Being a test driver sounds like a pretty cool job. Automakers need people to log miles at every level of vehicle produced. Of course, this means that some test drivers have a lot more fun than others, such as Ford's tier-four drivers that get to pilot vehicles like the Mustang Shelby GT350-based FP350S track car.
At the moment, Ford says it has over 10,000 specially rated test-drive engineers. Of that lot, just 20 have completed the training required to earn a certificate unlocking tier-four status. These are the men and women that push Ford's performance vehicles to the limit. It's at that limit where engineers glean valuable data related to traction, power, speed and any potential shortcomings.
Ben Maher is Ford's technical specialist of global driver safety and also leader of the automaker's internal driver qualification program. He explained, "Not only are these elite Ford Performance drivers the best of the best, many of their peers believe they have the company’s coolest jobs in that they get to bring their enthusiasm, technical know-how and racing expertise to work every day."
The latest machine that tier-four drivers are using to sharpen their skills is the FP350S. It's a club racer's dream machine packing 5.2-liter V-8 fury along with a fully seam-welded chassis and FIA-compliant six-point roll cage.The steering, suspension, and brakes are all specific to the FP350S as this isn't simply a modified Shelby GT350 prepared for the race track. Instead, it's a real-deal race car available through Ford Performance.
As the engineers drive the FP350S, as well as the other high-performance Ford products, there's a lot of information and data created. That in turn is used to make the rest of the lineup more exciting and engaging. That's how we wind up with vehicles like the Ford Raptor, Shelby GT350, and the Ford GT supercar.
So while the engineers do have an amazing job, their work helps the rest of us enjoy the enthusiast-oriented cars and trucks that arrive in Ford dealer showrooms.