Ford GT40, Ford GT70 and Ford GT: Fifty years of a legendary nameWe all know about the Ford GT40 -- it's a legend in its own lifetime -- but why did it come to be? And what about its successors, the GT70 and GT? We took a look at the cars that ensured Ford was up there with the very best.
There are only other 3 serious Ford's dubbed GT and today we've got all 3 of them. This is the Ford GT. It's Ford's last proper go at a supercar and it's rather lovely all told, but to understand it in GT and where the GT lineage comes from, you need to look back to the early 60's to one of the biggest use in automotive history. The story goes that Enzo Ferrari wants to sell his company and that Ford was interested in buying. As such Ford spent a lot of money auditing the company to see whether it would be a worthwhile purchase. Now it should've gone like this. Ford had run the road car division it will be called Ford Ferrari whereas Enzo himself would manage the motor sport team, Ferrari Ford, but when it came time to sign the contract Enzo learned that Ford wouldn't want him to enter the Indy 500 as it already had cars in the field and didn't' want competition from within its own ranks. Angered, Enzo tore up the contract. Upon hearing the news, Henry Ford II said reportedly all right. We're gonna beat his ass. We're gonna race him and the GT Project was born. Many partners were sought for the project with Eric Broadley the owner and chief designer of race legends Lola getting the gig. Ford got smart with its hires as well as the low room involvement that hide a former Aston Martin team boss and send the only guy in the company with any knowledge of mid-engine cars, Roy Lunn, who'd help develop the mid-engine Mustang prototype to the U.K. and they were all gonna work at Ford's new Advanced Vehicles department. The first ever Ford GT, GT 101, was unveiled on the 1st of April 1964. Now the 40 in its eventual name comes from how tall the car is from the ground. It's only 40 inches. Initially the story goes, it was a nickname but it soon made the mainstream. It made its race debut in May that year at the Nurburgring 1000 kilometers and it wasn't the race sensation you'd expect it to be. The car showed promise but was ultimately scuffered by reliability issues. The GT Project was handed over to the legendary Carroll Shelby, the man who put V8 in AC Cobras and tuned Mustangs to the brink of madness later in the season. 1965 saw a Shelby-prepped car win the Daytona 2000 but the rest of the season was pretty poor. 1966 though was the GT 40's year to shine. '66 would see its first Le Mans win, a race it would go on to win 4 years on the track largely unmodified. In 1969 it was even beating the likes of the Porsche 908 but by 1970 race tech had moved on and the once-great GT40 was obsolete. The GT40 was and still is absolutely stunning to look at. Its curves, its lines, its bulges, its vent, it just makes it unbelievably gorgeous to be in its presence. Its surprisingly small stature twin with its incredible engineering and giant V8, anything from a 4.2 in its original incarnation to a 7-liter in the Shelby cars, it captured people's hearts. Only 107 of them were made and each of them weighed about 908 kilos, so it was pretty featherweight. There were various versions of the GT40 made for different series near as and that kind of thing but there's one that's really interesting. It's the Mark III and it was only made for road use. Only 7 were ever completed and that's the one we've got here. You can have one of these in either hand drive and the rear has been embiggened for more luggage space, but when people were looking to buy a road-going GT40 they tended to go with a modified Mark I rather than the more sanitized Mark III. You see this had softer springs and its 4.7-liter V8 was detuned to 335 brake horsepower. This is just incredible. You don't so much drive it as sort of lie down in it. The throttle response is absolutely astounding and as you can probably hear the noise is amazing. The pedal box is miniscule. So if you do have big feet wear tiny shoes or maybe think about sanding off some of your feet. The throttle travel is exceptionally long. You can tickle it a little bit but you can really put your foot down and you can sink it mostly into the nose which is unusual. The steering however is very, very, very, very, very, very heavy like unbelievably so. This makes maneuvering slowly a little bit of a chore but to be honest I don't really care about that because you're driving a GT40. You're driving a piece of racing history and the rarity of this car does make me a touch nervous. The gearbox is nice and easy. It's a very, very tiny lever but it's very intuitive. It's a dogleg because it's designed for racing and what not. It's still incredibly easy to drive. The clutch is a touch heavy, but when you consider this car is knocking on 50, an idiot like me can drive it no problem at all. That's kind of a testament to the engineering if anything. I think the wonderful thing about this car is that when you combine its legendary status with just how easy it is to drive, even for an idiot like me with that noise, good God, just-- this is one of those other worldly once-in-a-lifetime feelings. You know that this thing was designed as a racing car but this one's been kind of sanitized. I'm not being thrown around the cabin as I would be in a proper racing car. Shows the thing what the racetrack ones are like. I'm a very, very luck boy today. This is a legend. I'm driving a slice of history. It will probably never be repeated. This is Ford. This noise is Henry Ford II telling Enzo Ferrari exactly where to shove his torn-up contract. And I think it's up his ass. And genuinely gutted, I'm gonna have to turn the car off and get out of it now. It's that special. It feels that good. And I hate it a little bit for that. The GT name wasn't going to die when the GT40 did. It was set to come back 3 more times, though its next couple of applications weren't quite as legendary as the 40. The GT70 is largely unknown. It doesn't have any historic wins to its name. It doesn't have an iconic design and people don't really wax lyrical about it and that's for 2 reasons. The first, it was really designed for rally and didn't quite make it and the second when it was nearly impossible to put it on the road. First conceived on route back from the Monte Carlo rally where Ford's offerings weren't doing all that well. Ford's Escort rally cars were getting trashed on the world's rally stages by rear-engine, rear-wheel drive cars and Ford needed to act quickly to get itself back on the podium. Thanks to the announcement of Ford's new Advanced Vehicle operations or AVO in Essex, a facility designed for high-performance, low-volume cars, the GT70 would not only be its flagship but it'll also have a home. Development of the new car had 2 goals. The first was to make a competition-winning car. The second was to make it as cost-effective as possible. Parts had to be off the shelf to keep costs down. The car's designer Len Bailey had worked on the GT40, was given access to a local dealership, so if you needed to switch for example he didn't have to design one from scratch. He could simply go and get one. Its chassis was simple. Its interior rally-derived and its engine was a 2.6-liter V6 as with the Capri. Ford's top brass were asked for the cash to build 500 cars at AVO. It would be a flagship car, a boost for Ford's performance engineering cred and a luxury sports car from a brand not so often associated with them, but trouble was on the horizon. The initial plan was to build 500 for road use which should've been simple enough, but after showing the GT70 to Ford top brass, Ford USA sent over a document detailing 100 changes that were need to be made for it to reach production. Now couple that with a change in rally regulations, trouble in the Middle East and one more very important thing, and the GT70's card was mocked. The other thing was the car it was supposed to replace, the Escort. The Ford Escort Mark II an RS1600 trim was more than capable of crushing pretty much anything on a rally stage, and while the GT70 showed promise it wasn't really delivering the results they needed. So in 1973 this very car was back to the posts and it reappeared in 2002 missing an engine and a gearbox, and the guys at Ford Heritage replaced the 2.6-liter Capri engine with a 2-liter Cosworth YB and it goes pretty well. I won't be lying if I said that it was easy to drive. First gear is tricky and starting it without stalling it a few times is now impossible but once you get it out to speed it goes really rather nicely. The interior being rally-derived is really, really tight and I'm not the tour list of people that's quite an alarming smell of fuel and as you can probably tell because I'm shouting it's very, very noisy. The throttle response is pretty spectacular so once you are going, it's pretty awesome. The gear change is pretty cool, very short throw which makes it almost easy to drive almost. So the GT40 and GT70 each had their own forms of motor sport but motor sport isn't where the GT story ends. In 1995, the GT90 concept appeared. It was supposed to be the ultimate performance car with 720 brake horsepower, a 235-mile-an-hour top speed and a naught to 60 time of just 3.1 seconds. Sadly it never made it past the concept stage. Its 4 turbos were never actually connected to its engine. Currently it won't do anything more than 30 miles an hour. In 2002, Ford unveiled the GT40 concept at the Detroit Motor Show. Then in 2003 it showed off the production version of the GT supercar as part of its centenary celebration. It went down really rather well. 4-1/2 thousand cars were due to be built. Each one was powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 with 550 brake horsepower and 500-pound-foot torque. Its top speed was pegged at 205 miles an hour and 0 to 62 happened in just 3-1/2 seconds. And it is absolutely awesome. This thing is unbelievable. It's so easy to drive, incredibly fast. Right now we're doing 90 miles an hour and it took no time at all. The pace this thing throws out is just stunning, all that engine, all that power. All of it just throws you gotta run when it pins you into the back of your seat. God knows how people can drive these within the speed limit. I honestly don't get how they can. Then you have the fact that the steering is really, really light which makes it very easy to hurl around, but you still know exactly what the front wheels are doing. It's not light in a vague way. Throw in the gearbox again nice and easy. The change is so slick, so simple, so easy. It's the kind of car you can give to an absolute novice. I mean any way you can give it to your mom and she'll be able to drive it with no problems at all. Now it doesn't have traction control which could cause a few people a few issues, but because of the way it handles its limit is pretty difficult to find. If you do it'll give you a little bit of a warning but when you lose it I'm told you lose it in a big way. Then the interior is just lovely. It's this sort of future retro style thing. Again it mirrors the GT40 which its entire design apes. It's got these stunning doors. It's got the look of the GT40 that everyone really, really, really, really wants. It's got that crushing power that you'd expect from a super car especially one that's got GT in the name. It's just cool, but it's cool that anyone can get into. It's been made for normal-sized people. I have difficulty getting into the GT40. I can't quite spread my legs under the wheel but this you just step in. Everything about this is designed to make it as accessible as possible for everyone, and it does that with absolute plum. What cars these GT's are? Just wow. However, the world was on the brink of an economic recession and only 4,038 that Ford half thousand production run was completed. The car itself was and still is universally loved. It even make the front cover of Sony and Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 4. The GT's element story is pretty cool. It was developed by former GT40 boss and Ford modifier extraordinaire Carroll Shelby and during said development phase it was known quite adorably as Petunia. Now the engineering in here is also absolutely astounding. It uses super formed plastics. It has single-piece door panel. Then you have a catalyst fuel filler system which I must add is now standard on Fords all over the world. Now you may be asking why this isn't called the GT40 and there's 3 reasons for that. The first and probably the most important is that it's 43 inches off the ground and GT43, doesn't ring any roll off the tongue spectacularly well. The second is it doesn't really share anything mechanically with the GT40. Yes, it's borrowed its look to some extent and it has a mid-engine layout, but that's just how super cars work. Third and finally there's a company called Safir GT40 Spares which makes bits for GT40s which owns the rights to the GT40 name. Now rumor has it that Ford licensed the name for the concept version in 2002, but the deal to get it on the production car fell through. So there you have it, the Ford GT cars from 1963 to today all running, all working and all had a purpose, the slap in the face, the rally legend, and the poster car. What we have here is 5 decades of Ford's development. These aren't just 3 stories but a reflection of Ford itself because when Ford needs to get something done it doesn't fight through endless bureaucracy, just gets its head down and does it. You have a racing legend, a rally car that show promise, and a super car that not only still makes grown men go wobbly at the knees but when it was launched it caused the super car aristocracy a little bit of trouble. Currently there aren't any more GT cars on the horizon, but when they do come and they will they'll certainly be special.