The Ford GT40-Based Road Car That Could Have Been


Good racing movies do not occur fairly often, and infrequently do they obtain as much critical acclaim as 2019’s Ford v Ferrari. Propelled by the real-life drama behind Ford’s historic 1-2-Three sweep on the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, the film brings the adrenaline and hazard of racing within the 1960s to life, rigorously weaving that motion right into a character-driven origin story of the Blue Oval’s most iconic race automotive: the Ford GT40. Although the movie will get a very good majority of the info straight, it presents the viewer with a condensed model of Ford’s highway to victory at Le Mans. And even at a bladder-busting two and a half hours, there simply wasn’t time to say the GT40-based highway automotive Ford was contemplating from the outset of this system. Wait, a GT40-based highway automotive?

That is precisely what we requested ourselves whereas flipping via the digital pages of the GT Program e-book graciously supplied by Ford archivist Ted Ryan. The GT Program e-book was a confidential doc that circulated internally at Ford and outlined the automaker’s plans to beat Scuderia Ferrari at Le Mans. The doc was the results of a nine-day research inside the design and analysis departments and was meant to “function a foundation for dialogue within the idea phases” of the GT program. One key piece of proof that exhibits simply how critical Henry Ford II was about his feud with Enzo Ferrari is the date stamped on the report: June 12, 1963, simply 21 days after negotiations to purchase Ferrari fell via.

However the GT Program e-book does not simply element the proposed Le Mans race automotive. It additionally pitches the concept of a highway automotive based mostly on the identical chassis and mid-engine mechanicals of the Ford GT (which might later be renamed GT40 for its 40-inch total top). As a result of “its fundamental surroundings is that of a highway car,” the roadgoing mannequin was designed with sure compromises to make it extra accommodating off the observe. First off, it was six inches taller, a distinction appropriately illustrated by the driving force’s oh-so-1960s hat. It was additionally roughly 10 inches longer and 326 kilos heavier, although nonetheless a featherweight at slightly below 2,000 kilos. A cutaway sketch additional reveals a spare tire within the frunk and a futuristic bubble cover. Moreover, it could have acquired a extra road-friendly suspension, higher noise insulation, a 289-cubic-inch V-Eight out of the Fairlane, and a singular physique.

If that physique appears acquainted, that is as a result of it is principally the 1962 Ford Mustang I concept with a roof. You see, the very first car to bear the Mustang title was an ultra-sleek, topless, mid-engine present automotive. Lee Iacocca and his staff, often called the Fairlane Group, ultimately settled on a extra economical front-engine structure for the Mustang, however apparently Ford nonetheless held out hope for a mid-engine sports activities automotive. The Mustang I’s shark nostril entrance finish with pop-up headlights is maintained within the sketches of the GT highway automotive, which the doc refers to solely as “Sports activities Automobile Mission.”

Although there have been greater than 100 roadgoing GT40s constructed to fulfill homologation necessities, together with the extremely rare road-optimized MkIII, the Sports activities Automobile Mission offered within the preliminary proposal by no means got here to fruition. However the race automotive, in fact, did. The sketches of the GT that accompany the Sports activities Automobile Mission within the GT Program e-book bear a obscure resemblance to the automotive that may ultimately race at Le Mans, and that look was additional refined as soon as it was rendered in clay. Theses images of the primary clay mannequin of the GT are dated June 19, 1963, and you can begin to see much more of the GT40 we all know as we speak in it (together with just a little little bit of Ferrari Testarossa with these facet strakes).

So there you will have it. Ford initially needed to construct a road-car yin to its race-car yang. It is a enjoyable nugget of information that may enrich your perspective the subsequent time you watch Ford v Ferrari.

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