Low Volume Retro: Ford GT

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As close to the original as possible, the GT is not only one of the greatest examples of retro, but is also a supremely good supercar.

This right here is how you do retro properly. The Ford GT was a modern reinterpretation of Ford's incredible Le Mans-winning race cars of the mid Sixties. The new car was surprisingly true to the original, and that is a very good thing indeed. Only a few thousand were made, but this time, it was Ford's decision to limit production. The car is amazing in its ability to walk that very fine line between staying true and being a fantastic supercar in its own right.

The story of the GT starts back in 1995. Ford had been looking to give some of their older nameplates a more "heritage" look, and the fourth generation Mustang had made a big step in that direction the year before. Unveiled as a spiritual successor to the GT40, rather than a retro version of the car, was the GT90, a slightly weird-looking concept based on the Jaguar XJ220. The engine was a quad-turbo V12, and Ford said that an actual production version of it would produce 720 horsepower.

This was all well and good, but as the retro car trend began to pick up speed, Ford decided to go in a different direction and make a car more closely related to the GT40, visually speaking. And so, in 2002, Ford debuted the GT40 Concept, which ended up being near identical to the production car that would go on sale in 2004 as a 2005 model. The press went nuts for it, and Ford had no problem selling them faster than they could build them. Interestingly, although the original car and the concept were both named GT40, the actual production car dropped the numbers and was simply called the GT.

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Ford would tell you that this is because the "40" in the name of the original came from its being 40 inches high, and this car was 44 inches high and GT44 sounds weird. This is a reasonable enough explanation, but the truth is actually that Ford simply no longer owns the rights to the name. It was sold some time ago to a continuation car maker in the UK, who in turn sold it to a company in Ohio which makes spare parts for continuation cars. This company, known as Safir GT40 Spares, leased the name to Ford for the concept, but when it came time for the production car, negotiations for Ford to buy the name fell apart.

Power for the car came from a 5.4-liter all-aluminum dry-sump V8 with a Lysholm twin-screw supercharger. Power was rated at 550 hpand 500 lb-ft of torque. It could hit 60mph in 3.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 212mph. This is proper supercar territory, but the GT sold for $139,995 (later bumped up to $149,995), which is considerably less than virtually every other car capable of these kinds of speeds. Of course, the interior isn't quite as nice as that of a Ferrari, and you still had a Ford badge on your car, but fast is fast. That said, unlike the original GT40, this wasn't a car intended for racing.

At least, it wasn't meant only for racing, and several still found their way to the track.What they didn't do was take on the same role that the originals had, which was to grab overall wins for Ford at Le Mans, thus sticking it to Ferrari. Prototype racers had changed a bit in the 40 years before the GT was reborn, and the car is now classified as a Grand Tourer. The car has competed in FIA GT1 and GT3 races, as well as the old Le Mans GT2 class.Top-tier endurance racing might have changed a bit over the years, but Ford did an excellent job in making the GT just what it was supposed to be, a Ford which can compete with Ferrari.

Ford didn't even need the whole retro image to sell the GT, but it was a double win when they were able to remind us of their racing heritage and sell us a new supercar at the same time. Ford would then use this momentum to bring out other modern interpretations of old cars, following the example of the GT instead of the Thunderbird. Their Shelby Cobra concept of 2004 might not have gone anywhere, but it's hard to say that the fifth generation of the Mustang didn't benefit from some of the same thinking which went into the GT.

Production would top out at just over 4,000 units. Just as it was with the original car, Ford was only really building it to make a point. They showed that they could build an awesome halo car, and they also proved (although I couldn't say for sure that this was their intent) that they had learned from their mistakes with the Thunderbird and were ready for a more serious approach to what they called "heritage" cars. Whatever the thinking, the GT was a great car, and the kind of retro we'd like to see more of.


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