|2-door coupe, production car
|Miles Per Gallon:
|550 bhp @ 6500 rpm
|500 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
|f: 63.0 / r: 63.7 in
|11.6 sec @ 128 mph
|Braking, 60-0 mph:
|Nürburgring Lap Time:
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.
On June 13, 2003, the all-new 2005 Ford GT supercar came to life in the form of three production road cars that honor the classic race cars in design and engineering ingenuity. Ford’s “Centennial Supercar” builds on the company’s product-led transformation and will be the flagship of Ford Division’s 2004 “Year of the Car” that includes the launch of several other cars.
“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
Ford’s GT40 concept car was created to celebrate that great era in history and look forward to the great years to come. Unveiled at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, the GT40 concept became an instant sensation. And just 45 days after the vehicle was unveiled, Ford stunned the world again, officially announcing that a production version was in the works.
“The Ford GT is the ultimate Living Legend,” explains J Mays, Ford vice president of design. “It’s a true supercar with appeal equal to that of the greatest sports cars in the world but with the addition of a heritage no one can match. Essential elements of the original – including the stunning low profile and mid-mounted American V-8 engine – continue in this latest interpretation of the classic.”
Although the 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.
Contrary to typical vehicle development programs, the engineering challenge was to build the supercar foundation within the concept’s curvaceous form – and to build it in record time for Ford’s centennial. The well-defined project afforded the engineering team early insight: This car required a new way of doing business since the concept car was only 5 percent production-feasible.
Body engineers sought new techniques to shape the car’s sexy lines because normal stamping techniques couldn’t deliver these curves. But would the curvy door panels accommodate the requisite slide-down window? After extensive computer modeling and concessions by designers and package engineers, the window freely moved within the door panel. Aerodynamicists couldn’t bend the exterior sheet metal; instead, they came up with unique solutions under the body.
The result: a technological wonder wrapped in the Ford GT40 concept form.
“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 Ford GT production car, like the concept, casts the familiar, sleek look of its namesake, yet every dimension, every curve and every line on the car is a unique reinterpretation of the original. The car features a long front overhang reminiscent of 1960s-era race cars. But its sweeping cowl, subtle accent lines and high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlamps strike a distinctly contemporary pose.
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.
The interior design incorporates the novel “ventilated seats” and instrument layout of the original car, with straightforward analog gauges and a large tachometer. Modern versions of the original car’s toggle switches operate key systems.
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 team quickly came up with innovative technologies and processes to deliver on the centennial commitment:
Computers, Not Prototypes: The Ford GT team relied heavily on computer models to compress the typical first nine months of engineering work into about three months, relying on 10 percent of the usual number of prototypes. The first prototypes were built in less than 100 days after program approval.
Solid Foundation: The Ford GT team knew this road car would require a stiff structure, much like a race car. As such, they developed an all-aluminum space frame comprising extrusions, castings and several stampings. The hybrid aluminum space frame chassis is based on efficient use of 35 extrusions, seven complex castings, two semi-solid formed castings and various stamped aluminum panels.
Grand Touring: The new Ford GT is intended for the road, unlike the original 1960’s race cars that ultimately spawned a limited number of production road cars. However, the new car required unique race-like engineering solutions – like engineering out the aerodynamic “lift” inherent in the original car’s design – for a car that will clock in at more than 180 mph.
All-American V-8: Ford proved it could dominate racing fields, peppered with exotic powerplants, with V-8 engines in the 1960s. The Ford GT motor, the largest V-8 in Ford's modular engine family, carries on that tradition. The engine features 85 percent new moving parts and produces 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. Both figures are comparable to those of the 7.0-liter engine that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 and 1967.
Technological Wonder: 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.
As on the historic race car, the Ford GT aluminum body panels are unstressed. Instead of the steel or honeycomb-composite tubs used in the 1960s, the Ford GT team developed an all-new aluminum space frame as the foundation. The chassis features unequal-length control arms and coil-over spring-damper units to allow for its low profile.
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.
That innovation was born of inspiration from the company’s founder Henry Ford who, before launching Ford Motor Company in 1903, raced to victory in 1901. His car, the 1901 Sweepstakes – an ash-framed wheeled sled with a massive 8.8-liter, two-cylinder engine – was not particularly pretty or fast by today’s standards. It also handled poorly: The steering had to be manually “unwound” after each turn, as the geometry necessary for self-centering hadn"t yet been conceived.
Henry Ford and his machine managed their first racing victory October 10, 1901, beating the favored competition in the “world championship” Grosse Pointe Race Track. Ford's average speed in the 10-mile event was 44.8 mph.
Sixty years later, Henry Ford II watched the Europeans dominate racing worldwide. Ford Motor Company had joined a 1957 Automobile Manufacturers Association agreement prohibiting direct involvement in racing, and the ban quickly took its toll on Ford's image and its ability to engineer performance. Thus in 1962 Henry Ford II decided to withdraw from the already-dissolving pact, and the company launched a massive racing campaign that would take the 1960s by storm.
A key component of “Ford Total Performance,” as the effort was called, was the quest to win the famed 24-hour Grand Prix d"Endurance at Le Mans. Perhaps the world's most significant – and glamorous – motorsport contest, Le Mans in the early 1960s was showing signs of becoming a Ferrari showcase, because the Italians had become the leaders in a number of endurance classes and events. But the Ford GT race car changed Le Mans forever, and today it signifies a new era for Ford Motor Company.
“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.”