Standing over Ford’s new supercar in the garage at their new Innovation and Technology Center in Silicon Valley, two things become blatantly obvious: one, it cannot be mistaken for anything but a Ford GT, and two, it’s miles ahead of the last-generation GT. Where the ‘05 GT only had ABS and an operatic V8 to boast, the ‘15 GT brings Ford’s supercar legacy into the 21st century with a new turbocharged engine, refined aerodynamics, and 10 million lines of code in 28 processors and sensors that generate 300MB of data every second. The GT has finally left analog behind and switched to digital. From the door handles and tire pressure sensors to the active aerodynamics, nearly everything on the car is recording data and adjusting accordingly. “The GT, for us, is the culmination of a decade’s worth of work”, explained Ford’s new CEO Mark Fields. “It is a showcase for a lot of the technologies we’ve been developing.”
The GT legacy extends back more than simply a decade of development. Back in the ’60s, Henry “The Duece” Ford II, threw a hefty amount of resources and capital at a racing program after a deal to buy Ferrari fell through. Ford wanted revenge against Enzo Ferrari, and he wanted to ensure that the GT40 would beat Ferrari at their own game, on a world stage, at Le Mans. It did, and won four times in a row from’66-’69. For its time, the Ford GT40 racer and its road-going counterpart stunned the world and pushed technology and innovation forward for race cars.
Then, in 2005, Ford revived the GT name with a retro-modern take on the original: a simple yet sexy design, massive power from a titanic V8 mounted midship and zero creature comforts. It was nearly identical to its forefather and it reminded the world of America’s capabilities in brute power. It was a resounding success and one which is still appreciating in value, despite its lack of innovation. Fairly common features for supercars like traction control, direct injection, drive mode control and adjustable suspension were nowhere to be found on the ‘05 iteration. The Great American V8 in the back wasn’t even designed for GT — it was sourced from the Ford Lightning pickup. Ford’s 2005 ode to the original wore the GT badge well, but it was only in body, not in spirit.
Nobody involved with “Project Phoenix” (the name given to it by the few in the know), whether designer or technician, was even allowed to talk to significant others about the work being done.
10 years later, at the Detroit Auto Show this past January, Ford unveiled a new GT. No one saw it coming. Typically, in the weeks leading up to a big reveal, teaser videos, spy shots, or leaked images flood the internet, leaving nothing to the imagination by the time the CEO pulls back the silk cloth on the car. The new GT, though, was kept a complete secret — even from the majority of Ford employees. Outside of a small group of people, most didn’t know the car was on the drawing board, let alone built, functional and planned for center stage in Detroit.