Written by Eric Becker
In 1966 Ford swept all before them and claimed the top three spots at Le Mans; the oft-heard story has reverberated around the racing community for decades and most know the gist. Henry Ford II tries to buy Ferrari, Ferrari backs out of the deal at the last minute, Ford tasks a team of hot-rodders led by a famous Texas chicken farmer to build a car of their own. Ford then heads to France and beats Ferrari four times over in ’66,’67,’68 and ’69. Ferrari would never again take the overall victory at Le Mans and essentially left the series to focus their attention elsewhere. It’s a story so ingrained into the automotive lexicon that it’s now received the mainstream Hollywood treatment on the big screen, with A-list actors portraying Carroll Shelby and test driver Ken Miles.
Some five decades later, Ford wanted to rekindle their Le Mans glory and decided to formulate plans to return for the 50th anniversary of their one, two, three finish. The initial project – dubbed “Silver” for the Lone Ranger’s horse – called for the Mustang to undergo drastic cosmetic and internal procedures and go win Le Mans as part of the marque’s new global marketing initiative. Trouble was, the Mustang’s large frontal area and aerodynamics were not conducive to heavy cornering. Taking any semblance of the Mustang platform GT racing proved far too costly, and Ford canned the project in late 2013 after just over a year of development. From the ashes of the Mustang’s Le Mans attempt, a secret project was drummed up and hidden in a Detroit design studio basement. A skunk-works team of fewer than 20 engineers and designers living off energy drinks and protein bars began work on the imaginatively named “Project Phoenix.”
The result was the all-new Ford GT, a retro/futuristic spaceship that, thanks to a small frontal area, cuts through the air better than a scalpel. The GT, then, had more in common with its racing-bred GT40 ancestor. As comedian and car aficionado Jay Leno put it, “(It was) as far from the first-generation (2005) Ford GT as you could get, because the first Ford was a road car built to resemble a race car. This one is an out and out race car, modified to be a road car.” Being as such, the GT trounced its GTE class opposition upon its inaugural 2016 entry into the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The No. 68 Ford GT of Chip Ganassi Racing outpaced the second-place Risi Competizione Ferrari 50 years after the whole fracas started. Luckily, GTE racing rules stipulate the need of a corresponding road variant and a road legal car was developed in parallel.
Thanks to Multimatic of Ontario, Canada, the road-going car was built alongside its racing sibling and housed the same technology – with even more power than its horsepower-restricted relation.
From the onset, every aspect of the carbon-fiber body works to bring airflow to heel; the hollow flying buttresses house ducting to feed air into the engine. The taillights flow hot air from the intercoolers, while every crease, angle, vent and channel were designed to maximize downforce, minimize drag or perform other bouts of aerodynamic sorcery.
Much of the suspension on the GT has been relocated inboard to reduce underbody space and help with airflow. Utilizing pushrod-actuated torsion bars instead of coil springs, the GT can drop 50mm in ride height when placed in Track Mode. The carbon-fiber passenger shell features an integrated tubular steel roll cage, placing occupants in a fixed seating position. Behind the driver sits the much-maligned 647hp 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6. Mated to a 7-speed Getrag dual-clutch gearbox, the controversial decision to equip Ford’s halo car with a V6 was born from racing. The compact nature of the EcoBoost engine allowed for easier packaging when considering power output and aerodynamics, and the dramatic teardrop-shaped fuselage simply was incapable of housing a bulkier V8 engine.
Ford selected buyers based on responses to a questionnaire, and preference was given to those who had previously owned the prior-generation Ford GT as well as those who would frequently drive the car. Essentially Ford made prospective buyers audition to get their hands on one. “The GT was one of those special cars; Ford wanted real enthusiasts and real drivers to get behind the wheel,” says Barrett-Jackson Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson.
“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” The now legendary line attributed to Henry Ford doesn’t really hold up today. Ford, as it turns out, is willing to paint the GT any color imaginable for the discerning buyer. This 2017 example (Lot #1417) painted in Verde Mantis, a paint scheme more commonly seen on Lamborghini’s mid-engine offerings, utilized the $30,000 Extended Color Palette option to outfit this Ford GT with paintwork all its own. Highlighting the “Praying Mantis” colored exterior is a set of 20-inch exposed carbon-fiber wheels and additional carbon-fiber components courtesy of the extended Carbon Fiber Package. This Ford GT (H105) features over $80,000 in options and only 538 miles. The cabin includes the Dark Energy interior as well as a luxurious leather-wrapped steering wheel.
This unique Ford GT, a truly rare and special machine that was born for the circuit, brings all the performance and legacy to the forefront of the 2020 Scottsdale Auction, where it will be selling with No Reserve. As English motoring personality Jeremy Clarkson once stated, the Ford GT is “a car for people who wear Nomex, not Spandex.”