First drive: riding the Mustang Rocket with Fisker and Galpin

Is this the ultimate Mustang? Here's how one of the world’s foremost car designers and a top-selling Ford dealer teamed up to build a bespoke, designer Ford

Henrik Fisker is among the great automotive designers of our time. His extensive global portfolio includes, among other models, the seminal BMW Z8, a bevy of Aston Martins and his own Fisker Karma, since reborn as the Karma Revero hybrid electric luxury sedan.

Beau Boeckmann is president and CEO of Galpin Motors, and also heads up the Galpin Auto Sports custom shop and the Galpin Collection. A consummate enthusiast and lifelong car guy, his automotive tastes run from the earliest days of motoring to models in pop culture to the future of transportation.

A few years ago, during a meeting between Boeckmann and Fisker (below), the question of ‘so, what are you up to next?’ was inevitably asked. After some random ideation, and some concept sketches, the pair agreed to collaborate on Fisker’s initial vision of an utterly bespoke Mustang as a flagship model for the Galpin brand.

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Galpin is no stranger to customisation. As the creator of its own breeds of vehicles, it virtually invented the notion of auto-dealer personalisation many decades ago, which was soon nicknamed Galpinizing. In fact, the original Galpin Ford Convertible custom was built out of a 1952 model more than 60 years ago.

Rest assured that the tailored-suit-wearing Mustang on this post is no mere ‘body kit’. Fisker made it clear that he had no interest in designing cheap bolt-on Mustang customisation parts or body armour. His insistence was that ‘the car be designed, developed, clay modelled, digitised and prototyped like a real OEM project’; Boeckmann was enthusiastic to say the least, and said he was ‘all in’.

Fisker went to work designing all-new composite and carbon-fibre bodywork for the 2015-2017 Mustang GT. Other than the glass, door skins and taillight facia, every panel and trim bit is new.

The concept was to approach the car comprehensively, including not only the exterior redesign but also offering interior, performance and a palette of tailor-made option upgrades to match. The project was given the name Rocket, and while still identifiable as a modern Mustang, it screams American style and performance in an utterly more muscular, exotic and tailored fashion.

Every Rocket includes the rebody offered in a variety of colours, and a Galpin Auto Sports Performance Package specced just for this project, including Brembo six-piston front brake calipers, larger front brake rotors, an increased-capacity radiator and oil cooler, performance chassis tuning (including a ride height- and damping-adjustable coil-over shock system), ancillary instrumentation and reprogrammed stability control.

The EPAS and ABS systems are also recalibrated to allow a bit more performance and driver control, plus the rear diff gets 3.73:1 Torsen gearing. The Rocket takes on a decidedly more aggressive yet still sophisticated rumble, thanks to a purpose-built stainless-steel Bassani Cat-Back exhaust system with polished quad tips.

The whole thing rides on monster rolling stock – in the case of our test car, massively wide 21-inch alloy ADV wheels designed by Fisker. There’s maximum-performance Pirelli P-Zero rubber, too; impressive 275/35R21s up front with steamrollerish 325/30R21s aft.

The standard Rocket interior steps it up a notch with carbon-fibre dashboard trim and brushed-aluminium sill-panel inserts that carry the name, signature and logo of designer Fisker. The balance of the cabin remains stock Mustang (certainly no bad thing), but there are several substantial upgrade options if you wish.

The first is Recaro Rocket front sport seats. If you really want to go max crazy on the inside, you can go for the Full Rocket Interior Package, with hand-stitched Italian leather and Alcantara trim, featuring hide and stitching in your exact choice of colours. Our Ingot Silver test car carried both of these upgrades.

You’ll note the curvaceous, feline-inspired, flared rear arches housing those huge rear meats and neatly incorporating duel intake scoops. Another particularly cool design touch is that the hood stripes aren’t painted on; they are simply unpainted areas of the hood, showing off the pattern of the panel’s carbon-fibre weave material below. Trick.

There are two primary powertrain options. You can stick with the stock Ford 435bhp DOHC 5.0-litre V8, or opt for the 725S option. The latter adds a Whipple supercharger (polished or finished in black) and cold-air intake system on top of the Mustang’s Coyote V8, which spools power up to 725bhp. It you intend to track your Rocket on a regular basis, there’s further optional Brembo braking front and rear, called the Gran Turismo package.

Owners may choose between a conventional six-speed manual or an optional six-speed performance-calibrated automatic transmission. The Rocket is currently offered in only the fastback coupe bodystyle; a two-seat, tonneau-covered convertible concept called the Speedster has been shown, and may yet be produced if the market evidences demand.

This fabulous coachwork is so curvaceous, sinewy and muscularly elegant, if the Rocket wore a Ferrari or McLaren badge you wouldn’t question it. Yet it’s equally all American, retaining unquestionable Mustang character and design cues but just pinched at the waist – and obviously amped up on some major protein powder.

The Rocket looks killer from every angle, and the workmanship, fit and finish are OEM quality in every way. Nothing seems tacked on or phony in any regard. Its stance is perfect, sitting poised, locked and loaded on its haunches and massive rolling stock.

Our test car included the supercharged 725S powertrain. Thumb the red starter button, and the blown V8 lights easily with a bark and a chesty rumble. The idle settles into a bassy thrum that speaks sophisticated performance. Those Recaro seats are handsome, supportive and comfortable, and, of course, the Italian leather-lined cabin is sumptuous.

The clutch is light and progressive, as it is on any new Mustang, and on the move the Bassani pipes dominate the conversation. They’re loud and rumbly without going over the top to a blatty blare in the way of many lesser aftermarket exhausts.

This isn’t to take anything away from the wonderful Ford Performance and Borla exhaust systems we’re so used to, but this system suits the Rocket perfectly. It growls and howls under acceleration, quietly burbling and popping off throttle. Forget the sound system; this engine and exhaust serve up all the audio entertainment you could ask for.

As you’d expect, the acceleration is fierce. We didn’t have the chance to put the car on track or perform instrumented testing, but 0-60mph comes up well below four seconds, and 100mph also happens pretty quickly. The power delivery is huge and generally linear, save for a minor dent in the acceleration at about 3500rpm; we suspect it’s no more than a mild calibration issue in this already much-driven and well used prototype.

With all that wide Pirelli rubber underneath, you’d expect the Rocket to handle – and it does. The steering feels properly meaty in your hands, and turn-in is cat quick in response. Even though we weren’t on a track, and thus were unable to max g corner this car, the curves we could hit and freeway onramps we were able to attack demonstrated the Rocket’s considerable handling prowess.

Yet magically, all the grip, stick and communication with the road don’t come at the expense of an admittedly firm yet relatively supple ride quality. Normally, big rubber such as this will pound, bump, thump and tramline over our typically awful SoCal freeway pavement, but not so the Rocket.

It is feelsome and responsive without being punishing, running string straight no matter the road surface. And with all credit to the integrity of the body panels, which are engineered, tooled and produced to OEM standards, there’s not a squeak or a rattle to be heard. Try that with your average bolt-together tuner toy.

Initially, the plan was that the cars would be produced by Southern California’s GFMI Metalcrafters – the Gaffoglio family long known for its ability to make factory-commissioned prototypes, one-offs, design studies and short-run production models. However, manufacture has recently shifted to VLF Automotive in Michigan; VLF is a joint car-building concern spearheaded by business venturist Gilbert Villarreal, Henrik Fisker and maximum-strength auto executive Bob Lutz.

VLF has more production capacity than does Metalcrafters, and with Fisker as a principal it only made sense for VLF to take over the job after GFMI completed the prototype Rockets. At this point, all sales are handled directly through Galpin, and Rockets can be built for and shipped to customers worldwide.

So how much does all this speed and beauty cost? Custom-tailored designer threads and big-game horsepower are never as inexpensive as off-the-rack duds; exclusive of options, the naturally aspirated Rocket coupe starts at $139,900, while the supercharged 725S bases at $151,800 and can push $200K if you check every possible option box.

For this you’ll have a limited-production Mustang trimmed and equipped just for you; one like no other in the world, anywhere at any price. Learn the rest of the story at GalpinRocket.com and VLFAutomotive.com. Or be in touch with Steve McCord at Galpin Auto Sports to spec out and order your own Rocket.

Photography by Kirk Gerbracht and courtesy Galpin Auto Sports

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