GT40 Race Replica Roadster to go into production
By Mike Hanlon
February 18, 2002
On February 19, 2002, Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford delivered the news that car enthusiasts around the world had been waiting for: Ford will build the GT40 to help celebrate its 100th anniversary. The production announcement came on the heels of the 2002 North American International Auto Show debut of the GT40 concept car less than 45 days prior, and public response had been so overwhelmingly positive that the announcement was, if anything, overdue! The GT40 concept and production car was inspired by arguably one of the most recognized and loved cars in automotive history. The remarkable history of the GT40 is detailed elsewhere on theis web site. GT40, the modern version of the historic, two-door supercar, will help breathe new excitement into the Ford brand and support Ford Motor Company's promise of 20 new or freshened products each year.
GT40 joins Thunderbird, Mustang and the Forty-Nine concept as part of Ford's "Living Legends" lineup. Production capacity, vehicle specifications, performance numbers and pricing for the new GT40 will be revealed at a later date.
"Our revitalization plan is centered on products," said Ford. "The company that builds and delivers the best cars and trucks wins, and we're going to win. I can't think of a better symbol of that winning attitude than GT40." In the mid-1960s, the low-slung, mid-engine GT40 was introduced to battle the world's best in endurance racing. Just over 100 of these historic cars were built, placing Ford in prestigious winner's circles worldwide, most notably, winning the Le Mans (France) 24-hour race in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.
The new GT40, created by Ford's "Living Legends" studio, is more than 18 inches longer and stands nearly four inches taller than the original. Yet, despite being physically larger, it is unmistakably a GT40, an automotive statement of passion, speed and performance. The new high-performance concept is inspired by the vehicle that roared into the hearts of car enthusiasts everywhere during the 1960s.
The GT40 concept casts the familiar, sleek silhouette of its namesake, yet every dimension, every curve and every line on the car is a unique reinterpretation of the original. The GT40 features a long front overhang reminiscent of 1960s-era racecars. But its sweeping cowl, subtle accent lines and fiber-optic headlamps strike a distinctly contemporary pose. The front fenders curve over 18-inch wheels and Goodyear white-lettered tires. In the tradition of championship racers, the doors cut into the roof.
Prominent on the leading edge of the rear quarter panel are functional cooling scoops that channel fresh air to the engine. The rear wheel wells, filled with 19-inch Goodyear tires, define the rear of the car, while the accent line from the front cowl rejoins and finishes the car's profile at the integrated "ducktail" spoiler. The interior design incorporates the novel "ventilated seats" and instrument layout of the original car, with straightforward analog gauges and large tachometer.
Modern versions of the original car's toggle switches operate key systems. "Like its namesake, the GT40 concept is not over-wrought with advanced technologies," Mays says. "While it represents the best of Ford design, engineering and expertise, it is a no-frills machine. You won't find voice-activated telematics here - not even power windows - just pure, refined performance."Looking in through the backlight, one finds the essence of the sports car in the MOD 5.4-liter V-8 engine and its complex array of polished stainless-steel header pipes, braided stainless steel fuel lines with anodized aluminum fittings and supercharger with intercooler."The GT40 concept should do three things: go fast, handle exceptionally and look great," says Chris Theodore, Ford's vice president of North America Product Development. "To be true to its Ford heritage, we had to create a supercar that would be uniquely a Ford. Anyone can do technology showpieces, high-displacement engines and modernistic designs, but there's much more to a GT40. There's heritage and heart. We think this car remains true to the spirit of its predecessors."ChassisPowertrainThe powerplant is an all-American V-8 from Ford's modular engine family. The MOD 5.4-liter V-8 in the GT40 concept features aluminum four-valve heads, forged crankshaft, H-beam forged rods and aluminum pistons fed by a supercharger, all combining to make more than 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. These figures match or exceed those of the most powerful period GT40, a car that could top 200 mph on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. Because of the supercharger and high-revving, free-breathing valvetrain, the new car produces this astounding power from an efficient 5.4-liter V-8 engine. The power is put to the road through an RBT six-speed manual transmission. Melding past and future The GT40 took the Le Mans competition and the world by storm with its racing prowess in the late 1960s. But perhaps the most surprising thing about the original GT40 racecars was their striking styling.Surprising because the cars were engineered to do one thing: win Le Mans. That they did, and in uniquely American style. The mechanicals came first, aerodynamics and air-management came second, and the design followed. But the cars struck a dynamic pose with curves and scoops and wheel wells wrapped around the mechanicals.When the Living Legends Studio began work on the GT40 concept, virtually every model was examined. But, in the end, the design that resonated with designers was the Mark II for its simultaneous statements of two seemingly diametrically opposed concepts - elegance and power.GT40 Performance Hardware A supercharged MOD 5.4-liter V-8 engine, an aluminum spaceframe and a competition-tuned suspension provide the performance credentials of Ford's GT40 concept. More than a styling exercise, the mechanical execution of the GT40 concept is as much a part of the car's essence as is its design. And, while much of the hardware has been custom-fabricated for the show car, one can only imagine how easily it could be brought into production, either in GT40 form or on another Ford Living Legend.To ensure that the vehicle's mechanicals met with the expectations that would be required of a vehicle bearing the GT40 name, Ford turned to Special Vehicle Team Engineering. SVT engineering chief John Coletti and vehicle engineering manager Fred Goodnow led the project from its inception.The Performance VisionFord SVT Engineering took its lead from Ford North America Product Development Vice President Chris Theodore's vision of three essential GT40 attributes - that it go fast, handle exceptionally and look great. The GT40 concept is intended to be a world-class road-going car, with a refined interpretation of American performance. As the original GT40 proved, a well-engineered but relatively uncomplicated vehicle could, and still can, compete with the best vehicles in the world by providing a more reliable and entertaining driving experience. To that end, some advanced performance technologies were deliberately left off the GT40, with the primary emphasis on the traits that best capture the spirit of the Le Mans champion.Supercharged MOD 5.4L V-8More than three decades ago, when the European competition was busy building complicated, high-strung V-12s, Ford proved that a simpler, more traditional V-8 approach could provide competitive power, a tremendous torque advantage, and the reliability needed for endurance racing.The all-aluminum MOD V-8 has been fitted with high-flow, four-valve cylinder heads and dual overhead camshafts. To bear the stresses necessary to produce 500 horsepower, Coletti used a forged steel crankshaft, shot-peened H-beam connecting rods from Manley, and forged aluminum pistons from Karl Schmidt Unisia. The engine uses a modified Roots-type supercharger from Eaton with an intercooled intake.Behind the 9-inch heavy-duty McLeod clutch, the SVT team installed a special transaxle to accommodate the mid-engine layout. Sourced from RBT, the close-ratio six-speed uses internal components from transmission manufacturer ZF. It is fully synchronized and features an integral limited-slip differential.All-new Aluminum ChassisRather than modifying an existing platform for the GT40 concept, SVT chassis engineers created an all-new aluminum spaceframe. Constructed of extruded sections and aluminum panels, the spaceframe provides a rigid foundation for the engine and driveline while permitting the use of the specially fabricated composite body panels. The spaceframe consists of a central cabin section, a front suspension sub-section, and a rear powertrain-chassis cradle, bolted together for rigidity.While the original GT40s owed their chassis stiffness to a pair of beefy sills that doubled as fuel reservoirs, the new concept relies on a single center tunnel for its backbone. While greatly improving entry and exit, it has the added benefit of providing a structurally secure location for the fuel supply.The concept's suspension has been fabricated almost entirely from scratch. The layout, front and rear, uses unequal-length control arms and a push-rod/bell-crank system to interface with the horizontally mounted spring-damper units. Mounting the spring-damper units horizontally allowed the designers to achieve the characteristic low-slung GT40 profile.At the wheels, engineers chose Alcon 6-piston monoblock calipers and dinner-plate-sized cross-drilled discs for excellent stopping power from high speeds. As mentioned, the custom-fabricated wheels themselves measure an impressive 18 inches at the front and 19 inches at the rear and are wrapped by substantial Goodyear raised-white-letter tires. In an age when concept-car tires have been likened to giant black rubber bands, the GT40 concept is proud to have a relatively tall 45-series sidewall - a throwback to the original car."We could build a 200-mph supercar and fill it with a range of cutting-edge technologies, but it wouldn't be Ford GT40," says Coletti. "But rest assured: If this car meets an Italian exotic on a winding road or finds itself at a stoplight next to an American muscle car, it will have no trouble defending its honor."Designing a Legend"Designing a modern interpretation of a classic is more difficult than designing from a clean sheet of paper," says J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president of Design. "Much like designing a reissue of a TAG Heuer Monaco watch, we've had to strike a delicate balance in creating a slightly updated GT40 that features modern technology."When Ford designers began to conceptualize the GT40 concept, they knew they could go one of two ways. They could do a completely revolutionary design that drew on cues of the past, but interpreted them in a modern surface language. Or they could do a more honest-to-the-original, literal interpretation with modern dimensions. Both were modeled. The latter won."We felt it was important to build upon the great heritage of this nameplate," says Doug Gaffka, director of Ford's Living Legends Studio. "It would have been much easier to pull off a radical design because lines and proportions are not as pre-defined. But the bottom line is, if you're doing a GT40, it had better look like a GT40.""The priorities were all inverted with that design," says Mays. "We had to start over from scratch to bring out the essence of GT40. The key was to accept that a GT40 should be a GT40 and that we should reject the idea of modernity for modernity's sake."A new approach to a classicPardo's team began by borrowing a vintage car and rolling it into the studio for inspiration. GT40 number 1030, a sky blue Mark I owned by a collector in Massachusetts, became a fixture in the studio. The owner took Pardo and team on hot-laps at Ford's Dearborn Proving Grounds, across the street from the studio, to give them the full GT40 experience. It was around this time that Pardo began his ritual of screening the 1966 film "Grand Prix" and other period car racing films in his office each day. The team took a "deep dive" into the culture of the period filling the studio with images they felt reflected the "mod" theme of the era."Freeing ourselves of the fear of creating a car that looked too much like the original was a liberating experience for the team," says Pardo. "But staying true to the original themes in a clean, modern design made this the most difficult project I've ever been involved with."ExteriorA key to moving the design forward was coming to grips with breaking one of the tenets of modern design - the short overhang. Once the power of the design was put back into the nose of the car, other constraining design paradigms began to fall. The effect was the creation of a '60s racecar theme with a modern attitude delivered through precision lines and materials. "We call it a fist-in-a-velvet-glove effect," says Pardo.The geometric reorganization of the prominent GT40 headlamps adds the modern effect. The headlamps symbolize the car's heritage as a 24-hour endurance runner, but are key in creating the car's contemporary image through the use of a combination of fiber optics and HID projection beams.At 182 inches long, 77 inches wide, and 44 inches tall, the GT40 concept makes an aggressive visual statement from every angle. The original car received the numeric part of its name from its actual overall height. Achieving 40 inches for the concept was never desired. The GT40 concept was designed as a modern road car that would provide the presence of the racer and the comfort of a grand touring sportscar. Proportionally bigger than its predecessor in every dimension, the challenge was to increase the size without sacrificing the overall effect. The front cowl is a microcosm of the designer's challenges throughout the car. The cowl is an exercise in complex surface development that flows from the sweeping, bulging curves of the fenders to the deep-cut, angular cooling vents. As in the original, the cowl is front-hinged and opens to reveal a small storage area and a stadium view of the polished front suspension components. The wide windscreen stretches from front corner to front corner at the A-pillar base and tapers slightly toward the roof creating a wide, Mark I-style tumblehome. The windscreen is dramatically raked back from the leading edge to the roofline. The doors cut into the roof of the vehicle just as they did in the original, which was necessitated by the vintage car's outboard fuel cells and need for the drivers to step into the vehicle during the famed Le Mans running starts. The GT40 concept offers excellent ingress and egress with the wide-opening doors and two center-mounted fuel cells that allow the driver and passenger seat positions to be moved outward, closer to the sides and shallow sills. The two racing fuel cells, sourced from ITW, run longitudinally down the center tunnel and are filled by polished fuel caps at the base of the windshield. Along the sides, just behind the doors, are the vents and scoops that allow the mid-mounted engine to cool and breathe. Again, the vents and scoops are a study in design continuity. All the air collectors on the vehicle's perimeter are scooped, protruding out like jet fighter intakes. All the intakes on top surfaces, the front and rear cowls and C-pillar, are vented, diving down into the body. "There's a pure rhythm to the design from the headlamps to air intakes to the ducktail finish," says Pardo. "It's a holistic approach that creates a design around the functional components. Everything seems shrink-wrapped around the mechanicals."The two-piece rear canopy is hinged at the rear, as on the original. While most vehicles are designed to look great with all the access panels shut, the effect resulting from opening all the doors and cowls on a GT40 is part of the design in and of itself. Opening the rear canopy gives a visceral pleasure to the automotive enthusiast, exposing the heart and soul of the car, its MOD 5.4 V-8 engine. The 500-horsepower engine is fitted with twisted lengths of stainless steel header pipes, a polished aluminum supercharger, braided stainless steel fuel and cooling lines with anodized aluminum fittings, and capped with beefy valve covers that proudly read "Powered By Ford." The GT40 concept features one-of-a-kind six-spoke aluminum wheels with a modern interpretation of the original car's "knock-off" center caps that were a staple of racing in the era. The GT40 name is etched into the center of each of the chrome "knock-offs." The front tires are 18-inch Goodyears, while the rears are 19 inches to exaggerate the rear-end rake. The car is finished in a high-gloss medium sunset yellow lacquer and several coats of clear lacquer, polished to a deep gloss. The bold double black racing stripes reminiscent of those that were on the GT40s of the 1960s sweep over the hood, roof and tail. Two more stripes streak along the rocker panel and announce the famous GT40 name in what Pardo calls a "mod" font.InteriorThe new GT40 is a left-hand-drive two-seater featuring leather-wrapped, custom Recaro bucket seats. Aluminum grommets that allow occupants more ventilation are embedded into the stitching. For easy access, the adjustable handle to control seat position is located on the front of the seat, rather than below. A console runs the entire length of the GT40 passenger compartment. It houses the six-speed, short-throw shifter, CD player, and a leather-wrapped armrest to store "extras" that can't be allowed to clutter the cockpit.The interior color theme is two-toned: black and silver. The console, sill plate, handbrake lever, shifter, safety belt buckles, and pedals are aluminum. The comprehensive array of analog gauges on the instrument panel include: tachometer, speedometer, oil temperature, oil pressure, ammeter, water temperature and fore and aft tank fuel level. In addition, toggle switches to control vehicle systems line the instrument panel. All are strategically and intuitively placed, as they were in the original, so the driver doesn't have to take his eyes off the road for an extended period.Looking through the rearview mirror, the driver has a clear sightline of the road behind the car. The interior backlight is mounted horizontally to the bulkhead and serves as a sound barrier between the cockpit and the powertrain. From inside, peering through the bulkhead window, or from outside looking in through the backlight, one can admire the powertrain display, an integral part of the GT40 concept design. "There is no luggage space behind the seats and no room for a set of golf clubs anywhere in this car," says Mays. "It's a car designed for the driver who carves asphalt in his spare time."