It all started in 2002, when Ford decided it should make a massive statement to celebrate its forthcoming centenary. And what better way to pay heritage to the past, while at the same time looking confidently to the future, than to create a successor to the legendary 1960s Le Mans-winning GT40?
The concept car, which was unveiled at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, shared the silhouette of the original GT40 and was obviously inspired by it. Some purists saw it as weak retro pastiche, but most were enthused by the letter-day supercar project, and in general, it received such a favourable reception that Ford gave it the green light for production. The tean with the task of turning what was no more than a show car into street-legal production was given a deadline: the car had to be ready for the centenary celebrations in June 2003.
The exterior styling might hark back to the 1960s, but underneath, the Ford GT is all 21st century. Its aluminium body sits on an immensely strong aluminium spaceframe chassis. The 5.4 litre supercharged V8 engine is mid-mounted behind the passenger cabin and drives the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential. The suspension is all independent, with double wishbones front and rear.
On the road, the grip provided by the massive Goodyear Eagle tires is immense, helped in the downforce produced at higher speeds by the venturi tunnel designed into the floorpan. As with the McLaren F1, the Ford GT’s designers chose to fit neither traction control nor an electronic stability control system, leaving it to the driver to harness the power of the V8 engine.
And what power! The aluminium V8 was already in use in different Ford trucks and SUVs, but for the GT40, a Lysholm supercharger was added, together with revised cylinder heads and hotter high-lift camshafts. The result is 550 bhp and 678 Nm of torque – more than enough to offer 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.7 seconds, 0-100 mph in 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 204 mph / 328 km/h.
Despite its awesome performance, the Ford GT is actually a reasonably practical proposition. Though it can be driven as fast as any Ferrari or Lamborghini, its massive torque and tractability means it can be cruised with ease – it can be left in third gear. for example, all the way from 30 mph / 48 km/h to 120 mph / 93 km/h.
The cabin is larger, more comfortable and more practical than that of the original GT40, which was hampered by being so low – the ’40’ of its name derived from its height, which was just 40 in / 1016 mm. Thanks, too, to modern legislation, the latest Ford GT is longer, wider and higher than the original, and this allows more space for the driver and passenger to get comfortable. Like the original, however, the GT has no luggage space.
Ford announced a production run of just 4,500 examples of the GT and was immediately inundated with enquiries and orders, However, although early customers were even willing to pay premiums of $100,000 or more above the list price of $203,599, in the end, only 4,038 were built before production was stopped in 2006.
The Ford GT is one of the great supercars of the 21″ century. One that more than achieved the ambitions of its designers to create a car that would combine all the performance, brilliance and image of a Ferrari 360 with the practicality, reliability, builds quality and ease of driving of a Honda NSX. It was the perfect 100″ birthday present for Ford.
FORD GT 2003
ENGINE: 5409 cc V8
MAXIMUM POWER: 550 bhp at 6,500 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE: 678 Nm at 3,750 rpm
MAXIMUM SPEED: 204 mph / 328 km/h
0-60 MPH ACCELERATION: 3.7secs
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
LENGTH: 1823/4 in / 4,643 mm
WIDTH: 77 in / 1,953 mm
HEIGHT: 441/4 in / 1,125 mm
WHEELBASE: 1063/4 in / 2,710 mm
MANUFACTURE DATE: 2003- 06
BRAKES: disc (f and r)
SUSPENSION: upper A- arm and lower L- arm (f and r)
WHEELS: alloy, 18 in (F), 19 in(r)
TIRES: 235/45 ZR-18 (f) ZR-19 and (r)