When rumors started circulating about the new Ford GT, I, like many other people, had pegged Ford to drop in the company’s new flat plane crank (FPL) V8 from the Shelby GT350R. It just made sense.
Ford had just spent millions of dollars on research and development for the new FPL engine, so how else would the company recoup their losses? It had to go into something else besides the GT350 twins, because it’s not like those are going to head out the doors like gangbusters, right?
But when the time came to unveil it, Ford literally stunned the world with a near production-ready supercar. One that was powered by Ford’s EcoBoost V6, no less. It just didn’t make sense to me that Ford put this engine into the brand’s halo car. Of course, Ford’s success in the IMSA series can’t be overlooked, and the smaller EcoBoost ST family is doing quite well.
Nevertheless, the EcoBoost nameplate still doesn’t have the brand cache that Ford’s V8s do. Nor the history. It seemed like Ford was just using this EcoBoost powered Ford GT as a way to sell Focuses or Fiestas. It seemed misguided, at best.
While the thought of this car bugged me for quite some time, the car in person is absolutely stunning. Furthermore, after talking with the lead designer at the Chicago Auto Show, the engineering behind the car is frankly ridiculous. But that motor just still didn’t feel like the right choice.
Then it hit me like 420 lb-ft of torque to the chest. I realized how wrong my assumptions and misconceptions of what this car is and why that EcoBoost engine is the perfect powertrain. And it was all because of an aluminum truck.
Now some of you may think you see where I’m going with this, and I’ll tell you— you may be right. On the other hand, you’re probably wrong. It wasn’t a revelation after I was done driving the new aluminum F-150 with the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost that it all made sense. The real catalyst for me coming around was rather a combination of a memory and epiphany.
In our interview, the designer said something that stuck in the back of my head: this new Ford GT wasn’t an homage to the original GT40, much like the earlier version was. It also wasn’t really the original’s spiritual successor. This car was a brand spankin’ new Ford GT. He said that this car is what they thought the original would have been if it were created now.
Follow? This new Ford GT. This brilliant piece of automotive art and engineering is what the new Ford designer think the original designers and hot rodders would have built if they had been tasked to build the original today. Think about that for a second. Shelby and Ford standing around the table with Harley Copp trying to figure out the best way to beat Ferrari, here and now in 2015.
They’d have access to carbon fiber technology, dual clutch transmissions, carbon brakes, and yes, even turbochargers. Think about the racing lineage and how that defined the original car— how endurance racing made this car the icon that it is today. How would those same designers build this car once again? By sticking another truck motor into it, that’s how. But with a twist.
When Ford and Copp handed over the GT program to Carroll Shelby, it was pretty much a Hail Mary pass. For two years, Copp and Ford struggled to bring their racing GT program up to par with the Italian’s from Modena.
And for those two years, they saw no success. It was a devastating defeat, one that salted the wound for Ford after the entire Ferrari debacle in ’63. Ford knew it really didn’t matter to hand over the winless race program to an unproven Shelby. So what did Shelby do? Yup, he stuck a truck motor into it. It made loads of horsepower, and absolutely dominated the track for four consecutive years.
Fast forward to today, where modern endurance racing isn’t just about horsepower or lightweight technology. To be successful in any endurance race, you have to not only be quick, but also be consistent and able to survive hours on the track. Races are sometimes won in the pits.
So while the engine is still out of a truck, thus keeping with tradition and the spiritual DNA of the original Ford GT, it’s an elevated truck motor. It not only has the potential for more horsepower than those original designers could have ever hoped for, but it benefits from all the modern fuel saving technologies that have come along in the last 50 years.
This motor, this car, this entire project makes perfect sense now. Not only can Ford firmly state that this new supercar stays true to the original designs and DNA that made the GT40 great, but look forward to the future of all supercars. Much like the original did all those years ago.
The Ford GT is definitely something special, and has the power to inflate egos, start arguments, and definitely piss off Ferrari’s Tifosi. But that original car set about a trend that would later dominate the world’s supercars. It would define a generation of race fans, and it would inspire bedroom artwork the world over. It was something humble, but fiercely competitive at the same time, and that’s what this new Ford GT is in the end. A new beginning— for both it and its truck motor.