The Evolution of the Ford GT

In the world of performance cars competition breeds ingenuity, and the new Ford GT is the outcome of a competition that started over 50 years ago. Back in 1963 Henry Ford II and Ferrari were negotiating the sale of Ferrari to Ford. But if the company was sold Enzo Ferrari still wanted to control racing program, and “the Deuce” wasn’t having that! Long story short, the negotiations fell apart and ended with Ford determined to settle the score with Ferrari on the track.

Three years later Ford’s racing team placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd at Le Mans with the GT40. Not only did they beat Ferrari in the race, but this was the first time an American car won at Le Mans. They came back for the next three years, and were the first to cross the finish line every time. After their win in 1969 Ford packed up the racing team and stopped producing the GT40.

It would be another 35 years before the GT – Ford’s GT40 inspired performance car – hit the market. The first generation GT was in production for a few years, then off the market again…until now. The second generation GT is true to its roots: super fast and poised to compete with European supercars in performance and design.

And compete it did! This year the GT won in it’s class at Le Mans, 50 years after Ford’s historic first win. Not long after this win the Ford GT was proudly displayed at Barrett-Jackson’s first Northeast auction at Mohegan Sun. During the auction I had the chance to talk to Jim Owens, Ford’s Performance Marketing Manager, about the work that went on behind the scenes to make this win possible.

The look of this car alone tells you it means business. But woven into every curve and vent, and behind every carbon fiber panel is innovative engineering. Although this is a street car it’s built to race. Jim explained that the ACO rules require the race car to be delivered with all the safety features it needs to be safe on the streets. This means that the GT being delivered to the consumer is 99% the same car that won Le Mans.

“It’s the ultimate of form follows function in this car,” Jim explained. You might think that there’s a big V8 under the hood, but the engineering team was able to produce well over 600 hp with an EcoBoost V6. Using the smaller block reduced weight and package size, allowing for a wider air dam which helps cool the engine and improve stability. This approach also helps with overall endurance, which is key to finishing a 24 hour race like Le Mans.

The GT embodies the evolution of the performance car market. Engines are going from working hard to working smart in a time when bigger isn’t automatically better. Efficiency is usually not the first word that comes to mind when talking about race cars, but the EcoBoost system brings efficiency into the conversation. As Jim pointed out “To have available power when you want it, but not be using it when you don’t need it, is good for the Fiesta all the way up to the Ford GT.”

This approach to building cars – from a family sedan to a killer race car – is economical and socially responsible. But most importantly it produces cars that pack a punch, delivering efficiency without jeopardizing the driving experience. The engineering behind this technology, coupled with the competition in the performance car market, make now more than ever a great time to be a performance enthusiast.

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