Ford calls it the “American supercar reborn.” Initially named the GT40 after a renowned Ford racecar of the 1960s, the supercar was renamed GT as it went into production — not long after an appearance in concept form.
The original GT40 racecar was built for the legendary Le Mans race in the 1960s as part of a project pushed by Chairman and CEO Henry Ford II. The GT40 beat the world’s best racecars in endurance competition, finishing first, second and third at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966. A GT also won the next three years at Le Mans.
“The Ford GT is our centennial supercar because it reaches into great moments from our past,” said Chris Theodore, vice president of Ford Advance Product Creation, “while casting a light into the future.” Just 45 days after it was unveiled at the 2002 North American International Auto Show as the GT40 concept, Ford announced that a production version would be developed.
“Essential elements of the original — including the stunning low profile and midmounted American V-8 engine — continue in this latest interpretation of the classic,” said J Mays, Ford’s vice president of design. Every line and curve “is a unique interpretation of the original” rather than a duplicate, according to Ford. The first three GTs were delivered to Ford’s centennial celebration in mid-2003.
Though it is similar in appearance, the 2005 production car is 18 inches longer and nearly 4 inches taller than the original racer. Body engineers had to find new techniques to shape the curvaceous body because normal stamping techniques would not suffice.
Similar to the original Ford GT racers, the doors on the new GT are cut into the roof. The long, front overhang is reminiscent of 1960s-era racecars, but the cowl and high-intensity-discharge headlights are distinctly modern. Functional cooling scoops on the leading edge of the rear quarter panels channel fresh air to the engine.
An all-aluminum space frame consists of extrusions, castings and stampings. The body panels are made of super-plastic-formed aluminum and are unstressed. A capless fuel-filler system is installed. Four-piston aluminum Brembo monoblock brake calipers work with cross-drilled and vented rotors.
Flush-mounted windows help to recreate the fuselage shape of the original GT car, and the coupe has cantilevered doors. Round taillights use indirect LED brake lamps. A brushed-magnesium tunnel contains the center-mounted fuel tank.
When the canopy is open, the rear suspension components and engine are visible. Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires ride on 18-inch front wheels, while 19-inch tires go on the rear.
Two occupants fit inside the GT coupe. Innovative “ventilated seats” and the instrument panel — with its analog gauges and a large tachometer — follow the pattern of the original racecar. Stylized toggle switches like those on the original operate the headlights, fog lights, dimmer, wipers and rear defroster. The leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel tilts and telescopes, and the driver can see the engine at work by glancing into the rearview mirror. The matte-black instrument panel, door panels and lower tunnel sections are crafted of Azdel SuperLite Composite.
The roof has been raised by 17 millimeters, making headroom just slightly better than in the concept car. The deep bucket seats flank the fuel tank and feature carbon-fiber shells and leather seating surfaces. The emergency brake handle is made of polished aluminum, and the gearshift lever is topped with an aluminum knob. The center console houses a starter button, CD audio system and auxiliary power point. Air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors are standard.
Under the Hood
Ford’s 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 engine generates 550 horsepower and 500 pounds-feet of torque, which is comparable to the output from the 7.0-liter engine that won the 1966 and 1967 Le Mans races. The engine breathes with the assistance of an Eaton supercharger. Forged components include the crankshaft, H-beam connecting rods and aluminum pistons. Blue cam covers are imprinted with “Powered by Ford” lettering. The Ricardo six-speed-manual transaxle features a helical limited-slip differential.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available.