How An Auto Writer Became One Of The First Ford GT Owners
We all have a particular dream car. It could be a ’68 Camaro, a Ferrari F430 or a perfectly set-up Jeep, but as time goes on and reality wears on us, our expectations may lessen. We come to grips with the fact that we might not obtain that coveted machine. Who among us is actually able to go out and get their hands on their true dream car? Karl Brauer did, and the story of how acquired his coveted Ford GT is the stuff of auto enthusiast lore. Brauer is the Senior Director of Insights at Kelley Blue Book, and was previously the Editor-In-Chief of Edmunds.com. The man knows his cars, and turned his love for the automotive into a profitable career. As you may imagine, he is very well connected in the automotive industry. So in 2002, when he first laid eyes on the Ford GT, Brauer began a process of leveraging all his contacts to get his hands on one. It was a process that took years, but it all started in a key moment. “At the 2002 Detroit show, no one knew the GT was coming,” explained Brauer, “but this yellow and black GT40 Concept comes rolling through Cobo hall, I thought to myself ‘HOLY CRAP’… I fought my way down to get a look up close at it”
“I’m watching the Super Bowl, and the ad comes on; Steve Millen is piloting the Ford GT around Thunderhill Raceway,” explained Karl, “I freaked, because now everyone knew about the car. Every rich asshole on the planet called their servant or handler and said, ‘I must have one’. I was worried.”
Karl spent the next several months wondering if he had just been knocked off the list in favor of every celebrity or diva that wanted one, knowing that in their hands a Ford GT would never have a real life of racing and passionate, enthusiastic driving.
In June of 2004, Karl got a call from Andy Jacobson, the product lead on the Ford GT. Jacobson was manning up part of the GT’s promotional tour, offering guest spots at the help of the GT on the “California Mile.” The California Mile is a vintage event that typically features classic sportscars usually of high pedigree. Certainly there are no new cars allowed, but due to the significance of the GT, the mid-engined Ford was allowed to join in on the fun. Ford had seven journalists, in separate stages; driving the early GT prototype over the course of the journey up the California Coastline.
Karl was to drive the car from Fort Brag to the end of the course, overseen by Jacbosen, who has been babysitting the GT the entire time that it has been driven by journalists. Jacobsen had picked up Brauer from the airport in the GT, and was about to inform Brauer of his fate.
PHOTOS: See more of the Ford GT
Meanwhile in Dearborn:
Roughly a month prior to this rare seat-time in a Ford GT, a meeting was held in the top floor of Ford’s world headquarters. The meeting consisted of all the major executives, corporate players, and the top ranks of Ford’s PR corps. This group had assembled to ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ applicants for ownership of a Ford GT. It was kind of like having an ultra-exclusive nightclub door worked by committee of old white guys.
Top brass included Ford COO Nick Scheele, John Clinard, on speakerphone, (Ford’s West Coast Head of PR, and Karl’s biggest ally in the room), and of course there was Bill Ford, himself.
“There must have been about 700 applicants,” said Brauer, “for a list of 121 cars. So only 121 would make the cut.” The list of applicants read like pages from People and Time magazines. Madonna, Stalone, Sammy Hagar, the CEO of GE–”
“And then my name came up,” said Karl, “and every set of eyes in the room looked up.”
Apparently each name had an occupation next to it and while most read “actor”, “entertainer”, or “CEO”, Karl’s read “journalist,” which caused the assembled group to pause. A fictional record scratch may have been heard.
According to John Clinard, Bill Ford speaks up: “who the hell is Karl Brauer?”
And that is when all of Karl’s efforts and passion for the GT came to be. After a brief silence, the tinny conference phone erupted with Clinard’s voice; “Karl is the ONLY one on this list that the GT was made for. He can barely afford it, but he won’t let it sit in a garage or showroom, only to be shown off to a future ex-wife! He will take it out. He will bring it on a track. He will drive this car and love and care for it.”
The assembled group then turned to the only man in the room whose name was on the building. Seemingly agitated for having to hold court for the mere 15 seconds required to become aware of Karl’s existence, Bill Ford simply shrugged, and nodded…and just like that, Karl was on the list…
…Flash back to the Ford GT on its way to the California Mile. Jacobsen very casually informed Brauer that he would be one of the recipients of a one of the most significant and impressive American performance cars of the last five decades. Perhaps not the pomp and circumstance one would have liked in receiving such news. But there, with the howl of a supercharged V8 emanating inches from behind their heads, a grin took hold to Karl’s face– one that would not leave for some time.
Karl may have been approved, but taking delivery of the Ford GT would be no easy task, and even the production GT coming to life was never a sure thing. This story was far from over, and you’ll just have to come back this time next week to learn of the rest of this tale…
Thanks to Karl Brauer for putting up with my constant emails/calls so we could tell this tale!
Following the announcement of the GT, Brauer knew what he had to do. Pricing had not yet been announced, but Ford had stated that it would be “precedent-setting” in terms of supercar pricing. “When Ford had announced production in March of 2002, and set the price [of $139,995], I new I had to have it,” said Bauer, “I knew how special this car was going to be. I knew this car was going to be a moment in time. I knew I had to do anything I could to have one.” So Brauer started reaching out to his Ford contacts. He still had no idea how he would afford one, but knew if he was ever going to have a chance, he had to get the ball rolling early. He called up John Clinard, Ford’s top West Coast PR man at the time. Clinard instructed Karl to write up a document explaining why he wanted/deserved a Ford GT. Brauer wrote a letter explaining how he was a child of the Hemi Cuda generation and understands when a car can be a special moment in time. The letter was epic, and profound and mushy at times, but it got his foot farther in the door. The letter had been written in March of 2002, and by January of 2004, Karl had not heard if he was on the list. That is when the Super Bowl Ad aired...