a lot. But how's the design and functional abilities?

When Dave Smith, the owner of Factory Five Racing announced the GTM project over 2 years ago, he proclaimed that the GTM was going to be an affordable supercar. The idea of a $19,990 kit car being able to compete with the likes of a Saleen S7, Ford GT, Ferrari, Porsche, or Lamborghini is intriguing, but until I saw the GTM in person, I was unsure that is was possible.  Especially when you consider that Factory Five designed the kit to be affordable by using the "single donor" concept that has been so successful for the Factory Five Roadster.  You see, any self proclaimed car expert knows that "affordable" and "supercar" aren't used in the same sentence.  But after spending a few hours looking over the design and engineering, I have no doubt that this car has the potential of being a supercar competitor, at any price.  A test drive will have to verify this observation, but it has the parts to make up an exotic supercar car for the 21st Century.

Manufacturing and selling a high-performance supercar in kit form is nothing new, but offering one that is "affordable" is a first.  The closest competitor to the GTM would be the UK based Ultima GTR which recently clamed to be the fastest supercar in the world with 0-100-0 times of 10.3 seconds, which beats the McLaren F1 road car by a full second. And even more recently they claim to have beat their own record with a time of 9.8 seconds.  Ultima GTRThe Ultima is sold as a rolling chassis for $89,000 sans engine, or in kit form for $27,821 plus a long list of extras.  I've yet to see an Ultima GTR built for less than $60,000 and one website reports that they surveyed owners and the average person spent $97,367 to complete their cars.

(Right: Ultima GTR)

The GTM and Ultima GTR have a lot in common so the two are bound to be compared. They are both build from a kit, use a mid-engine Chevrolet V-8, a Porsche G50 transaxle, similar weight, and have exotic looks. But the Ultima's price would not be considered "affordable" to most and the Ultima's looks are becoming dated, while the GTM is fresh and new.  If anyone was considering an Ultima, they need to be sure and check out the Factory Five GTM before deciding on which supercar kit to build.

The Noble may be another car that will be compared to the GTM because it's a pre-assembled sports car that is shipped to the US without an engine from the Noble factory in South Africa. The cost for a rolling chassis starts at $59,900 from 1G Racing in Ohio.  Owners will spend $80,000 to $88,000 to complete the Noble. Even though the Noble is a pre-assembled car from a factory, it will always be thought of as a "kit car" competitor because it's not sold as a completed vehicle. 

(Right: Noble M12)

The Noble shouldn't be compared to the GTM or Ultima because it's more of a sports car than an exotic. The Noble comes it at about 100 pounds more than the other two, but uses a Ford 3.0L V-6 engine.  Even with turbo-charging, the engines are only good for about 360 HP.  Since the Chevrolet V-8 used in the GTM will start at this horsepower range, there is no doubt that once a builder gets going they will easily surpass the numbers put down by the Noble.

To keep the cost down, the GTM is built using a wrecked 1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvette (C5) as a donor for the engine, some suspension parts, brakes, fuel tanks, and other miscellaneous parts.  I didn't see any on eBay, but I would estimate that a wrecked C5 will run $7,000 to $12,000 depending on condition. Of course many parts could be sold off to help off-set the cost of acquiring the needed parts from the Corvette. 

It's not a true single donor concept, but it's pretty darn close.  A Porsche G50 transaxle ('87-'98 911) is needed to complete the build.  The venerable Corvette LS1 engine develops 350 HP @ 5,600 RPM in stock trim, but it's well known that for a small amount of money, it's easy to see 500+ HP.  Any LS Corvette engine will work, including the LS6 from the C5 Z06.  The GTM weights in at a lean 2,250 lbs which is just 250 pounds more than a Lotus Elise with 190 HP.  So even with a stock LS1 the GTM's power to weight ratio is in rarified company:

Make & Model Engine Power-to-Weight Radio MSRP
McLaren F1 627HP V12 4.0 pounds per horsepower  $1,050,000
Factory Five GTM 500HP LS1 V8 4.5 pounds per horsepower  
Ferrari Enzo 660HP V12 4.6 pounds per horsepower  $  643,330
Lamborghini Gallardo SE 520HP V10 6.1 pounds per horsepower  $  175,000
Corvette Z06 505HP V8 6.2 pounds per horsepower  $    65,690
Ford GT 550HP S/C V8 6.3 pounds per horsepower  $  149,995
Lamborghini Murcielago 580HP V12 6.3 pounds per horsepower  $  281,100
Factory Five GTM 350HP LS1 V8 6.4 pounds per horsepower  
Ferrari 430 490HP V8 6.5 pounds per horsepower  $  174,585
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 500HP V10 6.8 pounds per horsepower  $    81,600
Porsche Turbo (997) 480HP TT F6 7.3 pounds per horsepower  $  122,900
Aston Martin DB9 444HP V12 8.6 pounds per horsepower  $  155,000

Besides having the powerful C5 engine, the GTM has the suspension bits to make it handle the twisties like a race car.  Using the Corvette a-arms, the GTM has 4-wheel independent suspension mounted to a tubular steel space frame with aluminum chassis panels.  Standard Koni adjustable coil-over shocks on all four corners assures the driver that the car can be dialed in for the best handling characteristics.   Weighing in at 1,000 pounds less than a C5 Corvette, the stock brakes should be more than adequate.

When looking at the car, it looks long, but it really isn't.  In fact, the wheelbase is 101" which is 3 inches shorter than a C5 and the over-all length is 175" compared to a C5 at 179".  So why does it look so long?   It has to do with the 42" height and 74" width.  The GTM is a full 5 inches shorter than a C5 and an inch wider.  The GTM is low and wide, which make the car look longer than it actually is.  This "long and lean" look make the car look more like a GTP Race Car than a street car.  The pictures don't do it justice.  In person this car demands your attention and everyone else's too.

The headlights are well executed, the intake scoops and vents look very proportional, the fenders flow together very well, and the rear end is very sexy.  The body panels fit very well and the paint looked great on the car.  The rear of the car looks very controversial in photos, but once seen in person it all makes sense. No rear spoiler is needed.  The car looks complete just as it comes.

Open the engine bay and you can't help but wonder what engines will find there way into this spacious area.  I could picture everything from a Viper V-10 to a Ferrari V-12 being fitted into the bay, but for me, I would find a Z06 LS6 and have power, reliability, and low service costs.  Both sides of the engine bay are finished in aluminum panels riveted to a steel space frame.  This looks very nice and simple.  Besides having a lot of room for the engine and transaxle, there is a lot of room on the sides for items some builders may try to incorporate like oil coolers, transmission coolers, dry sump oil systems, custom intakes and A/C systems. The engine sounds great and even thought it didn't have mufflers, the sound was not too loud.

Access to the engine and components after the car is complete is much easier than a modern mid-engine Ferrari.  To do  most services the engine wouldn't even have to be removed; unless of course you need to get to the inside of the motor to install that stroker kit that you have been dreaming about.  This was one of the coolest things about the GTM; the simplistic design of the engine bay.

My only concern for the engine compartment was the heat going into the air cleaner. The GTM uses an open air cleaner that hangs off the intake and right over the two exhaust pipes.  This car was equipped with a pair of catalytic converters which were within a few inches of the air cleaner.  Catalytic converters put out a lot of heat, sometimes over 1,000 degrees, so this type of heat is not wanted near the intake.  A simple fix would be to route an intake hose to an open air vent on the left side of the car and locate the air cleaner away from the heat.

Under the front hood you will find the suspension open for inspection and have good access to the cooling system.  Factory Five is well known for extensive use of bonded/riveted aluminum panels onto steel space frames and the GTM is no exception.  These aluminum panels allow for a firm chassis to be built around a strong space frame.  Every inch of the front end has a purpose and the space is well used.

Jumping into the car requires previous Lotus Elise experience or at least a good yoga instructor.  This car was equipped with racing seats that had side bolsters blocking my entrance (and exit).  Racing seats are overkill, because the center console is very high and supportive and the left side has plenty of places to brace yourself when you want to catch a little track time.  The stock Corvette seats would make it easier to get into the car and would allow for more room.  To make the car safer, Factory Five incorporates a 6-point roll bar which prohibits the use of a GT40 style door.  Once you get used to the entry method, it's no worse than getting into a Lamborghini Diablo, Countach, Murcielago, Gallardo, or Ferrari F40, F50, Enzo, or even the pint sized Lotus Elise.  Sorry folks, that's the price of owning an exotic.

Once inside you get a feel for what Factory Five is trying to create. The center console is made of carbon fiber and is mounted on a very wide and very high center tunnel. It's a cozy, GT style cockpit.  This particular GTM was put together to show off the build design and standard features, so no extra money was spent to make the interior into a world class GT.  To really make this car acceptable to Ferrari owners, a builder would need to spend some money with a local upholstery shop improving the interior with leather and carpeting, and with a local stereo shop creating a sound system worthy of the exterior design.  This may cost more than the G50 transaxle, but I think it will be needed to truly complete the package.

The view out the front is more like a front engine sports car than the mid-engine exotic that the GTM is supposed to be.  After having owned NSX's and an Elise, I missed the opportunity to see the road from the drivers seat of a mid-engine sports car.  This would take some getting used to, but it's no worse than driving a Corvette so it won't keep me from driving a GTM.

The center console is a baffling design.  It's far too wide and too high for a mid-engine car.  There's not much running under the tunnel; cooling lines, brake lines, some wiring, and the transmission linkage.  But it's almost as wide as a front engine car.  I know Factory Five always goes over board with safety and stiffness so I'm sure that the tunnel is this beefy for a reason.  I would prefer a slender center console with a lower design like most other mid-engine exotics, but I realize that supercars come with a lot of compromises, this is just one of them in the GTM.

Talking to by-standers from all over the country, many people that would not buy a replica, would buy a GTM.  One guy had a new Maserati Spyder and was asking me to help him measure the 4.2L Maserati engine to see if it would fit in the GTM engine bay.  He showed me his Maserati's new $8,000 exhaust system and said he would love to have this sound in the back of a GTM.  Another owner of a Ferrari 308 GTS was looking at the GTM and said that he thought he would never find a car that was more beautiful than his Ferrari, but the GTM was it.  Several people were already bench racing about what they could do to a C5 Corvette engine and how much faster the GTM would be than the _________ (insert your favorite exotic).

From the reaction of the crowds of people, it was abundantly clear that Factory Five has hit a hit on their hands and has possibly done the impossible... created an affordable supercar.  A Factory Five GTM could be built for less than $35,000-$40,000, but for me I would want to spend closer to $50,000 or even $60,000 if I built a GTM because I would want A/C and a much more refined interior with a Momo steering wheel, nice gauges, lots of leather, thick carpeting, jamming stereo system, and nice seats.  That's the great thing about the GTM, you can have it your way; bare bones race car for the streets, or an exotic supercar that is as nice as any Ferrari on the road, but without the Ferrari maintenance and repair costs.

Factory Five Racing was established in 1995 by Mark and David Smith in Wareham, Massachusetts.  Since then, over 5,000 Factory Five Roadsters have been sold and remains one of the best performance values around.  In 1995 they set the kit car world on its head because they had a better idea; if you had their kit and a Ford Mustang GT, then you had all the parts you needed to build your dream car.  This was a unique concept not known to exist before the Smith brothers offered their first kit and now the Factory Five Roadster is the most successful component kit car ever sold.

(Right: Factory Five Racing Mark III Roadster)

Factory Five has the largest and most active customer group in the industry.  FFR customers have been helping each other build FFR kits for many years with the invention of Internet discussion forum software and you can find FFR owners at just about any car show in the country.  The GTM is the fifth car to be added to the Factory Five product line.  After the Roadster became so popular they released the Type 65 Coupe, Challenge Series Racer and Spyder GT. Only time will tell if Factory Five is headed in the right direction with the all new GTM supercar.

Stay tuned, I'll try to get a test drive to confirm what I suspect; the Factory Five GTM is an affordable supercar.  Click here to see more pictures.

- Bill

Links:
Factory Five GTM Discussion Forum
The Mitty
Factory Five Racing
GK's Knott's Photo Gallery of the GTM

Factory Five Racing GTM - Manufacturers Specifications:
Vehicle  
Dry weight structure 2250 lbs.
Wt. Dist (F/R) 42/58 (%)
Wheelbase 101
Overall length 171.5
Track (F/R) 60.5/62
Overall height 42.5
Overall width 74
Ground clearance 4.5
Layout Mid engine RWD
Frame Tubular steel space frame w/alum chassis panels
Roll cage Sub-6 point cage w/integral halo
Engine  
Configuration 8 cyl. aluminum block/heads      
Displacement 5.7L / 7.0L
Compression 10.0:1
Induction Sequential port fuel injection
Horsepower 350 / 515 bhp
Torque 375 / 475 ft lbs
Max Engine Speed 6200 / 6500 rpm
Drivetrain/Suspension  
Transaxle Porsche G50 or aftermarket
Bellhousing Adaptor w/Bellhousing/flywheel
Suspension (F/R) Independent double alum. a-arm w/adj. coil over shocks
Steering Rack and pinion
Brakes 4-wheel disc 13 front, 12 rear
Wheels Usable range is 17 x 8 to 18 x 10 front wheel
Tires 245/40/ZR18 front (shown)
  295/35/ZR18 rear (shown)

 

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