Showpiece of the Week: Ford GT

Mythologizing the GT40 is easy. It comes pre-wrapped in folklore. Enzo's slight, the Deuce's grudge, Lola's know-how, Ford's V8, the falling short, then the massive, Maranello-shaming success; all of it snowballing relentlessly into the imagination and history books. Mythologizing its follow-up is trickier. Ford wasn't a total basket case at the turn of the millenium - its European division had just launched the first generation Focus, the prototypical modern hatchback - but its domestic range was still littered with nineties hangovers like the New Edge Mustang and Escort-based ZX2.

Of course it had already dabbled with idea of reviving its most famous side project. The GT90 - another secret project built from British underpinnings - was shown in 1995 and rather anticipated the current hypercar fad for forced induction with its quad-turbo V12. But Ford never properly grasped the production nettle, and the model slid sideways onto the ever-growing pile of concept what-ifs. The GT might very well have gone the same way. The car was conceived as part of the Blue Oval's centenary celebrations, although by the time it was shown at Detroit, the production variant had been delayed indefinitely. Or it had until people actually saw it, and went potty.

The reason for this was plain to see. The GT - and it could only ever be a GT thanks to a thoughtless disposal of the original car's trademark - looked acutely fabulous. Where the GT90 was intentionally futuristic (it heralded a new generation of Ford design language), the new model was an unapologetic and arrow-straight throwback - its designer, Camilo Pardo, barely compromising in his respect for the GT40's timeless shape. The most conspicuous change (the much larger dimensions that make the GT 76mm taller than its inspiration) is hardly appreciable in a picture, and didn't prevent a sentimental throng of buyers beating a path to Dearborn's door.

It helped that Ford did it right. The 140-strong team that turned the car into a production reality in about 15 months was peppered with been-there-done-it old hands, in possession of just enough Ford seniority heft to ensure that they mostly got their own way. Thus the GT was built on an aluminium space frame with aluminium body panels atop. The suspension was aluminium, too, and double-wishbone all round. Deference to history was not forgotten even during development: Ford benchmarked the contemporary Ferrari 360 Modena - and proclaimed their equivalent architecture 'way stiffer'.

No-one had to proclaim the engine anything. The mid-mounted supercharged V8 could do its own announcing, coming as it did with 550hp and 500lb ft of torque. Yes, the 5.4-litre unit was based on something you could have in a Lincoln Navigator, but by the time Roush Industries - a longtime Ford tuner - had finished with it, fully 85 per cent of the reciprocating parts were said to be unique to the GT, not to mention the dry-lubrication system that now came attached. The six-speed transaxle gearbox, which featured a helical limited-slip differential, had to be purpose-built by Ricardo.

The result was drama - lashings of it. Ford slung you low in the driver's seat, and hemmed you in with brushed metal trim and oversized toggle switches. The gear lever was a billiard ball of aluminium. The speedo was mounted half an acre away from the driver's face, and, like the original, opening the door takes a great swathe of roof with it. Ford's decision to not bother with converting the model to right-hand-drive hardly helped with the visibility, but nor did it stunt the appeal one jot either: the 27 destined for the UK represented a tiny fraction of the volume its dealers could have sold even at its six-figure asking price.

Consequently, the GT remains both ultra rare - and crushingly expensive. Predictably, there are actually a couple on sale in the classifieds, but first prize goes to this Mark IV Red example with just 907 miles on the clock. One of the official UK supplied cars, it is said to be in immaculate condition (as you might expect) and has been serviced by Roush/Revolve themselves. Its asking price - £339,950 - is striking, although it's worth noting that its replacement is £80k more costly right off the bat. Considered in that light, Ford's superlative legend-chaser - and our first Showpiece of the Week - almost seems like a bargain.

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Comments (13) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Monty Python 09 Jan 2018

    Great long as you don't park next to anything.

  • Triumph Man 09 Jan 2018

    Lovely car, also amuses me that the column stalks and mirror switch are straight out of the Mk1 Focus!

    Edited by Triumph Man on Monday 8th January 16:18

  • Burwood 09 Jan 2018

    Triumph Man said:
    Lovely car, also amuses me that the column stalks and mirror switch are straight out of the Mk1 Focus!

    Edited by Triumph Man on Monday 8th January 16:18
    a brute of a car and dare I say, reasonably priced these days

  • Leggy 09 Jan 2018

    Was hoping you might have had a piece on the blue one that rocked up at Denbies Sunday Service. Would be interesting to hear the owners story.
    Not being sexist, but it was refreshing to see a Couple of ladies arriving in style, instead of the usual bobble hatted bunch that we are!

  • GranCab 09 Jan 2018

    Damn ... Cockitt is still allowed to submit "articles" ......

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