Henry Ford tried to buy Ferrari in the 1960s because he wanted to win at Le Mans; came close to doing a deal but Enzo backed out; Ford was so furious he went on a mission to crush Maranello with his own car. And succeeded. And, with that oh-so-predictable history lesson out the way, let’s crack on…
Although actually the oft-cited motorsport theme is relevant, even with the latest in the line of Ford GTs. The car you see here only came about through another byzantine Le Mans programme. That kicked off with the intention of creating a Ford Mustang to take on the usual onslaught of GT-spec Porsches, Vettes, Astons and, of course, Ferraris. The idea was a good one: mark the 50th anniversary of Ford’s Le Mans victory while, at the same time, promoting the S550 Mustang.
However - surprise, surprise - by the time the car had been developed far enough to make it competitive, it didn’t really look like a Mustang anymore. That’s when the idea of an all-out bespoke GT came into being. This was so secretive that (so the rumour goes) only twelve people at Ford knew about it until the car was eventually unveiled at the North American Auto Show in 2015. Just like the original GT40 (and unlike the 2006 GT), the new Ford GT would be a racer first, and a road car second.
Some might have bemoaned its lack of eight cylinders, but this was, in part, because of the outright focus on winning. Yes, there was a cost saving involved in using the F150 Raptor’s 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6, but a V8 and even a V12 had been considered. In the end, it was the compactness of the V6 that made it the confirmed choice, because this would help packaging and the car’s aerodynamics.
And it’s that element that created the GT’s unique and distinctive look. Because the engine was so neat, it meant the bodywork around it could be shrink-wrapped to create the channels within the rear wings, which direct air to the rear spoiler. It wasn’t just the engine that made this possible, either. The GT used proper, motorsport-grade pushrod suspension. This placed the springs and dampers inboard, allowing the aerodynamicists more freedom to do their thing. For the road car, that included active aero with a moveable rear wing, although the racing cars used a much larger, fixed rear wing. The competition cars also had passive suspension instead of the road car’s active set-up.
Like all the best fairy tales, this one had a happy ending good enough to make Walt Disney sign on the dotted line. In 2016, 50 years after Ford’s original victory at Le Mans, its latest GT finished first at La Sarthe in the LM GTE-Pro class. That was car #68, run by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais. And which team came second? Funnily enough, Ferrari.
I was lucky enough to drive the Ford GT in 2017, and if you don’t believe that this car was a racing car first and a road car second, Iet me try to convince you. For a start, it arrived in a truck with a full support team - and I was only driving it on the road. Getting into the carbon tub, with its wide sills, is all very race car, too, as is the driving position: a fixed seat and adjustable steering wheel and pedals. Yet it’s the car’s lack of road manners that leaves no doubt about its origins.
Take the engine. Jesus, it’s loud, and not in a computer-generated way. No, what you hear is all real and pure anger. The V6 hollers away gutturally just inches from your ears and is truly harsh and mechanical. On the throttle it’s all induction roar, made 3D-immersive by the vibration transmitted straight to your spine through the hard seat as each explosion tries, seemingly, to rip a hole in a cylinder wall. Come off the throttle and you get whirlwind of whooshes from the wastegates, venting the big turbos' seismic boost pressure out to the atmosphere. It's not all mouth and no trousers, either. The V6 has quite a bit of lag below 2,500rpm, but once that’s timed out like the fuse on an incendiary, and the performance that follows is, well, explosive.
The chassis, too, is unforgiving, in a way that makes it way more hardcore than any other supercar I’ve driven. There seems to have been no attempt to soundproof it, so the brittle carbon becomes like an echo chamber that magnifies sound. Not only from the V6, but from every stone that pings into a wheel arche and every bump that the suspension deals with. And yet, the ride itself is one thing that isn’t harsh. In the road-going mode, with the suspension in at its normal ride height rather than the ‘slammed’ track setting, it’s compliant. Proof that this wasn't just a successful marketing exercise but a successful engineering one as well.
All of this makes it sad that this example has covered just 280 miles since it was made. There is something of an acquired taste about the Ford GT, no doubt about that. It’s certainly not the most usable supercar, perhaps not the prettiest, either - but it is one of the most dramatic. It was a car made to be driven, and more on track than on the road. I hope the next owner of this one will do just that, and enjoy a superb car how it was intended to be enjoyed. Well done, Ford.
SPECIFICATION | FORD GT
Engine: 3,496cc, V6, twin turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 660 @ 6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553 @ 5,900rpm
Recorded mileage: 280
Year registered: 2020
Price new: £420,000
Yours for: £699,975
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