Ford GT 2006

Sure, many of you have seen the ad wars that car manufacturers occasionally engage in these days. They tease each other, explain the principles of pneumatic suspension using ordinary chickens as examples, and compare a used car to a girl. It’s funny, but how innocent it is compared to the battles that took place half a century ago on racing tracks. On November 14, a film will be released about one of the most famous rivalries between car manufacturers and today we will talk about the amazing consequences of this confrontation.

Our story begins in the 60s. Ford, with all its glorious motorsport history, found itself without a race car. Due to a gentlemen’s agreement to phase out sports road cars, there was simply no suitable model in the manufacturer’s lineup, and at that time, the sports component of the brand was selling well. On the other side of the ocean, Ferrari, renowned for its Formula 1 and endurance racing teams, was struggling with a severe lack of funding as its road cars were not selling too well. Enzo Ferrari, the creator and director known as Il Commendatore, wanted to become part of an automotive conglomerate while retaining control over everything related to motorsport. Henry Ford II, the grandson of the brand’s founder, may not have been a sportsman, but he understood business better than many, and the deal seemed successful to him. It seemed like the two companies with names starting with F had found each other, but money got in the way: Ford conducted an audit on Ferrari, lowering the initial deal amount from 18 to 10 million dollars. Enzo did not appreciate the humor and slammed the door loudly – the echo reached Henry’s ears and required no translation. Ford didn’t appreciate the humor either and having spent a couple of million on the audit, decided to seek revenge against the arrogant Italian. What could be better than defeating Enzo in his own domain, the most prestigious asphalt marathon in the world: the 24 Hours of Le Mans?

How this will be portrayed in the film is still unknown, but Henry did indeed want to settle the score. In addition, such motivation boosted the image of being a defender of the United States in the eyes of the general public and Ford sought help from… the British to design the car. Who else but they would know about designing a car from scratch? The company Lola, with the assistance of Ford engineers, took on the development of a mid-engine sports car with closed-wheel bodywork – a sports prototype, to speak the language of regulations. As a result of the tragic story, which you may have already heard or will be able to see in theaters, the Ford GT was born. Yes, that was the name given to the car prototypes and the suffix “40” was added to the race-prepared cars, which, by the way, indicated the remarkably low overall height of the car: 40 inches, just over 1 meter.

In 1969, the GT40 project was closed. In essence, this marked the end of the era of mid-engine sports cars from Ford, but the idea persisted: a response from the working class, the true proletariat, to the refined aesthetes from Italy. For the company’s centennial in 2003, they retrieved the old idea from dusty shelves and decided to remind everyone how the boys from Detroit knew how to burn rubber at traffic lights.

The new GT shared very little with its predecessor, except for body lines and as the press releases claimed, inspiration. The modern car was longer, wider, and taller. The number “40” in the name of the legendary sports car represented the height of the car in inches. However, this index couldn’t be added to the new GT for two reasons: firstly, it stood at 44 inches in height and secondly, the GT40 trademark had long been sold to a company that produced parts for the original car.
Introduced as a concept car in 2003, the vehicle caused unprecedented excitement, fueled by Ford’s promise to produce only 4,500 units. Chief designer Camilo Pardo managed to preserve the car’s distinctiveness while updating its appearance. To ensure its success, Carroll Shelby, who led the project to build the original car in the ’60s, was involved in its development. It was clear that the engineers weren’t aiming to win Le Mans, but that didn’t mean the new chassis wouldn’t be better than before, the new engine wouldn’t produce significantly more horsepower and the overall speed of the car wouldn’t exceed 300 km/h.

The GT featured a top-mounted supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine that delivered a robust 550 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. The engine sat just inches away from the driver, which didn’t contribute to a quiet cabin ambiance, but it certainly couldn’t be called noisy either. The transmission was a manual gearbox, reflecting the car’s serious performance focus—no fancy automated systems or paddle shifters here. According to journalists, the gearbox’s precision could rival the renowned transmissions from Porsche, which was high praise for Ford.

The body was constructed using the latest technology in manufacturing spaceframe structures. However, the enormous tunnel in the cabin and the equally large sills caused some inconvenience, but again, this is a sports car! An interesting design feature was adding a piece of the roof to the door, which meant that you could only enter the cabin with the door fully open. The front left headlight hidden the number 100 – formed by the outline, low beam lamp and turn signal. The headlights were naturally symmetrical, so the right side of the headlight resembled the number 001. The hood, which represented almost half of the body, was extremely difficult to open on your own, but this problem is also present in many European sports cars. There was practically no trunk space in the car, just like there was no space behind the front – and only – seats. But when you can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds and reach 300 km/h in less than 50 seconds, all of these shortcomings can be forgiven. And they were forgiven.

With much less enthusiasm, the car was forgiven for its reliability. The story that received wide publicity was when Jeremy Clarkson, the host of Top Gear, relentlessly persuaded Ford to sell him a car (or rather, guarantee the sale of one of the 28 cars for Britain), which eventually happened. Afterward, the car’s security system broke down several times, and the journalist demanded a refund. However, the same Jeremy claimed that it was an amazing car, a masterpiece, and all in that vein, so let’s leave the immobilizer issues aside. After all, we hang pictures of cars on the wall not for their reliability characteristics.

In the car’s interior, the first thing that catches the eye is the stylistic openings in the seats. It’s a nod to the 60s fashion in sports cars, but here these circular cutouts are made of plastic, which negatively affects comfort. The dashboard and the central console are extremely futuristic and are all adorned with polished metal. The climate control unit is also made of metal, located on the transmission tunnel, and does not have traditional plastic scales. The abundance of instruments required a fairly large instrument panel, but all of them are analog and decorated with metal bezels. There is tremendous attention to detail, but not without a spoonful of tar. The thing is, the turn signal and control stalks, power window switches, mirrors, and alarm key fob are taken directly from the Focus! However, I sincerely doubt that with the dynamics of a ballistic missile in this Ford, there is time to think about some buttons.

Mid-engine sports cars are always a special segment in the automotive industry that cannot fail to arouse interest if you are truly passionate about cars. The revival of legends is always worthy of attention. When the Ford GT was released, it brought Ferrari and Lamborghini several times closer to the world and for that alone, it has earned a special place in automotive history. However, as is often the case with cult cars, over the years, this supercar from Detroit became increasingly expensive, and now buying one may be even more costly than a new Ferrari. This Ford has undoubtedly managed to fulfill all the tasks set before it.

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