Ford GT and GT40 – A tribute

Ford recently announced a new version of the Ford GT for 2015, which is based on the legendary Ford GT40. In this article we go back to the roots of the GT, and how the GT40 heritage has influenced the latest GT.

Ford GT – 2015

Two years ago Ford initiated a top secret project to create a new powerful Ford GT, at the Detroit North American International Autoshow in January (2015) the car was unveiled and on display to the masses.

The design team (headed by Todd Willing) was inspired and borrowed several design features from the legendary Ford GT40 (see our historic overview below), the twin air outlets in the hood remain for example.  In my own opinion some of the inspiration is seen at the back of the car where you can see the two centered exhausts from the twin-turbo 3.5 liter V-6 engine. The V-6 can deliver 600 horsepower (compared to the previous 550 from the V-8), of course the decision to go with a V-6 instead of a V-8 is controversial in American super car circles.

Looking inside the car there will be a steering wheel with all the necessary buttons, Ford call it a “F1-style” steering wheel. There are no buttons on the dashboard instead there is a huge touch display, so this is indeed the GT40 of 2015.

The new Ford GT will hit the dealers in 2016, the price will of course be steep. There are rumors that Ford will participate with the GT at Le Mans in 2016, they have yet to be confirmed.

Ford GT – 2005

Similarly to 2015 Ford announced the first concept of the Ford GT in 2002 at the Detroit Auto Show, the new Ford GT was wider and bigger than the original GT40. The Ford GT was produced in model years 2005 and 2006, about 4 000 were made, the Ford sales target was 4 500 but sales were sluggish so the car was eventually cancelled.

To get a fee for the power of the Ford GT, see the YouTube video below:

Ford GT40 – A legend is born

During the 30:s and 40:s Ford cars where the performance car brand out there, but perceptions towards the brand started to change during the 50:s and 60:s, younger people bought other brands, sales were declining. Ford had to do something. One of the first models to capture the younger audience was the Ford Mustang.

However Ford didn’t stop there, they wanted to profile themselves as a performance brand all the way, the management decided that the best way to do it was to win the Le Mans 24 hour race. At first Ford tried to buy Ferrari, which dominated the performance car sector, but no agreement was reached.

Ford GT40

According to an article in Road and Track from 1966:  “The talks ended abruptly on a Saturday  after 10 days of negotiations. Ford VP Donald Frey received a phone call from one of Ferrari’s lawyers informing him that there would be no further discussion.”

Rumor has it that Enzo Ferrari thought that Ford would get all the credit and publicity in an event of a deal.

Ford GT40 at Goodwood revival

Ford GT40 at the Goodwood revival. Image courtesy: Ford

Instead  Ford went to the british race car manufacturer Lola, who had a chassis that they thought could win the Le Mans 24 hour, if it was powered by the Ford V-8 engine. Ford setup a UK office named “Ford Advanced Vehicles, FAV”, they also hired Carroll Shelby, and John Wyer was appointed to lead the efforts.  Ford had supported the Cobra cars that Shelby developed earlier.  The Cobras were starting to compete  with Ferraris in various races, thus Enzo Ferrari and Carroll Shelby was competitors.

The first Ford GT40 (MkI) were ready for the Le Mans in 1964, the next model Mk II was ready for the 1966 season. The “40” in GT40 comes from the height of the car measured at the windshield,  which was required by GT rules.

Chassis P1075 is the first chassis in Le Mans history to win the race twice, 1968 and 1969. In total the GT40 won the Le Mans race 4 times.

Ford also created a road version MkIII, with the possibility to bring luggage, only seven were built. Most road customers bought the MkI, because the design of the road version was simply too different from the original.  For example the gear lever was moved from the side of the door to the middle of the car, and the front headlights were round instead of rectangular.

In 1967 a Mk IV version was released of the Ford GT40, it had an aluminum body and a more powerful engine, it was however the last version of the GT40 before Ford withdrew from the GT40 project. John Wyer continued to develop the GT40 MkI in JW Automotive, his company was sponsored by Gulf, the oil company, the cars was painted in the colors orange and light blue.

Only about 1 000 Ford GT40:s were made, the car is very popular among replica builders.

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1 Response

  1. Carman says:

    Great post, always liked the Ford GT!

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