2006 marks the 40th anniversary of that historic event, the start of Ford’s remarkable four-year winning streak of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A special limited-edition exterior color, Tungsten Silver, is being offered on the 2006 Ford GT to commemorate that sterling victory.
But Ford isn’t just celebrating its past. Instead, the company looks forward, building on its heritage with its Special Vehicle Team enhancing the performance of Ford products now and into the future.
"June 19, 1966 was probably the second most important day in Ford Motor Company history," says Phil Martens, group vice president, Product Creation. "The first, of course, was October 10, 1901 when Henry Ford won his first and only race in the ’Sweepstakes’ race car, helping launch Ford Motor Company. Six decades later, sweeping Le Mans proved to the world that Ford Motor Company could beat the most prestigious manufacturers in the world. Those two events helped establish a culture of performance at Ford Motor Company that to this day benefits our products, engineering expertise, and brand loyalty. Today, that culture is embodied in the Ford GT, aptly titled the pace car for the entire company."
Meeting the challenge — again
In the 1960s, to establish the company as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage, Henry Ford II challenged his team to compete against the world’s best in the world’s most important endurance race. He called on the company to rally around the effort and enlisted Carroll Shelby to campaign the Ford cars at Le Mans. "There were so many people involved that I don’t take credit for it," Carroll Shelby says as he looks back on the historic events. "I’m just thankful that I was part of it."
Nearly four decades after that initial Le Mans victory, Bill Ford issued a similar rallying cry to the company. But this time Ford would take on the world’s best not on the racetrack but on the street. With the 2005 Ford GT, the company demonstrated it could deliver world’s-best performance at a price well below the typical exotic car stratosphere.
Engineered by Ford Special Vehicle Team
A quarter century after the Le Mans sweep, Ford established its Special Vehicle Team to produce high-performance versions of Ford vehicles. SVT’s reputation for exceptional performance was quickly established by the likes of the SVT F-150 Lightning, SVT Focus, SVT Contour and SVT Mustang Cobra. The team’s engineering experience and passion for performance proved essential in developing and delivering the Ford GT supercar to market.
The Ford GT was unveiled as a concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2002. It was the centerpiece of Ford’s aggressive product onslaught in answer to a challenging period for the company. Weeks later, Ford Chairman Bill Ford announced that the Ford GT would go into production, and he challenged the team to have the first three production cars ready not in the usual four or five-year timeframe, but for the Ford Centennial celebration scheduled just 15 months later.
The team met the chairman’s challenge. Three Ford GTs - one of them driven by Bill Ford himself - were in the Centennial parade.
The Ford GT delivers 550 horsepower and a certified 205-mph top track speed rating, with styling inspired by the historic racecars and a comfortable and contemporary interior, all for a base price of under $140,000.
Tungsten Silver highlights Ford GT design details
To commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Ford’s first win at Le Mans, the 2006 Ford GT will be offered in a limited-edition Tungsten Silver, which replaces Quick Silver on the Ford GT’s color palette. A Quick Silver racing stripe can be added to the Tungsten Silver package.
Tungsten Silver was developed for the 2004 North American International Auto Show Ford "Performance Trilogy" show cars - the Ford GT, the Shelby Cobra roadster concept and the new 2005 Mustang GT. Customer demand was so overwhelming that the color was added to the production palette.
"There’s good contrast between the colors," says Camilo Pardo, chief designer of the Ford GT. "But it’s a discreet contrast. In Tungsten Silver, the Ford GT is really dressy, like a fine suit. It looks mature."
Pardo notes that in the design studio, clay models are covered with "Dynoc" material that is a similar hue to Tungsten silver. The color is specifically designed to enhance the vehicle design details for evaluation.