It was first seen as a wild-ass one-off test mule…at one point in time been a first-gen Ford EXP that had gotten the IMSA bodykit treatment. There were box fender flares all around, the quarter window had been covered over, dual pipes were sticking out of the back and under the rear hatch sat a 3.0L Yamaha V6, just like the one that would appear in the Ford Taurus SHO. To say that there was collective surprise and shock at Ford developing what appeared to be a Fiero-fighter was an understatement. While information was slim at the moment, there were rumors that the engine size was being punched up…maybe it was a 3.2, maybe a 3.4, or was that 3.6L? Other rumors claimed that the EXP mule was packing all-wheel drive with a central differential. What the hell was Ford up to in the mid-1980s?
SVO was high off of the success of the SVO Mustang, the punchy turbo-four Fox body that would surprise the hell out of quite a few people, and they wanted more. Unfortunately, SVO was not having luck in getting their next vehicle lined up, especially since it’s about this time period that the Mustang came closest to being killed off. So they decided that they would try to build up their own vehicle. Designs were sought out, and the winner came from Ghia. No photos of this car exist, though several people recollect seeing it around Ford buildings during testing. Reportedly it was black and resembled a Ferrari Testarossa, and had an engine note that didn’t sound like the Yamaha motors, yet didn’t sound like a V8, either. According to someone who claims to have been involved with the project, numerous engines were tested, including punched-up V6s and V8s. The team did not want to use the 5.0L V8 because they felt it was too “low-tech” to be powering the new car, but the upcoming 4.6L V8 wouldn’t be ready in time, so a 351 was used in one of the Pantera-sourced cars to simulate weight and power.
Now, with that being said, there are conflicting reports as to the real purpose of the cars. One claim is that the cars were simply built to test the effects of weight distribution. Some claim that the SHO engines were destined for the GN34 while others say that the Taurus deal was already done. Either way, the engineers at Ford were having a ball with the cars, as they were ran on the track often and hard, with one individual saying that he had pictures of Jackie Stewart beating the holy hell out of one at a track (unfortunately, any pictures that were posted were gone, along with the website that was linked.)
Out of all of the known mules, there are two actual GN34 vehicles in existence, and both are in Jack Roush’s collection. The red one is an all-wheel-drive version with a Yamaha V6 of some type, and the black car is the 351-powered test mules, both cars using ZF 5-speed manuals. The surviving GN34s are both based off of a 1985 Pantera GTS (if you look carefully around the windshield and door glass, it should appear) with custom tube chassis sections and body shells.
So why did the GN34 program stall out? It came down to money: Ford only had the budget for one vehicle platform to go ahead to production, and it was a coin toss between the GN34 and one that was simply known as “four door Bronco”, better known to us as the Ford Explorer. That’s the truth of it, folks: Ford shut down a mid-engined sports car for what became the ultimate symbol of the urbanite SUV. Financially, it was a smart decision as we all know, but the “what could have been” factor for the GN34 is pretty high.