Sunday, January 27, 2008
Ford wrote motor racing history in 1966 by becoming the first American manufacturer to win the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The epic victory was scored by the Ford GT (commonly known as the GT40), which went on to win another three times at Le Mans.
Today the performance of the GT is still considered the highlight in Ford's rich racing history and it holds a special place in many racing enthusiasts' hearts. To celebrate their centennial anniversary Ford decided to give its most legendary design a rebirth, almost forty years after it first roared down the long straights of Le Mans.
The first strong sign of a new 'Ford GT' was the introduction of the Ford GT Concept at the 2002 Detroit Motorshow (NAIAS). Clearly styled after the racer of the 1960s, the GT Concept was a major highlight of the show.
The success of the Concept convinced Ford to create a production version, the announcement was made just 45 days after the vehicle's launch. Ideal time and place for the launch of Ford's new supercar would be the company's centennial celebrations at their Dearborn facility.
Like its illustrious predecessor, the 2005 Ford GT is powered by a rumbling V8 engine. The unit used is the largest version of the 'MODular' engine, which is used all through the Ford range. Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) extensively modified the quad-cam engine to bring it up to par with the 7-litre engines used in the 1960s racers. Equipped with an Eaton supercharger the engine produces 500 bhp and 500 ft/lb of torque.
Although one usually comes at the cost of the other, high structural rigidity and low weight of the chassis were two of the engineers' main objectives. Completely constructed from aluminum, the GT's spaceframe offers the best of both. Fitted on the chassis are lightweight aluminum bodypanels. Aluminum was also used for the independent suspension, made up of unequal length A-arms.
SVT met the objectives set by Ford and the first three production GTs were delivered right on time for the Dearborn celebrations. In a big presentation in front of thousands of people, the three GTs were driven on the stage by three of Ford Motorsport's biggest legends.
Three-time Ford powered Formula 1 World Champion, Jackie Stewart drove the first on the stage, with SVT's director John Coletti as his passenger. They were followed by 1967 Le Mans winner Dan Gurney, who was driven on stage by Nick Sheele, Ford's Chief Operating Officer. The final car was driven by the vice president of Ford Advance Product Creation Chris Theodore, with 1960’s team manager of the Le Mans winning GT40s, Caroll Shelby in the passenger seat.