The Ford GT is the most clutch car ever made, even though it has an automatic transmission.
It was built for one reason: to win the top production class at the last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and mark the 50th anniversary of the company’s legendary victory over Ferrari with another.
We’re talking about the most grueling and competitive sports car race in the world, and Ford hadn’t even been to the track since 1969. Ferrari, Porsche and arch-rival Chevrolet, meanwhile, practically live there. No pressure.
Ford thought about going for it with a Mustang, but realized that it was practically a pickup compared to the sleek 488s, 911s and Corvettes it would have had to compete with. So it decided to gamble untold millions to design an all-new mid-engine supercar for the task at hand. There would be no second chance.
It didn’t need one.
The GT took first, third and fourth places, with a Ferrari sandwiched between them for good measure. You can still hear the sighs of relief coming from Dearborn — and the meatballs hitting the wall in Maranello.
Ford will sell it only to people that it’s confident will actually use it, and hopefully share their glorious experiences with millions of social media followers. If you have that many, and an equal amount of liquid assets, the order books for the last batch will open next year.
If you think this all sounds a little hifalutin for a Ford, you’re not alone. When I heard the price, I was disappointed — not because I’m a label snob, but because I felt anyone could build a fast car for that kind of cash. The last time Ford made a supercar, the 2005 GT, it was world class and a relative bargain at $139,995.
2006 FORD GT SETS STANDING MILE RECORD AT 293.6 MPH
But it’s hard to argue with success. Along with notching the all-important Le Mans win, plus another at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, Ford has built one of the best sports cars in the world.
It isn’t charging a lot of money for it just because it can. The GT is unlike anything the company has ever made. It was developed in secret by a small team in a forgotten basement studio that was being used for storage. There were nondisclosure agreements, code words and an old-fashioned padlock on the studio door for cover. Real skunkworks stuff.
Ford didn’t go it alone, though. It partnered with Canadian engineering firm and race car builder Multimatic, who is handling final assembly of the GT, which features a lightweight carbon fiber passenger cell with a built-in steel roll cage that needs only minor modifications for competition.
The suspension is race-bred, too, with pushrod-activated springs mounted to a keel in the center of the car up front (picture an F1 car covered in full carbon fiber bodywork) and similarly remote spool valve-type dampers, buried near the footwell, that Multimatic originally developed for Indy cars.
This layout clears spaces that allow air to flow past a wing-like surface under the nose that generates downforce in concert with a giant wing that pops up from the rear of the car. Every vent and surface shape on the very striking GT is designed to efficiently coax the atmosphere around its teardrop-shaped cabin, including the tendon-like buttresses that connect it to the pod-style fenders.
Between them is the rear-wheel-drive GT’s most controversial feature: an EcoBoost V6. It’s bad enough that the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter is two to 10 cylinders short of what most people expect from a supercar, but it also shares more than half of its parts with the one in the Ford F-150.
Bier says the lessons Ford learned working with carbon fiber will eventually trickle down to its mainstream vehicles. He points to that last GT, Ford’s first aluminum-bodied car, and the effect that had on the current F-150, which lent its engine to the new GT.
The strange cycle of life continues.
As excellent as the GT is as an engineering exercise, race car and performance car, however, it’s not magnitudes better than its peers, and that price leaves one heck of an opportunity for someone to outdo it for less. (Say, $139,995?)
Even Ford has a lot of room in its lineup between the GT and the Mustang. It should think about filling it one of these days.