A muscle car at Le Mans?
The very fact that Ford made the strategic decision to return to endurance racing after a decades-long absence should be celebrated, all the more because it did so with the reborn GT. However, originally it wasn’t the GT slated for the big racing return, but rather the Mustang. According to Automotive News, not long before Ford secretly began the new GT project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford’s historic Le Mans win over Ferrari, company officials "conducted studies to develop a Mustang to compete in the race."
Ford’s global head of product development, Raj Nair, stated that the Mustang endurance racer program was codenamed "Project Silver," after the Lone Ranger’s horse. So why didn’t Project Silver materialize? A few reasons, specifically its burgeoning price tag, estimated at $250,000, if not more, per car in modifications. There were also aerodynamic concerns; the Mustang simply isn’t slippery enough, and there wasn’t any way around that. Lastly, and perhaps this is the most vital reason, the respective heritage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Mustang didn’t mix. The Mustang is a muscle car, and muscle cars aren’t endurance racers. Never have been, at least from Ford.
“It was all good learning, but it turns out not to be the right fit. Ultimately, Mustang does not need Le Mans to be a global car,” Nair stated. He added that he felt as if the company was “underestimating the important of the 50th anniversary” of when Henry Ford II hired Carroll Shelby to exact revenge on Enzo Ferrari for backing out, at the last minute, a deal that would’ve seen Ford purchase Ferrari. It wasn’t until the Mustang was ultimately rejected for Le Mans when Nair began to lead a team of just 12 people in late 2013 to research, design and built what became the 2017 Ford GT.