It was in France, in the mid-1960s, that the great American supercar came to life. A low-slung, muscular racing car built to win on the legendary Le Mans race circuit, the Ford GT project was spearheaded by no less a powerhouse than company Chairman and CEO Henry Ford II. His goal was to change performance car history. And he did. The Ford GT race car beat the world’s best in endurance racing, placing 1-2-3 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 and winning the next three consecutive years.
“The Ford GT is our Centennial Supercar because it reaches into great moments from our past, while casting a light into the future,” said Chris Theodore, vice president, Ford Advance Product Creation. “As we celebrate our centennial, the Ford GT represents many of the technologies, processes and people that will help drive our next 100 years.”
Design: Concept to Reality
Although the new production car and the original race car both share the mystique of the Ford GT name, they do not share a single dimension. The new car is more than 18 inches longer and stands nearly 4 inches taller. Its new lines draw upon and refine the best features of Ford GT history and express the car’s identity through modern proportion and surface development.
“It’s amazing that we’ll show the first cars just a little more than a year after we started the program,” says John Coletti, director of SVT programs. “That’s a real tribute to the people, processes and technology behind the cars.”
The front fenders curve over 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires. In the tradition of original Ford GT racers, the doors cut into the roof. Prominent on the leading edge of the rear quarter panel are functional cooling scoops that channel fresh air to the engine. The rear wheel wells, filled with 19-inch wheels and tires, define the rear of the car, while the accent line from the front cowl rejoins and finishes the car’s profile at the integrated “ducktail” spoiler.
Looking in through the backlight, one finds the essence of the sports car in Ford’s MOD 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 engine. The finishing touches are Ford blue cam covers, each featuring an aluminum coil cover imprinted with the words “Powered by Ford.”
A little more than one year ago, Coletti was offered a career opportunity – lead the Ford GT engineering program. The catch: The first three cars were to be delivered for Ford’s Centennial celebration.
Coletti teamed up with Neil Ressler, a former Ford vice president who left retirement to consult on the program, to quickly select the Ford GT “Dream Team” of engineers and consultants. Neil Hannemann was tapped to be chief program engineer and oversee the day-to-day development of the Ford GT after years of cross-industry supercar engineering assignments.
The Ford GT features many new and unique technologies, including super-plastic-formed aluminum body panels, roll-bonded floor panels, a friction-stir welded center tunnel, a “ship-in-a-bottle” gas tank, a capless fuel filler system, one-piece door panels and an aluminum engine cover with a one-piece carbon-fiber inner panel.
Braking is handled by four-piston aluminum Brembo monoblock calipers with cross-drilled and vented rotors at all four corners. When the rear canopy is opened, the rear suspension components and engine become the car’s focal point. Precision-cast aluminum suspension components and 19-inch Goodyear tires – combined with the overwhelming presence of the V-8 engine – create a striking appearance and communicate the performance credentials of the Ford GT.
The 5.4L powerplant is all-aluminum and fed by an Eaton screw-type supercharger. It features four-valve cylinder heads and forged components, including the crankshaft, H-beam connecting rods and aluminum pistons. The resulting power output is 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque.
The power is put to the road through a Ricardo six-speed manual transaxle featuring a helical limited-slip differential.
The original Ford GT racers were engineering and design marvels demonstrating Ford’s dedication and perseverance. In a few short years under the direction of Henry Ford II, the company built a program from scratch that reached the pinnacle of international motorsports competition – and stayed there for four racing seasons.
“It’s ironic,” states John Coletti, “that in the 1960s Ford brought out the fabled Ford GT racer to dominate Ferrari on the premier race circuits of the world, and that in the not-too-distant future, the Ford GT will return to outgun the Ferrari once again, but this time on the streets of America.”